Based on the internet saga that unfolded around actress Fathia Latiff’s tweet about the word ‘cashless’, one thing is clear about Malaysia.
Our movement towards a cashless society would go a lot faster if our rakyat as a whole are actually educated on what going cashless actually is.
Definitely not an easy feat, but Sarawak’s move towards education is a unique one—develop its own cashless system called Sarawak Pay, then allow its citizens to use it to pay for all local government services.
Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg just announced that Bank Negara Malaysia has approved the development of Sarawak Pay.
Sarawak Pay was first announced in September, with the Chief Minister stating that “this will enable us to have e-wallet or e-pay which can be linked to our neighbours like Indonesia, Thailand and of course China (Alipay)”.
In fact, the development of this e-wallet is a collaboration between the state government and Huawei.
The approval by Bank Negara allows the state to develop its own app, citing that being able to pay for all state government services as “a start”. This includes paying land rent and assessment rates, among others.
In fact, the Sarawak government has already launched a Sarawak PayBills app, which does exactly what you expect it to do. Though according to the reviews, it still has some kinks to work out.
This is all part of Sarawak’s play to develop its economy through technology, as announced during its MoU signing with Huawei.
With a memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed last April, the collaboration is meant to promote a digital transformation in Sarawak though ‘State Digital Economy Programmes’.
Abang Johari has also been vocal about his admiration of China’s progressing development for the last three decades, and opines that the application of Chinese philosophy and tradition in technological development should be emulated by Sarawak.
About going cashless, Abang Johari has said: (translated from Malay)
“In China, the citizens know that you’re an outsider if you pay using cash, because the society there (is used) to making payments using their smartphones.”
He adds that with the introduction of the app, businessmen would be able to make transactions directly in a safer environment.
The development is a happy complement for Sarawak’s focus on high-speed broadband, calling it the “foundation of a digital economy”.
Sarawak will not be the first state internationally to make bold moves towards going cashless.
Indirectly, Alipay has served a similar function in China as a whole nation. The American state Hawaii has also launched a cashless payment system for dispensing medical marijuana.
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi has also made a dramatic declaration—it’s going cashless to counteract what’s been called ‘Black Money’.
The development of Sarawak Pay will join Malaysia’s small bunch of existing players, including the startups that have led the way—Grab, Fave, and recently GoGet among many others.
Sarawak Pay will also be joining the fray in Malaysia alongside the state’s revered Alipay, as well as Samsung Pay—still only available on Samsung devices, last I checked.
On one hand, the service will have an unprecedented advantage in the nation to win the hearts of Sarawakians. But on the other hand, it would be interesting to observe if the state has any plans to scale Sarawak Pay’s services outside of the eastern state, towards the peninsula, and whether it will be successful.
But we’re definitely jumping the gun a little there. For now, let’s see if even its own citizens opens up their hearts and their wallets towards e-wallets with Sarawak Pay. We don’t know for sure, but we have a feeling that this might impact how Malaysia moves towards cashless in the long run as well.