As the global economy is digitally driven, the key is to take advantage of technological advancements in speeding up business and government services to improve quality of life.
The unprecedented challenges posed by Covid-19 have forced governments and businesses around the world to beef up efforts to discourage physical handling of cash in favour of digital and contactless payments.
But what exactly is the digital economy?
University College of Technology Sarawak (UCTS) head of programme (marketing) Rahmat Aidil Djubair described the digital economy as more towards participating in economic activities by utilising all possible digitalisation opportunities with objectives to use data through technologies being offered.
He explained the term digital economy had been used by many countries with advanced economies such as China, South Korea, Japan, and Taiwan, enabling them to penetrate far into other markets.
On some of the misperceptions about the digital economy, Rahmat Aidil, who is senior lecturer, School of Business and Management, at UCTS, said it was not all about the improvements that people should achieve towards technological advancement.
“We’ve been trying to invent and innovate new and modern things even before the term the digital economy has been introduced. The most important aspect of the digital economy is related to our ability to manage – that’s to collect, process, and interpret data received from all the economic activities managed through digitalisation.”
According to him, the benefits of digitalisation are derived through the data collected from the use of digital equipment and tools and a good example is Sarawak Pay.
Not only is it easy for customers to transact but also for traders to keep tabs of the business done. The data is useful for meeting customer trends, needs, and demands in terms of products, time, and place.
Sarawak Pay is the Sarawak government’s Fintech platform that provides the technology and business tools for secure, fast, and convenient mobile wallet and digital payments. It’s one of the strategies to digitise Sarawak’s economy.
Sarawak Pay allows you to keep cash digitally (e-Wallet), make payments, and transfer and receive money just like a physical wallet but with more smart functions such as producing a split bill, request payment from friends, tracking transaction history, paying utilities and local council bills, and much more.
For hawkers, going cashless means not having to count their daily earnings or go to the bank to deposit cash.
Hawkers and petty traders account for the bulk of Sarawak Pay’s registered merchants in Sibu Division, according to Sarawak Pay Central Region agent David Tiong.
“As at January 2021, the total of registered Sarawak Pay users and registered Sarawak Pay merchants are close to 69,000 and 490,000 respectively. In Sibu Division, there are around 14,000 registered Sarawak Pay merchants, of whom 70 per cent are personal merchants – that is hawkers and petty traders,” he said.
To increase the number of users, he suggested improving telecommunications coverage.
Among others, he noted that the mobile network signals were quite weak in some areas, causing transaction failures which turned users off.
As only the English version is available now, he suggested making the system multilingual by adding Bahasa Malaysia and Chinese to attract more users.
“Many who don’t understand English are presently unable to use Sarawak Pay e-Wallet. And for those who don’t have e-Banking and credit cards, they will find it troublesome to reload or top up the account,” he said.
While recognising the lack of confidence in e-Wallets among some prospective users, he pointed out that Sarawak Pay e-Wallet is in fact very safe unless users leaked their account information such as the password or the pin code.
“Actually, Sarawak Pay has further strengthened its security through account tagging to one mobile phone only,” he noted.
According to Tiong, the use of e-Wallet transactions by business merchants, comprising sole proprietors, firms, and companies, is more encouraging compared to personal merchants.
The latter’s trading volumes are small and their cash flow quite limited. So, they still prefer to deal directly in cash.
To upgrade Sarawak Pay and its usage, he suggested the receipt feature be made available for expense claims processing, pointing out that corporate staff would, otherwise, be unable to make purchases with Sarawak Pay because without receipts, expenses could not be claimed.
He further suggested that to improve user-friendliness, the interface application be improved to make usage less complicated.
He proposed the main features such as topping up and resetting passwords be inserted on the first page instead of being buried a few layers down.
“Introduce and incorporate more bill payment services to achieve an all function e-Wallet as well as improve the efficiency and effectiveness of Sarawak Pay Support Service so that problems brought up by users can be resolved within an acceptable timeframe. The Sarawak Pay e-Wallet platform should be expanded nationwide and later globally.”
And to increase the use of Sarawak Pay e-Wallet by hawkers and petty traders, particularly at Sibu Central Market, he suggested setting up Cash Top-up Counters to provide easy top-ups for both merchants and customers alike.
Sibu Municipal Council (SMC) Market and Petty Traders Standing Committee chairman Albert Tiang said he had been informed that some hawkers were rather selective in using Sarawak Pay unless payments involved loose change.
“For example, if an item costs RM11.30, then these hawkers will encourage customers to use Sarawak Pay to avoid the hassle of loose change. That was what I was told.
“In a way, Sarawak Pay helps address the hassle of loose change. To me, continuous education is needed to create awareness among hawkers on the benefits of using Sarawak Pay. As far as education to create awareness is concerned, we leave it mostly to Sarawak Pay.”
Meanwhile, Rahmat Aidil noted that digitalisation was becoming a trend and known to influence people into following a new life standard. What really mattered, he added, was the ability to use the digital platform as per the Internet which, he opined, should be made available to everyone.
“Hence, traders around Sibu area need to get on board whether ready or not. A case in point is the e-hailers’ ability to break the market domination of taxis with one simple solution – creating an app to digitalise the business.
“The taxi drivers now have only two options – either step out of the business and join the e-hailers or create other apps to compete with the current one.”
On the benefits of the digital economy for rural folk, he said since this could only be achieved by using the Internet, the facility should be made available to them – and for that matter, everyone – to allow the state, and especially Sibu, to maximise the benefits of the digital economy.
Rahmat Aidil said although UCTS’ focus now was on going digital for almost all courses, the School of Business and Management offers many subjects that interacted directly with digital economy practices.
“For example, the Bachelor of Business and Management programme offers subjects such as Management Information Systems, focusing on digital data management, and also other courses such as accountancy and technology management. One programme for Bachelor of Business in Marketing focuses on digital marketing closely related to digital economy applications.”
During the current Covic-19 pandemic, digital terms were being adopted by almost every company wishing to sustain their presence in the market, he added.- Peter Boon, Borneo Post