Sunday May 7, 2006
Malaysians think big on IT congress
By JOHAN FERNANDEZ
THEY call it the Olympics of the IT industry. Top players in the industry gathered in Austin, Texas at the World Congress on Information Technology (WCIT) 2006, which ended on Friday.
The event, which has been held every two years since 1990, saw the biggest number of Malaysian participants this year.
You could be forgiven for thinking that some events had total Malaysian participation, as we had the biggest foreign delegation ever, surpassing Texas southern neighbour that had 200 representatives.
Before the conference was over, many people, and I mean many people, knew the Malaysians and the country as well.
Why, there were so many Malaysians here that you could find one at every turn. Every time you took a taxi the driver would ask: Are you from Malaysia? Ive been taking Malaysians all over.
The delegation, headed by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, consisted of 74 government officials from 28 departments, 76 private company representatives and 12 exhibitors.
Also present were Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Datuk Seri Dr Jamaludin Jarjis, Penang Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon, Pahang Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Adnan Yaakob and Kuala Lumpur Mayor Datuk Ruslin Hasan.
Executive councillors heading the IT portfolio in a number of states were also here. In short, just about everyone connected with IT was here.
One reason for the huge show is that Malaysia will be playing host to the next WCIT in 2008.
WCIT is the biennial event of the World Information Technology and Services Alliance (Witsa), a consortium of 72 international information and communications technology (ICT) organisations that represent over 90% of the world’s information technology market.
WCIT 2008 will be a joint-venture between the Multimedia Development Corporation (MDeC) and Pikom, which is a member of Witsa.
Pikom and MDeC will jointly host WCIT 2008 through a 50:50 joint venture company, WCIT 2008 Sdn Bhd.
Pikom chairman Lee Boon Kok said Witsa was very pleased with Malaysias participation.
Since the first congress, there has not been such a large group from a single country. And we have in a way set the standard of participation in future congresses, he said.
And, according to Lee, countries in Asia like Thailand are already thinking about bringing delegations of about 300 to Malaysia.
The good news is that we have got a lot of support and we should get more delegates than this congress, he said.
There were 2,000 delegates in Austin, and it cost the organisers US$10mil (RM36mil) to put the show together.
Lee said it would cost between US$8mil and US$10mil (RM28.8 and RM36mil) to host WCIT 2008.
WCIT is not focused on showcasing the latest IT gadgets but is instead a forum for businesses and government officials as well as academia from some 80 countries to meet and find ways to ensure a positive impact of information technology on the world.
Lee said WCIT 2008 would benefit the Malaysian economy with some 2,500 to 3,000 delegates expected to attend the congress.
WCIT 2008 would brand Malaysia as a technology country and open up new markets to our ICT goods and services.
When delegates come to Malaysia, they will not only deliberate on ICT issues and get first hand knowledge of our capabilities in ICT but we hope they will seal deals as well, he said.
Chief executive of WCIT 2008 Sdn Bhd Wendy Liew said WCIT 2008 was one of the major sponsors and an active participant of WCIT 2006.
We are proud and excited that Malaysia, led by the Prime Minister, had the largest number of delegates at the congress here in Austin. This is a strong motivation for Malaysia to better host the 16th World Congress, said Liew.
Malaysias participation was not just in the numbers. It was active with a number of speakers taking to the stage.
Among the speakers were Dr Koh Tsu Koon, Badlisham Ghazali, CEO of the Multimedia Development Corporation, Michael Lai , CEO of TM Net, Wei Chuan Beng, managing director of REDtone International, David Wong, the co-chairman of Outsourcing Malaysia and Eddie Cheah, director of IRIS Corporation.
Creating a presence is always important, and like the Biotechnology Expo in Chicago last month, where there were 150 Malaysian participants, WCIT 2006 had the same effect.
It can be costly bringing such huge delegations but if they are organised well the impact can be positive.
At the end of the congress on Friday, George C. Newstrom, chairman of Wista, presented the Crystal to Badlisham, the chairman of WCIT 2008 Pte Ltd, a symbolic handing over of the baton to Malaysia to host WCIT 2008. The organisers have a good two years to work towards holding the best-ever congress.
Johan Fernandez is Editor, North America Bureau in New York (e-mail: email@example.com)