Malaysia’s Broadband Plans Not Up to Speed Yet


Still waiting: Some existing users are
exasperated as they have yet to enjoy the higher broadband speeds
promised by their service providers.

Broadband users also complain of not enjoying lower prices

PETALING JAYA: The telcos may have announced lower prices and faster Internet speeds, but many existing fixed broadband users are complaining that they have yet to enjoy these benefits.

On Sunday, the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) announced that Telekom Malaysia (TM), Maxis, Celcom and Time have introduced new entry-level plans below RM100 that are more than 30% cheaper.

But the price reduction and speed increase brought about by the Mandatory Standard on Access Pricing (MSAP), which was implemented on June 8, have yet to trickle down to consumers.

Communications and Multimedia Minister Gobind Singh Deo said in a statement he was aware that not all existing fixed broadband users are enjoying higher speeds and lower prices.

“I found that the packages do not lower the price of services to existing customers. This means that they cannot benefit from the new packages immediately,” said Gobind.

“I will meet with the telco representatives to discuss this matter in the near future. At the same time, I would also like to emphasise that telcos that have offered the new packages should ensure the services are actually implemented.”

Gobind said MCMC is required to monitor the implementation of the new plans and manage all complaints received and to take firm action where necessary to ensure that the services provided are in line with what was promised.

MaxisOne Home Fibre subscriber Leela Krishnan is disappointed that she has yet to receive any update from Maxis.

“No SMS, e-mail or call from the company to tell how MSAP would affect my monthly bill, or what new plans are available for me,” said the graphics designer, 44.

Maxis said the upgrade was not automatic for existing customers as they have to first pick one of two plans – 30Mbps at RM89 or 100Mbps at RM129 per month.

They can do so at the Maxis page, bit.ly/2gacJxB, but will be recontracted for 24 months. Also, customers who break the new contract will incur a RM500 penalty.

Maxis said recontracting is necessary as it is providing a new router which is capable of maximising the higher speed for WiFi, and at no cost to the consumer.

Astro IPTV customers have also been left hanging on the status of their packages as the company has yet to announce anything.

Idzla Hafiz, 34, who is using the Astro IPTV 10 package, said he is paying RM148 for a mere 10Mbps broadband speed, and he has not received any updates.

“I hope I won’t be paying the same amount next month because that means I will be spending RM59 more than Maxis users and still get a lower speed,” he said.

An Astro spokesman told The Star that the company is still in discussion with its broadband partners – Time and Maxis.

“Discussions are progressing well and we hope our broadband partners will extend the same benefits to our Astro IPTV customers,” the spokesman said, adding that it hopes to make an announcement soon.

Meanwhile, TM’s free upgrade for existing users, which started in August, is expected to go on until the first quarter of next year, as it says it has over 800,000 subscribers to upgrade.

Unifi Home 20Mbps or lower subscribers will be upgraded to 100Mbps, 30Mbps to 300Mbps, 50Mbps to 500Mbps and 100Mbps to 800Mbps.

Public relations consultant Daniel Yao, a Unifi customer of seven years, said it is “ridiculous” that Unifi introduced a cheaper plan for new users but long-time users are still stuck in the same plans.

He said Unifi informed him that the only way to opt for the cheaper and faster plan is to terminate his current package and sign up for a new one.

“That means I need to sign a new contract and redo the whole thing at a TM office,” he added.

TM’s Streamyx customers, especially in the outskirts, have also been complaining to MCMC on Twitter that they are still not being upgraded to Unifi and are being forced to pay more for lower speeds due to lack of infrastructure.

“I found out that there are no suggestions provided to address the issues faced by existing Streamyx users, therefore this is something I need to tackle immediately,” said Gobind.

As at press time, TM has yet to respond to queries from The Star.

Celcom, which offers its Home Fibre plans only in Sabah, said it has upgraded all existing customers to the higher speeds and lower prices since September without recontracting.

All its Home Fibre users, starting from 10Mbps, were upgraded to 100Mbps, and their bill reduced to RM120 per month.

The telco said those who have yet to receive their upgrades can contact its customer service line at 1-300-11-3282.

Time also claims that it has upgraded all its existing users and notified them via e-mail.

The 100Mbps plan (RM149) was upgraded to 500Mbps (RM139) while the 300Mbps (RM189) and 500Mbps (RM299) plans were both upgraded to 1Gbps (RM189).

However, the new subscription fees will only be reflected in bills that are issued from Oct 15 onwards.

If users are still facing slow speeds, it recommends that they restart their router and perform another speed test.

It is best done via a desktop or laptop connected to the router via an Ethernet cable, as users may not be able to get the full speed via WiFi.

If nothing works, users can get in touch with Time via 1800-18-1818 or cs@time.com.my.

Source: The Star by angelin yeoh, mei mei chu, and sharmila nair

Broadband users also complain of not enjoying lower prices

PETALING JAYA: The telcos may have announced lower prices and faster Internet speeds, but many existing fixed broadband users are complaining that they have yet to enjoy these benefits.

On Sunday, the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) announced that Telekom Malaysia (TM), Maxis, Celcom and Time have introduced new entry-level plans below RM100 that are more than 30% cheaper.

But the price reduction and speed increase brought about by the Mandatory Standard on Access Pricing (MSAP), which was implemented on June 8, have yet to trickle down to consumers.

Communications and Multimedia Minister Gobind Singh Deo said in a statement he was aware that not all existing fixed broadband users are enjoying higher speeds and lower prices.

“I found that the packages do not lower the price of services to existing customers. This means that they cannot benefit from the new packages immediately,” said Gobind.

“I will meet with the telco representatives to discuss this matter in the near future. At the same time, I would also like to emphasise that telcos that have offered the new packages should ensure the services are actually implemented.”

Gobind said MCMC is required to monitor the implementation of the new plans and manage all complaints received and to take firm action where necessary to ensure that the services provided are in line with what was promised.

MaxisOne Home Fibre subscriber Leela Krishnan is disappointed that she has yet to receive any update from Maxis.

“No SMS, e-mail or call from the company to tell how MSAP would affect my monthly bill, or what new plans are available for me,” said the graphics designer, 44.

Maxis said the upgrade was not automatic for existing customers as they have to first pick one of two plans – 30Mbps at RM89 or 100Mbps at RM129 per month.

They can do so at the Maxis page, bit.ly/2gacJxB, but will be recontracted for 24 months. Also, customers who break the new contract will incur a RM500 penalty.

Maxis said recontracting is necessary as it is providing a new router which is capable of maximising the higher speed for WiFi, and at no cost to the consumer.

Astro IPTV customers have also been left hanging on the status of their packages as the company has yet to announce anything.

Idzla Hafiz, 34, who is using the Astro IPTV 10 package, said he is paying RM148 for a mere 10Mbps broadband speed, and he has not received any updates.

“I hope I won’t be paying the same amount next month because that means I will be spending RM59 more than Maxis users and still get a lower speed,” he said.

An Astro spokesman told The Star that the company is still in discussion with its broadband partners – Time and Maxis.

“Discussions are progressing well and we hope our broadband partners will extend the same benefits to our Astro IPTV customers,” the spokesman said, adding that it hopes to make an announcement soon.

Meanwhile, TM’s free upgrade for existing users, which started in August, is expected to go on until the first quarter of next year, as it says it has over 800,000 subscribers to upgrade.

Unifi Home 20Mbps or lower subscribers will be upgraded to 100Mbps, 30Mbps to 300Mbps, 50Mbps to 500Mbps and 100Mbps to 800Mbps.

Public relations consultant Daniel Yao, a Unifi customer of seven years, said it is “ridiculous” that Unifi introduced a cheaper plan for new users but long-time users are still stuck in the same plans.

He said Unifi informed him that the only way to opt for the cheaper and faster plan is to terminate his current package and sign up for a new one.

“That means I need to sign a new contract and redo the whole thing at a TM office,” he added.

TM’s Streamyx customers, especially in the outskirts, have also been complaining to MCMC on Twitter that they are still not being upgraded to Unifi and are being forced to pay more for lower speeds due to lack of infrastructure.

“I found out that there are no suggestions provided to address the issues faced by existing Streamyx users, therefore this is something I need to tackle immediately,” said Gobind.

As at press time, TM has yet to respond to queries from The Star.

Celcom, which offers its Home Fibre plans only in Sabah, said it has upgraded all existing customers to the higher speeds and lower prices since September without recontracting.

All its Home Fibre users, starting from 10Mbps, were upgraded to 100Mbps, and their bill reduced to RM120 per month.

The telco said those who have yet to receive their upgrades can contact its customer service line at 1-300-11-3282.

Time also claims that it has upgraded all its existing users and notified them via e-mail.

The 100Mbps plan (RM149) was upgraded to 500Mbps (RM139) while the 300Mbps (RM189) and 500Mbps (RM299) plans were both upgraded to 1Gbps (RM189).

However, the new subscription fees will only be reflected in bills that are issued from Oct 15 onwards.

If users are still facing slow speeds, it recommends that they restart their router and perform another speed test.

It is best done via a desktop or laptop connected to the router via an Ethernet cable, as users may not be able to get the full speed via WiFi.

If nothing works, users can get in touch with Time via 1800-18-1818 or cs@time.com.my.

Source: The Star by angelin yeoh, mei mei chu, and sharmila nair

Related:

Broadband prices come down – Nation
You can now get Unifi Pro 100Mbps with unlimited data for RM129 …

Gobind to immediately tackle issue of existing broadband and Streamyx users not getting upgraded

Bringing telecom industry up to speed – Business News

 

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Unknown Chinese startup creates the world’s most valuable Bytedance


Independent moves: Bytedance has become among the most successful major Chinese tech companies in creating an
international base without the backing of giants Alibaba and Tencent. — Reuters

 

Building a vision: Over five years, Zhang has grown the app into one of the most popular news services anywhere, with 120 million daily users. — Bloomberg

Said to be valued at over $75 billion in new round of funding.

Bloomberg reports that when  Zhang Yiming first shopped the idea of a news aggregation app powered
by artificial intelligence six years ago, investors including Sequoia Capital were skeptical
.

Back then, the question was how a 29-year-old locally trained software engineer could outsmart the numerous news portals operated by the likes of social media behemoth Tencent Holdings. and extract profit
where even Google had failed.

Zhang, now 35, proved them wrong. Today his company, Bytedance Ltd., is on its way to a more than $75 billion valuation — a price tag that surpasses Uber Technologies. to top the world, according to CB Insights.
The latest in a long line of investors who’ve come around is Softbank Group., which is said to be planning to invest about $1.5 billion.  Bytedance now counts KKR & Co., General Atlantic and even Sequoia as
backers. Much of its lofty valuation stems from the creation of an internet experience that’s a cross between Google and Facebook.

35-Year-Old Unknown Creates the World’s Most Valuable Startup

 

News aggregation app evolves into a multi-faceted media goliath

 

WHEN Zhang Yiming first shopped the idea of a news aggregation app powered by artificial intelligence six years ago, investors including Sequoia Capital were sceptical.

Back then, the question was how a 29-year-old locally trained software engineer could outsmart the numerous news portals operated by the likes of social media behemoth Tencent Holdings Ltd and extract profit where even Google had failed.

Zhang, now 35, proved them wrong.

Today his company, Bytedance Ltd, is on its way to a more than US$75bil valuation – a price tag that surpasses Uber Technologies Inc to top the world, according to CB Insights.

The latest in a long line of investors who have come around is Softbank Group Corp, which is said to be planning to invest about US$1.5bil. Bytedance now counts KKR & Co, General Atlantic and even Sequoia as backers.

Much of its lofty valuation stems from the creation of an internet experience that’s a cross between Google and Facebook.

“The most important thing is that we are not a news business. We are more like a search business or a social media platform,” Zhang said in a 2017 interview, adding that he employs no editors or reporters.

“We are doing very innovative work. We are not a copycat of a US company, both in product and technology.”

What’s remarkable is Zhang was able to do it all without taking money from the twin suns of China’s internet: Alibaba Group Holding Ltd and Tencent.

It’s the first startup to emerge from the dwindling cohort of mobile players that hasn’t sought protection or funds from either of the two. In fact, it has often locked horns with them, in court and elsewhere. And it’s arguably more successful at engaging youthful audiences abroad.

The story of how Bytedance became a goliath begins with news site Jinri Toutiao but is tied more closely to a series of smart acquisitions and strategic expansions that propelled the company into mobile video and even beyond China. By nurturing a raft of successful apps, it has gathered a force of hundreds of millions of users and now poses a threat to China’s largest Internet operators.

The company has evolved into a multi-faceted empire spanning video service Tik Tok – known as Douyin locally – and a plethora of platforms for everything from jokes to celebrity gossip.

But as with Facebook at the same stage of its life, Bytedance now faces questions over when or even how it will start making a profit.

“The predominant issue in China’s internet is that the growth in users and the time each user spends online has slowed dramatically.

“It is becoming a zero-sum game, and costs for acquiring users and winning their time are increasing,” said Jerry Liu, an analyst with UBS.

“What Bytedance has created is a group of apps that are very good at attracting users and retaining their time, in part, leveraging the traffic from Jinri Toutiao.”

Despite its seeming isolation, it’s become the most successful major Chinese tech company in creating an international base, venturing via apps like Tik Tok into the US, South-East Asia and Japan.

Even Tencent’s WeChat had to pump the brakes on its own overseas initiative four years ago.

What Zhang perceived in 2012 was that Chinese mobile users struggled to find information they cared about on many apps.

That’s partly because of the country’s draconian screening of information. Zhang thought he could do better than incumbents such as Baidu, which enjoyed a near-monopoly on search.

The latter conflated advertising with search results, a botch that would later haunt the company via a series of medical scandals.

There was little Toutiao could do about censorship – in fact, the company’s been repeatedly excoriated by authorities for failing to filter content and been forced to clean up its services with alarming regularity.

But Zhang held fast to his early vision of delivering content that mattered to users through AI. The closest American equivalent was Facebook’s news feed.

After falling flat with the bulk of China’s venture capital stalwarts, Zhang eventually secured investment from Susquehanna International Group.

It began offering the news app in August 2012. The platform studied what users read and searched for, then referred information and articles based on those habits. The more people used it, the better the experience, and the longer people stayed.

By mid-2014, daily active users had climbed to more than 13 million.

Sequoia finally came to the table, leading a funding round of US$100mil.

“We push information, not by queries, by news recommendations,” Zhang said in the interview last year.

But it was video that really propelled Bytedance into the big leagues.

Streaming services have always been popular in China. Even during the desktop era, companies like YY Inc championed a model where people sang and danced in virtual showrooms to win online gifts from fans. Later, outfits like Kuaishou fuelled that penchant for zany showmanship.

Bytedance saw an opportunity, but made its videos much shorter: 15 seconds, to be precise.

Around September 2016, it quietly launched Douyin. The app let users shoot and edit footage, add filters and share them across platforms like the Twitter-like Weibo or WeChat.

That format appealed to shorter millennial attention spans and became an instant hit, so much so that WeChat later blocked direct access to the app.

A year after, Bytedance acquired Musical.ly for US$800mil. It saw synergy between the buzzy teen US social video app created by Chinese co-founders and Tik Tok, and is now in the process of combining them. Tik Tok and Douyin had a combined 500 million users as of July.

The challenge now is in translating buzz and viewership into dollars. The company is expanding its ad sales operations, particularly for Toutiao.

Several media buying agencies said its massive reach and the attention it draws is a natural lure for marketers. Many said Bytedance is even pulling spending away from Tencent.

Bytedance, which previously cut a deal with Cheetah Mobile to sell ad space, has brought most of its ad sales in-house, said Kenneth Tan, the chief digital officer for Mindshare China, an agency.

“From a pricing perspective, they are expensive for what they are. They definitely charge a premium,” Tan said. “But that has not been an inhibitor for the large brands.”

There’s a big caveat, however. Brands remain cautious about Bytedance’s regulatory issues, particularly given Beijing’s historic unpredictability around censorship.

This year, it had to shut down a popular joke-sharing app in April just as it appeared to take off. It also suspended Douyin and its bread-and-butter Toutiao around the same time.

That’s “a potential risk to brand collaboration,” said Sherry Pan, general manager for China at the agency Magna Global. — Bloomberg

Related: 

Khazanah to see foreign appointments – Business News

 

China battles US for AI and robotic space: Who’s ahead?


Robot dominates: Ford F150 trucks go through robots on the assembly line at the Ford Dearborn Truck Plant in
Dearborn, Michigan. Robots are also entering areas such as logistics warehousing, chemicals and plastics factories and F&B industries. — AFP
Humans vs. Robots

NO doubt, the FAANGs – Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google – are making the world a better place.

Still, they are being accused of being BAADD – big, anti-competitive, addictive and destructive to democracy.

Regulators fine them, politicians take them to task, and even their backers warn of their power to cause harm. Much of the techlash is undeserved. There’s fake news everywhere.

Nevertheless, there is justified fear that the tech titans will use their power to protect and extend their dominance, often to the detriment of consumers. Indeed, the big tech platforms do raise worries about fair competition in particular.

In Singapore, the merger of Grab and Uber brings on legitimate concerns in the taxi space. The tricky task for regulators is how to restrain them without unduly stifling innovation.

Today, trust busters have granted tech giants the benefit of the doubt in the fight for artificial intelligence (AI) and robotic space. At some point, who takes the moral and legal responsibility for their mechanical creations?

Like it or not, AI-enabled bots and machines are already here, in the form of drones, driverless cars and medical, educational and domestic robots. To muddle the picture still further, AI is now embodied in physical, sometimes humanoid, form in machines designed to engage directly with people.

Talk is rife about the outright banning of killer robots, which cross the moral red line (only humans are permitted to kill humans!). Already, there is a proposal to create a Robotics Commission in US and Europe to be responsible for moral and legal issues surrounding the use of robotics and AI enabled smart machines. High time too.

Robots and cobots

Armies of robots and collaborative robots (cobots) are spreading throughout factories and warehouses around the world, as the accelerating pace of automation transforms a widening range of industries.

And it is not just in advanced countries but in emerging economies as well where machines are a growing force, with global sales of industrial robots increasing by 18% to a record US$13.1bil in 2016.

These groups are benefiting from mounting demand for sophisticated machines that no longer just weld car bodies and lift heavy loads, but also perform complex functions from electronic component production to arranging chocolates neatly into boxes.

Another trend is the increasing range and type of robot, as they vary from flexible mechanical limbs to smart machines that can work alongside humans. Cobots are specifically designed to interact with people.

The robotics market has been growing strongly and will continue to grow. The spread of robots has piqued the debate over the suitability of humans versus robots as workers, with warning that more machines will take jobs. Consultants McKinsey found that about 30% of tasks in 60% of occupations could be automated.

Advanced automation is partly a response to a shortage of skilled manual labour, with robots often filling “dull, dirty, dangerous and delicate” roles that people simply do not want. Also, the falling cost of robotics systems, and breakthroughs in robotics technology – combining with the rising level of electronic communication between equipment and computers in factories, sometimes called the industrial Internet of Things.

Then there is the shift in some industries from producing a small variety of goods in large batches, to a greater mix of products in smaller batches. All these are basically driven by consumers. Although the largest user remains the car industry (mainly for welding and painting), the main driver of growth is the electronics and electrical sector, chiefly located in Asia and mainly for batteries, chips and display.

But robots are also entering other areas, such as logistics warehouses, chemicals and plastics factories and the food and beverage industries. In total, almost 300,000 units were sold worldwide last year, with three-quarters bound for just five countries: China, South Korea, Japan, US and Germany. Three in every 10 went to China alone.

Once the manual labour “workshop of the world”, it has been the largest buyer of industrial robots since 2013, and its purchases jumped by 27% in 2017. There were increased investments in many developing countries as well, such as Taiwan, Thailand, India and Mexico, as well as in Italy and France.

While there have been improvements in hardware capabilities, such as hydraulics and mobility, perhaps the most important developments are in sensors and software that are making robots more sensitive, flexible, precise and autonomous. The software side of industrial robotics is becoming more and more important.

However, despite the growth, robots still have many limitations when it comes to dexterity, judgment and the ability to improvise. Today, machines are beginning to learn new tasks from humans by imitation. This has opened up big possibilities, especially for cobots, which are smaller, lighter, more flexible and mobile. And, even more critically cheaper, making it more affordable for small and medium-sized enterprises to invest. While usually slower, they have greater adaptability, because they can be assigned to different tasks.

US dominance

True, US roads, airports, seaports and schools are on the slide. But US retains dominance in the most sophisticated fields – defence, elite universities and technology. Sure, US ceded the top spot to China in exports in 2007, in manufacturing in 2011, and absolute GDP by 2030. But Silicon Valley is still where the best ideas, smartest money and the most savvy entrepreneurs reside.

But China is catching up fast: its BAT (Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent) are in the same league as the FAANGs and new stars are coming on fast (Didi Chuxing, Ant Financial and Lufax). China’s e-commerce sales are 2x US’ and China remits 11x more money by mobile phones than US (still scribbling cheques). China plans to lead globally in AI by 2030.

Its VC industry is booming – the entrepreneurial work-ethic in Beijing, Hangzhou and Shenzhen are a sight for sore eyes. Despite the huge progress, China remains far behind. Studies show that China’s tech industry is only about 42% as powerful as US (only 15% in 2012).

But Chinese tech has weak spots: (i) its total market value is only 32% of US; (ii) has two to three huge companies and lots of small ones; (iii) China is puny in semiconductors and business-facing software; (iv) its tech products has not as yet permeated the industrial economy; (v) Chinese non-techs are primitive – only 2.6% as digitalised as US; (vi) Chinese tech investment budget is only 30% as big as US, with foreign sales 18% of what US makes.

However, the gap narrows in the more dynamic parts of tech industry: (a) in e-commerce and internet, Chinese firms are 53% the size of US (in market value); (b) China’s unicorns are now worth 69% of US; (c) its VC activity, 85% of US in 2016; and (d) in “breakthrough” AI innovations, China’s population of AI experts is only 6% the size of US – with their best minds still working in large US techs; while cited AI papers by Chinese scientists are at 89% of US.

At the present pace, China will need a further 10-15 years to catch up. Viewed from China, US giant techs remain as “comfy monopolists”, while Chinese techs are plain “hungry”. Beijing’s blueprint: to create a US$150bil AI-industry by 2030 underlines its desire to beat US.

China’s advantage: sheer numbers of people, data, talent and superior lines of codes being written! At 730 million, China’s online population alone is more than 2x US size, and more tech-savvy. While US faces cut-backs in research money, China is committing ample money and also political capital into its relentless drive to reign supreme in AI.

However, the quality of fundamental research in China remains a problem. It lags behind EU in terms of the number of AI papers in the top 5% of most cited.

Where’s EU?

Few in US and China seriously regard Europe becoming a force in machine learning – the area AI has made the most progress in recent years. The process involves feeding reams of data through algorithms as AI learns to interpret other data.

Europe simply lacks scale; unlike US and China where tech giants have a surfeit of the most vital resource for AI – data; also attracted the best talent & boost the biggest computer clouds. Here, Europe is way behind.

Since US and China have centralised data systems (controlled by very few large firms), Europe can create a more decentralised option. China is expected to hold 30% of world data by 2030; US with just as much. Europe has data too, but needs to pool its diversified resources in research and data. But, Europe has institutional inertia, with much of its funding centered in academic institutions – not the best place for it. To be relevant, Europe has to do much more. Still, no match for US and China.

Silicon Valley: where next?

The stretch of land in the US Bay Area running from San Jose to San Francisco is home to three (Apple, Facebook, Google) of the world’s five most valuable tech giants. All claim Silicon Valley (SV) as their birthplace and home, as do trailblazers such as Airbnb, Tesla and Uber.

The Bay Area has the 19th largest economy in the world, ranking above Switzerland and Saudi Arabia. SV has become a byword for innovation and ingenuity. It has also been at the centre of several cycles of Schumpeterian destruction and regeneration, in silicon chips, personal computers, software and internet services. Its combination of engineering expertise, thriving business networks, deep pools of capital, strong universities and a risk-taking culture have made SV almost impossible to clone.

There is no credible rival for its position as the world’s pre-eminent innovation hub. But there are signs that SV’s influence is peaking. Yes, something is changing. According to a recent survey, 46% of residents surveyed plans to leave the Bay Area in the next few years, up from 34% in 2016. So, many startups are branching out: “Off Silicon Valleying.”

In 2013, SV investors put half their money into startups outside the Bay Area; now it is closer to two-thirds. Reasons: SV has just become too expensive; among the world’s costliest. Young startups pay at least 4x more to operate here. New technologies, from quantum computing to synthetic biology, make lower margins than internet services. There is also the nastier features of Bay-Area life: clogged traffic, discarded syringes and shocking inequality. The Miami-Fort Lauderdale area is now ranked first for startup activity, based on the density of startups and new entrepreneurs.

There are others: Los Angeles (which has a vibrant tech scene), Phoenix and Pittsburgh (have become hubs for autonomous vehicles); New York (for media startups); London (for fintech); Shenzhen (for hardware). None of these places can match the SV on its own; between them, they point to a world in which innovation can be better distributed. The problem is that the wider playing field for innovation is being levelled down, away from the dominant effects of tech giants.

Second, the increasingly unfriendly policies in the West. Rising anti-immigrant sentiment and tighter visa regimes have economy-wide effects: foreign entrepreneurs create around 25% of new companies in America. Unfortunately, SV’s peak looks more like a warning that innovation everywhere is becoming harder. SV is fast becoming more an idea instead of a place. Wall Street went through a similar transformation; its name becoming shorthand for a whole industry.

As tech firms set their sights on disrupting old-fashioned industries, like healthcare and logistics, they may find that it helps to be based in cities that claim deep expertise in these areas – and where garages housing startups are just the stuff of museums and memory.

What then are we to do

The time has come to love robots. Asians do. But not in the West where robots receive terrible press. They worry about robots killing jobs. In Asia, robots are today commonly used in Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and China. ADB’s June 2018 report analysing 12 developing Asian economies in 2005-15 concluded that rising demand had more than compensated for jobs lost to automation. The adoption of new technologies, such as modern machine tools and computer systems in factories and offices, had stimulated higher productivity and economic growth. That transformation, it estimated, had created 124 million new jobs, compared with the 101 million jobs lost to technology.

It is worth noting that there are two types of robots: those that do the work of humans and those that enhance their performance. We hear too much about the first type and too little of the second. Sure, their creations help humans deal with the “3 Ds”: dirty, dull and dangerous tasks. But countries that have the highest adoption of robots also have the lowest unemployment rates. Also, they help address the acute demographic squeeze as societies rapidly age. Some Asian societies prefer robots to immigrants to supplement their shrinking workforces. Robots are increasingly moving out of the factory into homes and hospitals, where they will need new capabilities.

I believe that technologies are always a net job creator over the long run, but, as Keynes put it, in the long run we are all dead. As these technologies make their way into every industry, they will benefit those at the very top with the skills and education to leverage the productivity advantages that AI affords.

Medical specialists, for example, could dramatically increase their income by using AI’s productive analytics to better diagnose and treat patients. But workers doing highly repetitive tasks that can easily be done by machines will not fare so well. This has massive consequences.

A McKinsey report shows that, while digitalisation has the potential to boost productivity and growth, it may also hold back demand if it compresses labour’s share of income and increases inequality. We badly need a kind of digital New Deal. For as many jobs as will be replaced by automation, there are other areas – customer service, big data analysis, etc. – that desperately need talent. Companies that pledge to retain workers and retrain them to develop skills to get stable jobs, should be offered tax incentives to do so. And spend the cash on factory upgrades, technical improvements, and re-training costs.

There are plenty of such projects that workers could be deployed now – including helping to expand rural broadband. It is a way for companies and government to turn a potential difficult employment situation into an opportunity by using this disruption to prepare & train a 21st-century digital workforce, and build public infrastructure to support it.

Credit: What are we to do? by Lin See-yan – Former banker, Harvard educated economist and British Chartered Scientist, Tan Sri Lin See-Yan is the author of The Global Economy in Turbulent Times (Wiley, 2015) & Turbulence in Trying Times (Pearson, 2017).

 

Related: 

Khazanah to see foreign appointments – Business News

America First? China Is Dominating Global Technology

Revolutionising accounting for a new era


The field of accounting is in need of a new breed of professionals who can contribute more than a quantifiable value to companies.

 

Increasingly, accountants in business are given the opportunity to be less involved in automated operations and focus more on big picture strategies, which gives a clear indication of the type of skills required in the near future. Bryan Chung, FCPA

 

WHEN talking about the Industrial Revolution, images that often come to mind include the extensive use of steam power, the birth of heavy machinery and ironworks, and bleak factories in England.

However, two more industrial revolutions have since passed and the 21st century is paving its way for the Fourth Industrial Revolution (IR 4.0), which is seeing the rise of autonomous decision making of cyber-physical systems and machine learning through cloud technology.

In simple words, IR 4.0 is the usage of artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet to transform age-old processes and operating procedures across all industries.

With such change taking place, what does this mean for the accounting industry and where do accountants find their relevance in an era that looks to automate everything?

Calculating assets

In an interview with international education provider Kaplan, Malaysian Institute of Accountants’ (MIA) chief executive officer Dr Nurmazilah Datuk Mahzan said, “Among the current trends that are creating waves in the accountancy profession are big data and analytics.

“Companies of all sizes create massive structured, unstructured and semi-structured data every day. Organisations harnessing big data would be able to find new insights and discover unique patterns of their customer behaviour or even create new businesses that were previously not possible.”

Echoing her sentiments is Bryan Chung, Fellow of CPA Australia (FCPA), divisional councillor at CPA Australia (Malaysia), who believes that even though AI is good at matching patterns and automating processes – making technology useful to many functions in companies in the process – accountants still play a vital role.

He says, “While there is a lot of hype surrounding blockchain and AI in accountancy with more firms taking steps to increase or experiment with their use, it is unlikely that accountants (or auditors) will be out of a job anytime soon.

“It is likely that most of the administration process will be the first to be introduced to AI. Increasingly, accountants in business are given the opportunity to be less involved in automated operations and focus more on big-picture strategies, which gives a clear indication of the type of skills required in the near future.”

The challenge, however, is turning the current workforce in the accounting field into professionals who truly understand the implications of IR 4.0, not just in terms of their personal skills but also movements within the industry.


Discovering market potential

Gone are the days when sales numbers, website traffic and KPIs were sufficient information to measure monthly net profits.

In the same Kaplan interview, the organisation’s global professional accountancy head Tanya Worsley said, “Businesses today depend on their accountants beyond purely checking financial figures and balancing books.

“Financial professionals are expected to be able to provide their clients with actionable insights that can add value to the organisation’s overarching strategic goals.”

The changing role of accountants in the digital economy is what prompted MIA to launch the Digital Technology Blueprint in July this year, a document that outlines the five driving principles to help guide Malaysian accountants to respond appropriately to digital technology.

These principles are related to digital technology trends, the identification of capabilities, harnessing of digital technology, funding and governance.

Accountants who fail to stay updated with the latest trends and knowledge will cause their employers to lose out in the long run, while competing firms take advantage of the evolving cloud system.

For these reasons, upskilling and obtaining professional qualifications from MIA or accountancy bodies such as CPA Australia, Association of Chartered Certified Accountants, Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales or Chartered Institute of Management Accountants should be considered a necessity instead of mere steps for higher management.

As most professional accountancy bodies require members to undergo regular training to maintain their memberships, these certified professionals are expected to be fully prepared for IR 4.0 and, by and large, artificial intelligence experts.

Chung adds, “IT knowledge is no longer an option. Lest we aim erroneously, it is not how extensive the IT knowledge is (as this is available in abundance and can be acquired easily), but the ability to understand the evolution of the profession and apply the knowledge appropriately.”

Explaining that accountants must use technology in their favour to elevate companies to new heights, he gives the example of successful tech businesses that used e-platforms to achieve massive scalability and visibility within a short time, despite having owners or founders who were not IT graduates.

“In the same way, accountants should be more strategic, make sense of the vast data available and deliver services based on the twin pillars of speed and quality,” he continues.


Eliminating liabilities

When combining this piece of information with the future route of total automation for jobs that are repetitive, rule-based and involve limited or well-defined physicality, the traditional job scope of accountants is coming to an end.

Employers are bemoaning the skill gaps currently present in the knowledge of digital technologies, forcing companies to spend resources retraining and reskilling their employees.

At the other end of the spectrum, constant news reports highlight the more pressing issue of employers having difficulty finding good graduates who can hit the ground running upon entering the workforce.

These situations highlight the dire need for a new breed of accountants who can provide more all-inclusive corporate reporting, which tells less about the numbers and more about the narrative of a company.

The Malaysian education system, for one, must move towards becoming an ecosystem for continuous upgrading of skills, working together with employers, be they officials from the Government, small business entrepreneurs or industry experts from professional organisations.

Colleges and universities need to continue reviewing their course offerings so that graduates have an accurate understanding of the evolving industry while being trained to adapt to new technologies and autonomous changes at the workplace.

However, it is not all doom and gloom. Chung points out, “There are now many initiatives being undertaken by various professional organisations and associations to provide education to accountants to increase awareness of the changes taking place.

“There are efforts now by professional bodies, corporates and academia to come together to address the disconnect between what’s being studied at universities and what’s relevant in the business world.”

Given how the financial technology space has demonstrated the willingness of companies to use innovative methods, Chung is optimistic about the future as the accounting profession can not only make positive inroads but ride on the back of this momentum to accelerate the learning and adoption of technologies as the nation moves into a new era of automation.

Credit: Bryan Chung, FCPA

 

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Blockchain Festival & Conference Week, Kuala Lumpur 26~27 Sept 2018


BLOCFEST www.blocfest.asia

SOUTHEAST ASIA’S INTERNATIONAL BLOCKCHAIN EVENT

Blockchain and beyond

Brothers Hway (left) and Tze-Co say networking will be a big part of the Blocfest conference. — ART CHEN/The Star

Educate yourself on blockchain technology which is transforming businesses around the globe.

What began as an experiment in buying Bitcoin for a holiday led two brothers to explore blockchain technology and eventually organise a blockchain conference – Blocfest 2018 – which will feature more than 30 ­international speakers.

Gwei Tze-Co, 49, started investing in Bitcoin four years ago, ahead of a trip to Brazil to attend the 2014 World Cup.

“I was planning to go to Argentina after the World Cup and read that the currency situation was so bad there that you could use Bitcoin instead. I bought some but didn’t end up using it,” he says.

But that initial investment got him hooked on blockchain and cryptocurrency, especially Ethereum.

Meanwhile, Gwei Hway, 43, who is a ­programmer and has worked in tech firms for the last 20 years, was drawn to ­blockchain and cryptocurrency because of his brother’s fascination for them.

Tze-Co says in Malaysia blockchain is still an emerging technology though a few good projects by local founders have been launched.

“However, lots of people just use blockchain and cryptocurrency for hype. To put it bluntly, there’s a lot of scams and many Malaysians are falling for them,” he says.

He says that a conference with legitimate speakers sharing their experience could go a long way in educating people on how blockchain can make a difference in their businesses.

He adds that once a person better understands blockchain technology and especially how it’s used in business, it will be easier for him or her to identify the fake ones.

This is one of the reasons the brothers are organising Blocfest through their company, Blockchain Asia Sdn Bhd, which is scheduled to take place at the Shangri-La Hotel, Kuala Lumpur, on Sept 26 and 27.

The two-day conference will focus on the potential of blockchain technology in South-East Asia and feature speakers from various ­backgrounds, including ­blockchain entrepreneurs, developers, global investors, academics and ­enthusiasts.

Discussions at the conference will be divided into three streams – Regulatory, Academic and Enterprise.

Regulatory will help you understand the current regulatory landscape and what’s in store in the future for blockchain; Academy will tackle academic concepts and their impact on blockchain; and Enterprise will highlight technological aspects of blockchain and potential use-case scenarios.

Hway expects half the attendees to come from enterprises which aren’t too familiar with blockchain technology but are exploring how it could be relevant to them, while the remaining will be investors, academics and experts in the field.

“Networking is definitely a big part of the conference, and as many solution providers will be present in the exhibition halls, we expect a lot of companies to ink deals or find partnerships,” he says.

Joining the conversation will be ­regulators from countries that have begun to explore the issue, including Taiwanese Member of Parliament Jason Hsu, better known as the Crypto Congressman due to his staunch ­support for the technology, and a ­representative from the Philippines’ Cagayan Economic Zone Authority which spearheads the country’s financial ­technology efforts.

Tze-Co says there have been talks to get Malaysian regulators to ­participate and share their thoughts on the laws required to facilitate blockchain in Malaysia but the discussion is ongoing.

Other key speakers that will be at Blocfest are cryptofinance ­platform Fusion’s founder Dejun Qian, blockchain veteran and ProximaX Ltd founder Lon Wong, anti-counterfeit system Wabi’s CEO Alexander Busarov, and dating marketplace Viola.AI’s CEO Violet Lim.

In addition to Blocfest, ­attendees can also take part in several other events during the KL Blockchain Week, which will be held between Sept 24 and 27, including a ­hackathon.

Those interested in attending Blocfest can get 40% off VIP ­tickets priced at US$450 (RM1,860) or normal ­tickets priced at US$375 (RM1,550) by keying in the promo code BLOC40D ­during checkout but this offer is only ­available for a limited time. Visit www.blocfest.asia for more ­information.

Credit:Qishin Tariq The Star online

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We are Malaysians first, not Malay first!


 

 

We are Malaysians first – own it!

We can do it: When faced with the challenges of being truly Malaysian, we should not be as timid as Game of Thrones
Theon Greyjoy (left) waiting for sausages to be served.

I SPEAK my mind. I don’t care what you think of me or what I say. I care that I move people, and hopefully for the best. You cannot sugar-coat truth, truth must be spoken loud and clear if we want to make a difference. Speak Out.

A great nation is one where the majority looks at its marginalised minorities with compassion and empathy, and ensures their wellbeing is taken care of, and the weak among us are always protected. A great society ensures that the disadvantaged are helped in the best way such that opportunities do not pass them by.

Malaysia in this sense is a real paradox.

It has a majority that is politically powerful and yet economically weak and uncompetitive. The Malays (and to some extent our bumiputras overall) by and large have been told over decades that they are superior but are unable to compete and therefore needed every advantage and protection by their political leaders, their clerics, the state, the monarchs and every other self-proclaimed champion under the sun.

Hence, we create a supremacist complex, subconscious in most and overt in some, but one with a dependency syndrome.

The minority Chinese and Indians are economically strong, competitive and over the years, in the absence of a reliance on government assistance, has also become urbane and progressive in outlook.

Hey! Do you know the other minority that to a certain extent fit this category? The progressive Malay liberals.

That despised minority among the majority. What do all these people have in common? When faced with the challenges of being truly Malaysian, they are as timid as a gang of Theon Greyjoys waiting for sausages to be served. The majority of them are so scared to speak out or come out. Witness the Bersih rallies, the numbers are way below the actual support.

I have news for all you Theons, we can do it. You’ve proven it on May 9. You all came out. Don’t stop there. It’s time all of us come together to change our nation to be truly progressive, modern and, sooner rather than later, join the ranks of developed nations.

To do that we must be Malaysian first – without fear or favour. Never again allow an injustice perpetrated upon your fellow Malaysians be left unquestioned and unanswered.

Never again allow that little voice that says “let’s not court trouble”, or those that shout at you “you are not of the religion, do not interfere” stop you.

Humanity knows no race, no religion nor does it care what your supposed station in life is. We are all Malaysians. If we want to be equal we have to behave as equals, until the powers that be capitulate.

If we see our race denigrating or abusing the other, speak up and condemn it. If we see another race doing it to their own, speak up as well.

If we see another people of a different religion abusing and persecuting their own kind, speak up. They are your fellow Malaysians. There is no justification in persecuting our fellow Malaysians.

Let me give you an example.

If someone proposes to impose penalties upon Malaysian Muslims that only the Muslims in our nation will be subjected to for the same crime, we must all speak up and oppose it. This is not about religion. It is about fairness to our fellow citizens.

Being a Malaysian means speaking up on behalf of every one of our countrymen. Standing up to oppression and for justice for all. None of us can or should be shut up for one reason or another when it comes to what happens in Malaysia and to Malaysians. We are all equal. We need to walk this talk until we change the environment by which discourse takes place in this country.

There will be many detractors and there will be many people who will mine the well of extremism to stop us. We should not be cowed by them because that is what they want of us. They have been scaring us all to compliance all these years.

Right-thinking Malaysians must demand that our elected leaders step up and lead, and not follow the herd. The herd follow the shepherd, not the other way around. When I hear characters say “we must be sensitive to the feelings of the majority”, I know these are no leaders.

These are mere political hacks, characters who are interested in the jockeying of position and personal victory, rather than one willing to risk his or her popularity to stand by the courage of their convictions and chart the destiny of the nation and its people. More than likely such people do not even have any convictions.

This nation needs leaders. We are at crossroads in our history. I believe the next three years will determine whether we will sink back into the old politics of protecting and championing race and religion, or we will emerge as a confident nation of equals ready to bring our collective strength to take on the world on our own terms. The result will be determined by us Malaysians speaking out and standing up to and with our fellow countrymen, and insisting that our “leaders” lead.

This is what I intend to continue to do.

The fundamental need in Malaysian education reform

THE Science and Technology Human Capital Report and Science Outlook 2015 by Akademi Science Malaysia show that we may soon have a serious shortage in science-related fields.

It seems more students are opting out of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) fields at secondary and tertiary levels.

Deputy Women, Family and Community Development Minister, Hannah Yeoh – quoting the National Council of Science, Research and Development which stated that the country needed about 500,000 scientists and engineers by 2030 – pointed out that we have only 70,000 registered engineers, seven times lower than the number required.

Meanwhile, the Education Ministry proposed black shoes, special number plates and a manual for noble and religious values to be read out at assemblies.

What is going on here? Why is there this serious disconnect between what the nation needs and what the so-called custodian and driver of the nation’s education machinery?

I think it’s time to talk about the fundamental elephant in the room that no one wants to talk about when it comes to education reform in Malaysia – the number of hours dedicated to religion (including its related subjects) and the influence of religion in Malaysian schools.

With 60% of our population being Malay-Muslims, what and how their children are educated from young is a concern to all Malaysians.

They are the backbone of the nation’s future. Even a cursory look at the hours spent by these children in religious classes should alarm everyone, what more in the government’s Sekolah Agama (religious schools).

Equally of concern, in Sekolah Kebangsaan (national schools), non-Muslim children would be attending alternative subjects that may not enhance their educational value, especially in Science, at the times Malay children attend their religious classes.

Educating children is a zero-sum game. There are only so many hours in a day. Children cannot be going to classes all day long.

They also need time for games and sports and other extracurricular activities that have nothing to do with classroom learning but more to do with expanding their experience of life, physical exertion and just relaxing.

Therefore, their “classroom time” is finite and each subject accommodated means another will have less of it.

A typical Malay-Muslim child in Year One at national school undergoes approximately four hours per week of religious studies (including related subjects such as Tasmik or Quran reading).

Another hour and a half per week go to Bahasa Arab.

Science, on the other hand, is only accorded an hour and a half per week. A Year Six pupil gets about four hours of religion and related subjects, with one hour of Arabic per week. Science gets two hours per week.

Let’s be honest.

The only reason for Arabic being taught is due to its affiliation to the religion, otherwise the next language a Malay child should be learning is either Chinese, Tamil or even Spanish, the next most spoken language after English.

So basically from Year 1 to Year 6, the ratio is approximately on average two hours of Science versus five hours of religion per week.

That is the formative years of our children. What are we doing to our children? This is appalling.

We are basically indoctrinating our children in religion and neglecting basic sciences that will make them critical thinkers and progressive individual with real foundation.

In the same instance, our non-Malay children also are disadvantaged because they are not taught those sciences at the time Malay children are in their religious classes.

Let’s get it clear.

The function of education is learning to think critically.

The function of religious studies is indoctrination to be obedient followers. We are regressing our Malay children and failing our Malaysian children overall.

Again, let us be honest. Our national education system today, save the vernacular schools, both from an administrative and teaching standpoints are overwhelmingly Malay.

And the Malay-centric system is overwhelmingly religious.

Our children are taught overtly and subliminally that being the “correct” Muslims is the only option.

The authoritative teacher and peer pressure brought upon the Muslim child today is overwhelming at school.

It is a norm to find daughters coming home in tears being bullied as a result of their or their parents’ outward appearance, especially mothers, that do not conform to religious dogma.

The bullies in most circumstances are the Malay teachers themselves. As such, both parents and children conform to avoid the oppressive peer and teaching pressure.

In such an environment, the dichotomy between Muslim and non-Muslim children becomes pronounced.

Is it any wonder that our society right from school to their adulthood has become divided and suspicious, and in a significant portion, easily inflamed with hatred?

Today, race is not the main driver of such divisiveness, it is the religious influence over society starting from the schools.

We need to confront this issue head-on and not be cowed by the label of “sensitivity”.

It is the sensitivity of not talking and confronting these issues that has made the bad become even worse. One cannot solve a problem if one cannot acknowledge and confront their existence in an honest manner.

We need honest conversations and political will from the Education Ministry to overcome this seemingly intractable virus that has infected our whole education system and administrative body.

In this aspect, I have not even touched about the watered-down content or substance of the school subjects, especially Science and History, as a result of the religious influence within our education system.

That will be for another day.

What we have is an almost unique Malaysian national education problem found nowhere else in a functioning democracy.

The result of at least 30 years of Barisan Nasional and PAS politics of using religion to buy the votes of the Malay electorate.

We require a head-on examination of the philosophy of Malaysian education which is today religious-centric instead of education-centric and STEM-centric as would be required by a 21st century modern nation that wants to be developed.

It also requires a total re-education of our teaching human resources – from one that has been religiously indoctrinated to one that will be accepting of all religious and non-religious peoples and societies as being equally good.

One where the teachers are focused on STEM education and ensuring critical thinking rather than being obsessed with religious pre-occupation of any sorts when they are in the national schools educating our children.

One where rational critical thought is the inspiration for good values rather than one that derives on religious books and doctrines as the minister has instead suggested.

We need to demand this of our Government, from our educators and our education system.

If these two fundamental aspects of our basic primary education cannot be rectified – a major increase in teaching/learning time for the sciences and a significant reduction in religious indoctrination and influence in national education – no amount of other esoteric and sophisticated policies and plans would be of any worth.

By Siti Kasim

We are Malaysians first – own it!

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KUALA LUMPUR: Former Deputy Prime Minister Tun Musa Hitam said Malaysia’s Vision 2020 objective was “falling apart” with “alarming speed”, and he blames Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad for it.

In his keynote speech at an event to mark the sixth anniversary of the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (Ideas), Musa said this was because the former premier did not train leaders but instead chose to retain and train followers instead.

“It is ironic that Dr Mahathir’s vision is now certain to fail because of Dr Mahathir himself.

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