TECH NATION

Malaysia 2016 | INDUSTRY & INNOVATION | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Y.B. Datuk Dr. Ewon Ebin, Minister of Science, Technology, and Innovation, on cybersecurity, promoting the STEM fields, and developing the country's human capital.

Datuk Dr. Ewon Ebin
BIOGRAPHY
Y.B. Datuk Dr. Ewon Ebin was appointed Minister of Science, Technology, and Innovation (MoSTI) in 2013. He graduated as a Doctor in Business Administration (DBA) from University Malaya, Kuala Lumpur. He has previously been appointed to several high government positions, including Director of Sabah Bank, Minister of Sabah Rural Development, Chairman of Permodalan Bumiputra Sabah, and Chairman of Sabah Rubber Fund Board. Since 2009, he has also been a chairman of Barisan Nasional.

What is being done to develop and retain talent in the fields of science, technology, and innovation?

The Ministry of Science, Technology, and Innovation (MoSTI) has always recognized the importance of human capital development to achieve not only its organizational goal, but also more importantly its contribution to the national vision. At MoSTI, we have a special program called the Human Capital Development for Science, Technology, and Innovation (HCD STI Program), which provides training grants to enhance the competency and develop the technical expertise of our STI talents. MoSTI is the only ministry allocated with this special fund for specialized training in technical areas on top of the normal budget for generic training. This fund enables MoSTI's employees, especially those in technical services, to pursue trainings specific to their work scope. Modes of implementation vary from sending people to attend certified courses to training at highly reputable research institutes, both local and overseas. We also bring in world-renowned experts to conduct customized training at various agencies. These training courses often result in a strong network between MoSTI and its agencies with international R&D institutions and regulatory bodies, leading to research collaboration, as well as knowledge and technology transfer. Through this HCD STI Program, MoSTI has been able to nurture and enhance high performing local experts, retain them, and simultaneously gain advanced knowledge from global experts.

CyberSecurity Malaysia was established as an agency under MoSTI. What role can the cyber security industry play in Malaysia's development?

The role of CyberSecurity Malaysia is to provide specialized services to ensure the security and safety of Malaysia's cyber space. It is part of our contribution toward supporting Malaysia in becoming a digital and high-income nation driven by a knowledge-based economy. Our focus, as reflected in the National Cyber Security Policy (NCSP), is on the protection of the Critical National Information Infrastructure (CNII), upon which governments, businesses, and citizens are highly reliant. CNII enables the nation to function and acquire critical services. In today's highly competitive global market place, any disruptions to the CNII, including data loss, damage, cyber attacks, and other cyber crimes, can cause anxiety and significantly impact Malaysia's economic competitiveness. Perpetrators can access information systems or use other electronic means to launch cyber attacks against critical information infrastructure, such as financial, energy, transportation, and government operations. The online banking system and electrical distribution grid could be crippled by shutting down their control systems. Cyber attacks can also sabotage airport traffic control systems and government operations can be disrupted with attacks on the national network services. This underscores the strategic role of CyberSecurity Malaysia in driving the economy toward greater growth and progress by ensuring infrastructure and digital assets are protected and safeguarded against cyber security threats.

What role will STI play in advancing Malaysia's human capital and socio-economic development?

In order to meet global and local STI challenges, Malaysians must be equipped with STEM knowledge to meet the increasing demand for engineers, healthcare workers, scientists, computer programmers, actuaries, and other related professions. The government has shifted its focus toward emerging technologies, such as biotechnology, nanotechnology, and advanced manufacturing, as well as expanding existing STI based sectors. The Economic Transformation Programme (ETP) in Malaysia, which has identified 12 National Key Economic Areas (NKEAs), is covering two such areas related to the technology and innovation sector, namely electronic and electrical engineering, as well as communications, content, and infrastructure. The sector accounts for $10.3 billion, or 6% of GNI and $70 billion, or 40%, of total exports. It also provides approximately 522,000 jobs for skilled and semi-skilled workers.