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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Trump’s overture to emerging Asia drowned out by trade war with China


US Trade war with China overshadows US$113m investment initiatives trumpeted by US Secretary of State

 

 

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – When the U.S. Secretary of State flies into Southeast Asia this week with a new investment pitch for the region, the response could be: thanks a million, but please stop threatening a trade war with China that will make us lose billions of dollars.

Analysts say the $113 million of technology, energy and infrastructure initiatives trumpeted by Mike Pompeo earlier this week – the first concrete details of U.S. President Donald Trump’s vague ‘Indo-Pacific’ policy – may be hard to sell to countries that form an integral part of Chinese exporters’ supply chains.

It may even further inflame tensions with Beijing, which has been spreading money and influence across the region via its Belt and Road Initiative development scheme.

“The Southeast Asian capitals are more worried about any blowback effects for them of U.S.-China trade tension than they are about how much they can benefit from this $113 million initiative,” said Malcolm Cook, senior fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore.

“Pompeo has a hard selling job. There is still no real positive trade story for Asia coming out of the United States.”

Hot on the heels of Washington’s new economic plan for emerging Asia came reports the United States could more than double planned tariffs on $200 billion of imported Chinese goods from dog food to building materials. China called it “blackmail” and vowed retaliation.

After a brief meeting with new Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad in Kuala Lumpur, Pompeo will fly to Singapore – a global trading hub that could be one of the hardest-hit in the region by a trade war – for a sit-down with the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on Friday.

Singapore’s biggest bank, DBS, estimates that a full-scale trade war – defined as 15-25 percent tariffs on all products traded between the U.S. and China – could more than halve Singapore’s growth rate next year from a forecast 2.7 percent to 1.2 percent. Malaysia’s growth rate in 2019 could fall from an estimated 5 percent to 3.7 percent.

“We are all acutely aware of the storm clouds of trade war,” Singapore’s Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said at the opening of an ASEAN foreign ministers meeting on Thursday that precedes meetings with the United States and other nations.

Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said earlier this year that a trade war would have a “big, negative impact” on the country.

Ratings agency Moody’s said this week that an escalation of trade tensions in 2018 had become its “baseline expectation”, and that Asia was “especially vulnerable” given the integration of regional supply chains.

SANCTIONS ON NORTH KOREA

As well as trade, Friday’s meeting will also cover security issues such as South China Sea disputes and North Korea’s nuclear disarmament. The United States will press Southeast Asian leaders to maintain sanctions on Pyongyang following reports of renewed activity at the North Korean factory that produced the country’s first intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of reaching the United States.

Pompeo will also travel to Indonesia during his trip – Southeast Asia’s biggest economy which under Trump faces losing some of the trade preferences given by Washington for poor and developing countries.

Few officials around the region offered comment on the Indo-Pacific strategy when contacted by Reuters for this story. One said that the ASEAN meeting in Singapore would be an opportunity “to have clarity and a more unified position” on the vision.br

One reason for caution is that the region has been wrong-footed by U.S. advances before.

Former U.S. President Barack Obama’s “pivot” to Asia went on the backburner after Trump won the 2016 election promising to put “America First”. One of his early acts in office was to pull out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement, which involved four Southeast Asian states.

The result was that across Asia, more and more countries were pulled into China’s orbit: softening their stance on territorial disputes in the South China Sea and borrowing billions of dollars from Beijing to develop infrastructure.

The Philippines is one example of a country which has taken a more conciliatory approach to China despite a bitter history of disputes over maritime sovereignty.

Its President Rodrigo Duterte frequently praises Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping and in February caused a stir when he jokingly offered the Philippines to Beijing as a province of China.

Thailand, one of Washington’s oldest allies, is another major regional power perceived to have moved closer to China after U.S. relations came under strain because of concerns about freedoms under its military-dominated government.

Thai foreign ministry spokesperson Busadee Santipitaks told Reuters the country was proceeding with “a balanced approach” towards the United States and China.

U.S. officials said the Indo-Pacific strategy does not aim to compete directly with China’s Belt and Road Initiative. Yet, in an apparent reference to China, Pompeo said Washington will “oppose” any country that seeks dominance in the region.

While Chinese officials have not criticized the U.S. approach, its influential state-run tabloid the Global Times said in an editorial on Tuesday: “Belt and Road is destined to continue to flourish. This has nothing to do with certain forces that are selfish and engage in petty practices and make jibes.”

John Geddie Reuters

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From Industrial 4.0 to Finance 4.0


 

MOST people are somewhat aware about the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

The first industrial revolution occurred with the rise of steam power and manufacturing using iron and steel. The second revolution started with the assembly line which allowed specialisation of skills, represented by the Ford motor assembly line at the turn of the 20th century.

The third industrial revolution came with Japanese quality controls and use of telecommunication technology.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution, or first called by the Europeans Industry 4.0, is all about the use of artificial intelligence, robotics, genomics and process, creative design and high speed computing capability to revolutionise production, distribution and consumption. Finance is a derivative of the real economy – its purpose is to serve real production. Early finance was all about the finance of trade and governments to engage in war.
It is no coincidence that the first central banks (Sweden and England) were established in the 17th century at the start of the First Industrial Revolution. Industrialisation became much more sophisticated as Finance 2.0 brought the rise of credit and equity markets in the 18th and 19th centuries. Industrialisation and colonisation came about at the same time as the globalisation of banks, stocks and bond markets.

Again, with the invention of first the fax machine, then Internet that speeded up information storage and transmission in the 1980s, finance and industry took a quantum leap into the age of information technology. Finance 3.0 was the age of financial derivatives, in which very complex (and highly leveraged) derivatives became so opaque that investors and regulators realised they became what Warren Buffett called “weapons of mass destruction”. Finance 3.0 stalled in 2007 with the Global Financial Crisis and was only propped up with massive central bank intervention in terms of unconventional monetary policy with historically unprecedented interest rates.

We are now on the verge of Finance 4.0 and it may be useful to explore what it really means.

The common definition of Industry 4.0 is the rise of the Internet of Things, in which cloud computing, artificial intelligence and global connectivity means that cyber-physical systems can interact with each other to produce, distribute and trade across the world in a massively distributed system of production.

But what does Finance 4.0 really mean?

What truly differentiates Finance 4.0 from the earlier version is the arrival of Blockchain or distributed ledger technology. The best way to think about the difference is the architecture of the two different systems.

Finance 3.0 and earlier versions were all about a top-down or hierarchical ledger system, like a pyramid, in which trade and settlements between two parties are settled across a higher ledger.

A simple example is payment from Joe in bank A to Jim in bank B is finally settled across the books of the central bank in local currency. But in international trade and payments, the final settlements (at least more than 60%) are settled in US dollar finally across the ledgers of the Federal Reserve bank system.

Finance 3.0 was not perfect and those who wanted to avoid regulation, taxation or any official oversight basically moved trading and transactions off-balance sheet and also off-shore. This was the “shadow banking” system that financial regulators and central banks conveniently blamed on their failure to see or stop the last global financial crisis.

Although technically the shadow banking system is the non-bank financial system, which would include bond, stock and commodity markets, the bulk of illegal, illicit transactions traditionally was done in cash.

Welcome to the technical innovation called cyber-currencies, which was made possible for peer-to-peer (P2P) transactions across a distributed ledger system (commonly known as blockchain). In architectural terms, this is a bottom-up system which technically can avoid any official oversight. Indeed, cyber-currencies or tokens were invented precisely because the users do not trust the official system.

As the populist philosopher Stephen Bannon said, “central banks are in the business of debasing the currency”. Hence, those who want to avoid the debasement of their savings prefer to deal with either cash or cyber-tokens like bitcoin (pic).

What is happening in the rapidly evolving Finance 4.0 is that as the world moves from a unipolar order to a multi-polar world in which other reserve currencies also contend for trade and store of value, the top-down architecture is fusing (or merging) with a bottom-up architecture in which trade, transactions and stores of value are shifting towards the P2P shadow system.

Why this is taking place is not hard to understand. Post-global financial crisis, the amount of financial regulations have tripled in terms of number of rules and complexity on what the official sector can regulate, which is mostly the banking system. It is therefore not surprising that all the innovation, talent and money are moving to outside the banking system into the asset management industry, which is much more lightly regulated.

No talented banker, however dedicated to the values of banking probity, can resist the temptations of working in asset management, away from the heavily regulated environment where he or she is 24×7 under regulatory internal and external oversight.

Another reason why the cyber-P2P business is flourishing is because the official sector is worried that further regulation would hinder innovation. But those who want to increase the complexity of regulation must remember that for every 50 foot wall, someone will invent a 51 foot ladder.

So competition in the 21st century has already moved from the physical and financial space into cyber-space.

If there is one thing I learnt as a former regulator, it is that if the banks are behind the curve in terms of technology, the regulators are even further behind, since they learn mostly from those whom they regulate. But if financial regulators deal with financial innovation through “regulatory sandboxes” where they allow their regulated banks to experiment in sandboxes, they are treating their regulated institutions as kids in an adult game of ruthless technology.

Time for the official sector to make their stand clear or else Finance 4.0 promises to be very different from the orderly world that they are used to imaging. Nothing says this clearer than a recent survey by the Chartered Financial Analyst Institute, which showed that 54% of institutional investors surveyed and 38% of retail believe that a financial crisis in the next one-three years is likely or very likely.

You have been warned.

– Tan Sri Andrew Sheng writes on global issues from an Asian perspective.

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New approaches to people oriented human resource management


People-centric logo: The Chinese character for ‘people’, rén, dominates the entrance to its office.

 

The growing usage of technology can help human resource achieve better performance

IT IS often said that managing people is a combination of art and science. But the increasing dominance of technology in workplaces opens up a new perspective and opportunities in how organisations most valuable resource – its human capital – is being employed.

One of the most obvious changes that can be observed among employers, says Accendo HR Solutions group chief executive officer Sharma KSK Lachu, is the realisation that maintaining the traditional functions of the human resource (HR) department – such as processing payroll and employees’ rosters – is not the way forward to excel in the digital age.

New approaches emphasising efficiencies and talent development are needed to excel in people management, he adds.

“The process of recruiting, retaining and developing talents within organisations has to be changed to meet the expectation of both employers and employees, which in turn could help translate into outstanding performance standards,” he says.

Sharma notes that rich data insights are the best tool to help organisations deliver more engaging content and meet growing customer expectations for highly relevant and targeted information in the workplace. He calls it the democratisation of data and information to help workplaces function more efficiently. This could also help employees lead a more satisfactory work life as functions and responsibilities can be streamlined with the help of data, enabling them to focus on higher-level work.

Bigger reach: Sharma says the company is also looking at expanding into other Asean countries.

Bigger reach: Sharma says the company is also looking at expanding into other Asean countries.

Today’s workforce is different. There needs to be more incentive for employees to stay on in their jobs.

Citing the example of his own father, who stayed with a single company throughout his entire working life, Sharma says it would be a wonder for organisations today to have employees who would dedicate their entire working life to a single entity without asking much in return.

“He never complains about the lack of a pay raise, promotion or other perks from the management. But today’s working adults, especially the gen-Y and -Z, don’t share such values anymore,” he says.

Accendo relies heavily on technology, data and behavioural sciences in its approach to providing the right HR solutions for its clients to manage their manpower. The consultancy company is currently developing several tools, including artificial intelligence (AI) and HR management systems, for its corporate clients.

However, Accendo, which specialises in services such as talent acquisition, performance management, talent analytic and secession planning, puts the human element on the forefront of how organisations’ HR should function.

Technologies and people form the backbone of Accendo. A walk into its corporate office gives you the feel of a tech startup with open spaces and programmers in casual attire. But a reminder that people comes before technology is apparent in the form of a corporate logo, Rén – the Chinese character for ‘people’ – which dominates the entrance to its office.

Talent development: Accendo’s team consists of people with various skills to support client’s human resource needs.
 Talent development: Accendo’s team consists of people with various skills to support client’s human resource needs.

New HR challenges

There is a need for a sharper and faster decision-making process, and the HR department has to be equipped to handle this. The aim is to help them to understand and grow their employees. This includes helping people who are pursuing career development opportunities at every age and are working longer than ever before.

Individual business leaders as well as business units should be looking at HR to provide support and strategic advice on everything from upskilling, motivating employees and future workforce planning to managing multiple generations of employees under one roof.

Therefore, specific solutions that are tailor-made and offer personalised learning opportunities for employees of all types will become the norm.

“Many organisations today still view manpower as a tool to maximise profit. But our mission is to promote a culture where companies develop the talents of their employees to contribute towards the growth of the company.

“We have turned down projects worth millions of ringgit because of the different viewpoint on how to develop and maximise the potential of employees. For us, our clients have to share our values, which is about organisations allowing their employees to own their career. We developed processes that would enable organisations to understand their people, and help develop their skills,” says Sharma.

Casual space: Accendos corporate office gives you the feel of a tech startup with open spaces and programmers in casual attire.
Casual space: Accendos corporate office gives you the feel of a tech startup with open spaces and programmers in casual attire.

Prior to his return from Sydney, Australia, where he had his start in the HR industry, Sharma was exposed to how technology and data science could help in efficient decision-making processes.

One of his motivations to move back home 10 years ago to start his own business here was partly to prove a point that developing technology-based HR solutions using data science can be done successfully in Malaysia.

Founded in 2009, Accendo is majority-owned by Sharma, while his two other co-founders have minority interests in the company. The company has morphed from being a HR solutions provider to an integrated HR consulting company with their own their technology solutions.

It has since recorded an impressive growth rate and is now considering strategic partnership with either a financial or strategic investor as it seeks to scale up its operations internationally and fund its technology research and development.

Sharma says it is also looking at expanding into other Asean countries, as this region could benefit from data science.

As the profile and success of Accendo increase, the company has been attracting potential investors and is receiving an average of about one investor approach per month. It has held talks with one potential strategic investor but has not reached any agreement as yet, he says.

Accendo, however, will only consider an investor who shares the company’s values, in which human capital is considered as an asset to be developed and not as a commodity to be used in achieving corporate financial goals, Sharma adds.

A help mate: Amid concerns over the rise of technological unemployment, machines can help people work better. – Bloomberg
A help mate: Amid concerns over the rise of technological unemployment, machines can help people work better. – Bloomberg

It has not seriously engaged with any party currently, but will do so if the right strategic or financial investor comes along.

The timing of a potential listing will also depend on the company’s capital requirements. Sharma says the company has been preparing for a possible listing by 2020, including making sure its financial reporting standards and company’s organisation structures are in line with that of a public company.

The majority of the company’s tech talents are local, but the company will not shy away from hiring foreign talents if necessary. Accendo currently has around 35 full-time staff members, but this will grow to over 50 by year-end as the company plans to hire more AI and other tech-related personnel, says Sharma.

Accendo is expected to record more than RM20mil of revenue this year. It has recorded an annual growth rate of 40% to 45% since it restructured its business model four years ago.

Its corporate clients include some of the most recognisable brand names in the market such as Astro

image: https://cdn.thestar.com.my/Themes/img/chart.png
, Maybank, KPMG, Nestlé, Bursa Malaysia and other financial institutions and large multinational corporations in Malaysia.

In the longer term, Sharma says Accendo aims to be the platform for all things related to work technologies and solutions, from HR staffing technologies to meeting specific needs and reinventing performance in the workplace for optimum efficacy and maximum success. – by C. H.Goh, The Star
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VR gaming gears up for the mainstream


A group of gamers wearing VR headsets at Zero Latency Singapore. The VR arcade in Singapore is the latest to pop up around the world as backers of the technology seek to shake off teething problems and break into the mainstream. — AFP

Arcades seek to take virtual reality gaming mainstream

 

SINGAPORE: Gamers wearing headsets and wielding rifles adorned with flashing lights battle a horde of zombies, letting out the occasional terrified shriek.

The virtual reality arcade in Singapore is part of a wave of such venues being opened as backers of the technology seek to shake off teething problems and break into the mainstream.

The buzz around virtual reality (VR) gaming has seen Taiwan-based HTC, Sony and Facebook-owned Oculus VR battling to woo consumers with a range of headgear.

But it has been slow to really take off, partly due to the hefty price of top-end headsets, beginning at around US$350 (RM1,362), and the challenges in setting up complex VR systems at home.
But VR arcades, which have been springing up around the world, particularly in Asia, are now giving people the chance to try it out more easily and for a fraction of the price.

“Given the complications of at-home, PC-based VR systems, pay-per-use, location-based entertainment venues can fill the gap,” said Bryan Ma, from International Data Corporation (IDC), a consumer technology market research firm, in a recent note on the industry.

Several VR gaming companies have made forays into Singapore, seeing the ultra-modern, affluent city-state that is home to hordes of expatriates as a good fit.

The zombie fight-out was taking place at a centre where participants stalked a room with a black floor and walls.

“I did paintball before, it’s quite fun… but I think the whole scene is much more interesting here,” said Jack Backx, a 55-year-old from the Netherlands, who was playing with colleagues from the oil and gas industry on a work day out.

The location is run by VR gaming group Zero Latency, which started in Australia and has expanded to nine countries. It uses “free-roam” virtual reality – where gamers move around in large spaces and are not tethered to computers with cables.

It’s not all intense, shoot-’em-ups – VR group Virtual Room has an outlet in Singapore that transports gamers to scenarios in the prehistoric period, a medieval castle, ancient Egypt and even a lunar landing.

Asia leads the way

VR arcades have been springing up in other places. China was an early hotbed for virtual reality gaming although the industry has struggled in recent times, while they can also be found in countries across the region including Japan, Taiwan and Australia.

Many key industry milestones over the past two years have been in Asia but arcades have appeared elsewhere – London’s first one opened last year while there are also some in the United States.

Consumer spending on virtual reality hardware, software and services is expected to more than double from US$2.2bil (RM8.56bil) in 2017, to US$4.5bil (RM17.51bil) this year, according to gaming intelligence provider SuperData Research.

For the best-quality experience, it can be relatively expensive – a session in Singapore costs Sg$59 (RM175).

“The equipment here is not cheap,” said Simon Ogilvie, executive director of Tomorrow Entertainment, which runs the Zero Latency franchise in Singapore.

The industry faces huge challenges.

China offers a cautionary tale – according to IDC, VR arcades have struggled there after expanding too quickly.

There have also been warnings that improvements in home-based technology may eventually lead to VR gaming centres suffering the same fate as traditional arcades that were once filled with Pac-Man and Street Fighter machines.

“The rise and fall of coin-operated videogame arcades in the 1980s suggests that such VR arcades may eventually fade in relevance as home-based computing power and prices fall within mass consumer reach,” said the note from IDC’s Ma.

Rebecca Assice, who runs Virtual Room in Singapore, said one challenge was getting people interested in the first place as many still did not know about the arcades.

“VR is still a really new industry,” she said. “A lot of people just don’t know this sort of activity exists.” — AFP

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What parents need to know about VR ?


The hottest tech in videogames is virtual reality. Find out its potential effects on kids before buying a headset.

 

VR can make you think and feel things you know aren’t real. —Dreamstime/TNS
EVERYONE who’s tried it agrees: virtual reality is mind-blowing. Once you strap on that headset, you truly believe you’re strolling on a Parisian street, careening on a roller coaster, or immersed in the human body exploring the inner workings of the oesophagus.

But for all its coolness – and its potential uses, from education to medicine – not a lot is known about how VR affects kids. Common sense Media’s new report, Virtual Reality 101: What You Need to Know About Kids and VR, co-authored by the founding director of stanford University’s virtual Human Interaction Lab, offers a first-of-its-kind overview of the expanding uses for the technology and its potential effects on kids.

Now that VR devices from inexpensive viewers to game consoles to full-scale gaming arcades are finally here – with lots more coming soon – it’s a good idea to start thinking about how to manage VR when it comes knocking at your door.

VR can make you think and feel things you know aren’t real. Other media can give you the sense of “being there” – what’s called psychological presence – but not to the extent that VR can. This unique ability is what makes it so important to understand more about the short- and long-term effects of the technology on kids. Here are some of the key findings from the report.

Even though we don’t yet have all the answers to how vR affects kids, we know enough to consider some pros and cons. And whether kids are using vR through a mobile device like Google Cardboard, on a console like the Playstation vR, on a fully tricked-out desktop rig like the Oculus Rift, or at a mall arcade, these guidelines can help you keep any vR experience your kids have safe and fun.

Pay attention to age ratings. Check the recommended age on the headset package and don’t let younger kids use products designed for older kids. The minimum age isn’t based on medical proof of adverse effects on the brain and vision, but it’s the manufacturer’s best guess as to who the product is safest for.

Choose games wisely. Because the vR game experience can be more intense than that of regular games, it’s even more important to check reviews to make sure the gameplay, the content and the subject matter are appropriate for your kid.

Keep it safe. A few precautions: Once you have the goggles on, orient yourself to the room by touching the walls; stick to short sessions until you know how you’re affected by vR; stay seated if possible; move furniture out of the way; and have a second person as a spotter.

Pay attention to feelings – both physical and emotional. If you’re feeling sick to your stomach, dizzy, drained, or sad, angry, or anxious – give it a rest for a while.

Talk about experiences. since vR feels so real, it’s an excellent time to talk through what your kid has experienced in a game. Ask what it felt like, what the differences are between vR and regular games, and how vR helps you connect to other people’s experiences by putting you in someone else’s shoes.

Find opportunities; avoid pitfalls. Don’t let your kids play vR games that mimic experiences you wouldn’t want them to have in real life, such as using violent weapons. On the other hand, take advantage of vR that exposes kids to things they wouldn’t normally get to see, feel, and learn, such as visiting a foreign country.

Keep privacy in mind. Devices that can track your movements – including eye movements – could store that data for purposes that haven’t yet been invented. — Common sense Media/Tribune news service.

Star2 Technology  by Caroline Knorr

Silicon Valley faces tech backlash: maybe needs to be taken down to size


Polarising content and Russian manipulation of social media are fuelling calls for greater regulation of firms like Google and FB. — 123rf.com

 

Demonstrators at a rally in opposition to white supremacists and the postponed right-wing “March on Google” protest of James Damore’s firing that was originally planned the same day. — Bay Area News Group/TNS

Once a darling, tech hub Silicon Valley is under attack for its technologies which are damaging our lives.

ONCE upon a time, there was a beautiful land filled with bright minds and gleaming prospects.

People called it Silicon Valley, and out of it flowed knowledge, ideas and innovations that gave us almost-unthinkable powers to learn, to communicate, to transform our lives into exactly what we wanted them to be. The region’s denizens toiled happily at the cutting edge, and day by day, they were making the world a better place.

But today, this beautiful land is under attack from within and without. The products and services it sends out into the world are being called addictive, divisive and even damaging, raising the cry that instead of making the world better, they are making it worse.

As technology plays a deeper and more pervasive role in nearly every aspect of our lives, the industry that has upended everything from shopping and travel to education and human relationships is facing a backlash the likes of which Silicon Valley has never seen.

Polarising online content and Russian manipulation of social media platforms have fuelled calls from the right and the left for greater regulation of firms like Google, Facebook and Twitter. World wide web inventor Tim Berners-Lee, Republican US Senator John McCain, leftist billionaire George Soros, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff and conservative Fox News host Tucker Carlson have all joined the chorus demanding the government take action.


Terrific or terrible?

Critics argue that the big tech firms have become too economically dominant, intruded too far into our lives and have too much control over what gets seen and shared online. At the same time, critics contend, those same companies have failed to take responsibility for the misuse of their services by malevolent actors, for the spread of fake news and for the way their platforms and algorithms can be gamed.

Stanford computer science students are protesting Apple, demanding it make less addictive devices.

The #MeToo movement has amplified a debate over sexual harassment and diversity in Silicon Valley. And conservatives have attacked the whole region as a liberal echo chamber that stifles precisely the open debate it claims to embrace.

Thus the backlash.

“What makes it categorically different now is that this is the first time I have seen that people are saying, ‘Hmmm, maybe Silicon Valley needs to be taken down to size,’ said Leslie Berlin, project historian for Stanford University’s Silicon Valley Archives. “This notion that what Silicon Valley represents actually threatens rather than embodies what makes the country great, that is new.”

Berners-Lee in an open letter recently called the tech giants “a new set of gatekeepers” whose platforms can be “weaponised” to widen social rifts and interfere in elections. Benioff told CNBC in January that social media was “addictive” and should be regulated like cigarettes.

Carlson wants Google treated like a public utility because it “shuts down free speech for political reasons”.

Former president Barack Obama, at a February conference at MIT, said social media was Balkanizing public discourse, creating “entirely different realities” that contribute to “gridlock and venom and polarisation in politics”.

Even Facebook has jumped in with an unusual mea culpa, issuing a news release in February admitting it was “far too slow to recognise how bad actors were abusing our platform”.

Raking in the money

Despite its critics, Silicon Valley remains hugely successful and influential, with 21% of employed people working in tech, according to a 2017 Federal Reserve Bank report. Though the region’s economy has shown some signs of slowing, job growth in Silicon Valley has been more than double the national rate since the beginning of the economic recovery in 2010.

And the region remains home to the two most valuable public companies in the world, Apple and Google’s parent firm Alphabet, as well as world-class universities. Every day, people around the world benefit from Silicon Valley-built tools that have transformed communication, opened access to information, and made life easier.

The notion that Silicon Valley’s best days are over is far from new – people have been predicting its demise ever since the advent of the microprocessor, said Berlin.

“It was going to be the oil shocks of the 1970s that were going to take it down, and then competition from Japan, India and China, the Dot Com bust, Y2K – it’s just been one thing after another, the 2008 crash,” Berlin said. “Time and again, Silicon Valley has bounced back from these perceived threats. Silicon Valley has always been sort of the golden child of the Golden State.”

But this time, Berlin and others see something shifting.

“It is unprecedented,” UC Berkeley Haas School of Business professor Abhishek Nagaraj, said of the backlash. “I think this is because of how deeply penetrated tech is in people’s lives.”

Nagaraj, who studies the tech industry, compared the demonisation of Silicon Valley to the outcry against Wall Street after deceptive investment banking practices knocked the United States into the Great Recession.

“It appears as if, basically, tech is the new finance,” Nagaraj said.

Overwhelming force

Increasingly, the public views the tech industry as a force against which they are powerless, said San Jose State University anthropology professor Jan English-Lueck, who researches Silicon Valley’s culture.

“It’s now on people’s radar screen to be a place of the elite, where they’re changing the world in a way that ordinary people don’t have an influence on that change,” EnglishLueck said.

While the devices and social media platforms created by hugely successful Silicon Valley tech firms have given us new ways to connect, they’ve also thrown the worst of human nature into our faces, said English-Lueck.

“You don’t have to look in somebody’s eyes when you’re telling someone something ugly,” English-Lueck said. “That’s really exaggerated people’s ability to hate.”

She believes the optimistic view of technology as the great liberator and connector helped keep major tech firms from building more safeguards into their platforms to prevent vicious online attacks, dissemination of fake news and nation-state intrusions.

“Do we want free speech and free action that’s amplified by the Internet?” she said. “Sometimes we don’t want that.”

Stephen Milligan, CEO of pioneering San Jose data-storage firm Western Digital, doesn’t think technology can solve everything.

But Milligan doesn’t buy the notion that Silicon Valley has lost its bloom. The region’s companies are still trying to solve “real problems” in the world and having a positive impact on people’s lives.

“It’s still cool,” Milligan said. “I actually think it’s more cool.”

Silicon Valley boosters such as Peggy Burke, CEO of Palo Alto branding agency 1185, will tell you the technology industry can fix the problems it creates.

“You have to weigh the good and the bad, and if the bad gets so bad that it outweighs the good, someone will solve for that,” Burke said. “If there’s a problem – traffic, transportation, housing, stopping Russians, fake news – someone in the Valley right now is working on solving for that problem. I’ve been in the Valley for 30 years and I’ve seen it happen over and over.”

A reckoning for the region is likely, but it won’t be a fatal one, Berkeley’s Nagaraj said. The problems arising from technology will exacerbate the ongoing decentralisation of innovation, as boot camps bring entrepreneurial skills to new regions, and clusters of expertise – in “deep learning” artificial intelligence in Toronto, for example – lead to cooperative projects linking the Valley to other areas, he said.

“It’s going to be a much more collaborative process than one of replacement,” he said. “We are moving to a world where not all the big hits come from Silicon Valley.”

Source: By Ethan Baron – The San Jose Mercury News/Tribune News Service

 

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