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6 things to know about MDEC’s new CEO, Mahadhir Aziz, and what he can bring to the table

With the departure of MDEC’s last CEO, Surina Shukri on August 31, Futurise’s Mahadhir Aziz will now be filling her shoes to push Malaysia’s digital economy forward.

Throughout his career, he spearheaded and led projects involving Malaysia’s development in tech sectors. So, to get an understanding of his potential in this role following his appointment, we took a look at his professional history (and some personal).

1. Involved in the IT sector since 1998

He’s had a long career of leading projects in the tech sector, even since 1998 as an Analyst Programmer Project Officer at AmBank Group. 

Mahadhir would then go from being a software engineer for 11 months at Mukmin.com to become a Senior Applications Developer at Utusan Melayu for under 2 years.

Later, he joined PETRONAS Digital from 2002-2007 as a Project Manager, and moved onto his role as a Senior Manager at Deloitte Consulting for 3 years. 

The latter appears to have started his development in the consultancy role that he held in Eastman Kodak and HeiTech Padu, of which he became the COO shortly after, in 2013.

2. Founded his own company mandated by the Ministry of Finance

In 2015, he became the General Manager in the Technology Hub Development Division at Cyberview, where he held the position for 4 years. This led to the founding of his own company, Futurise in 2017 a subsidiary of Cyberview under the Ministry of Finance.

Futurise plays an active role as the Public Policy Advisor to ministries and agencies for the development of tech innovations / Image Credit: Futurise’s Facebook

Under Mahadhir’s leadership, Futurise was mandated by the government to oversee the National Regulatory Sandbox (NRS) initiative. It acts as a testbed for entrepreneurs to assess their innovations in a conducive environment with necessary support from stakeholders and regulators. 

The NRS Labs saw the setting up of Malaysia’s first Drone Testing Zone (DTZ) in Cyberjaya on July 1, 2019, during Futurise’s signature event, MyDroneX. At DTZ, drone players can test their innovations in a safer and controlled environment. As of June 2021, its impact report shared that over 216 flights with more than 432 total flight hours have taken place at the DTZ.

During his time at Futurise, Mahadhir was also appointed as a Special Officer and Project Manager at the Ministry of Finance’s National Economic Implementation and Strategic Coordination Agency (LAKSANA).

3. Pushed for the use of drones in Malaysia

Drontech is one of the emerging technologies in Malaysia / Image Credit: Futurise’s Facebook

Along with some partners, Futurise updated the Malaysian Civil Aviation Regulations (MCAR) with guidelines on managing Unmanned Aviation Systems (UAV). In other words, Mahadhir updated the regulations surrounding the use of drones in Malaysian skies. 

This helped industry players open up drone-related services in the sectors of photography, logistics, etc. As a result, Malaysia is expected to see more than 5,000 jobs created within the next 5 years in the dronetech industry.

4. Tested Malaysia’s first self-driving car

Futurise’s NRS was involved in testing one of Malaysia’s first self-driving cars / Image Credit: Digital News Asia

Under the NRS initiative, Mahadhir was involved in the testing of the Cyberjaya Malaysia Autonomous Vehicle (MyAV) Testing Route that was developed together with the Ministry of Transport (MOT).

As it took place on public roads around Cyberjaya, infrastructure for the 7km testing route included road signages indicating a zone for the autonomous vehicle testing to be placed at each entry point of the AV testing areas.

Mahadhir noted that the deployment of AVs could also lead to job opportunities for the disabled community. 

“With the opportunity to shape tomorrow’s mobility environment and ecosystem, Futurise as public policy advisor for industry and government is looking into future policy that will account for not only the regulatory aspects but also the job creation part of the equation,” he stated. However, he didn’t go into detail on exactly how it would do that.

5. Questions the country’s need for 5G connectivity

Discussions surrounding IR4.0 often bring into question the development of 5G. When asked in a 2020 interview about bringing 5G into Malaysia, Mahadhir questioned whether or not such connectivity is even required as significant investments are needed for such infrastructure.

“While Malaysia may be technically ready for such an advancement, we have to determine if there is a need for it in the mid-term,” he said. Mahadhir further explained that although robotics for UAVs and AVs are fast becoming invaluable assets in private and public sectors, they don’t necessarily require 5G to function. 

Instead, he believes that the increased application of robotics will instead be driven by industries and specific IR4.0 technologies such as IoT, cloud computing, AI, and more.

“An example is the use of robotics in the manufacturing sector that allows for having ‘lights-off’ operations, but you can’t expect the education sector to have a similar adoption rate and nature like manufacturing,” Mahadhir explained.

“Other industries like tourism may be better off adopting IR4.0 technologies like Augmented or Virtual Reality, Artificial Intelligence or software-based robotics.”

6. He’s health-conscious and active in sports

In the same 2020 interview, Mahadhir shared that his most treasured possession was his health. He described that it’s able to keep him on his feet and allows him to increase the effort and intensity exerted in a situation.

Mahadhir even plays golf leisurely and got involved in the HeiTech Monthly Medal in February 2013. It’s a closed tournament organised for the existing staff of HeiTech Padu Berhad and its alumni.

Golfing pictures are what you’ll find on Mahadhir’s Facebook photos / Image Credit: Mahadhir Aziz’s Facebook

In order to provide opportunities for different levels of golfers, the tournament is divided into Medal A for 18-and-below handicapped golfers and Medal B for 19-and-above handicapped golfers.

He also participated in Standard Chartered’s Marathon in 2020 which was held as a virtual run in KL.

-//-

Based on his appointment as MDEC’s new CEO for the upcoming years, Mahadhir will be continuing Shukri’s legacy of starting up the Digital Investments Future5 (DIF5) Strategy. 

DIF5 is a 5-year plan focusing on 5 key sectors aimed at attracting investments and advancing Malaysia’s digital economy in line with the Malaysia Digital Economy Blueprint or MyDIGITAL. 

In line with his achievements thus far, Mahadhir’s strengths seem to lie in the sector of automation and robotics, with a focus on dronetech, all of which are big parts of the 5 emerging technologies listed in DIF5. 

Thus, it can be said that Mahadhir appears well-equipped to lead MDEC as he’s already familiar with setting up testbeds for emerging startups to gain investments through Futurise.

All eyes will now be on him to see if he has what it takes to drive MDEC’s digital economy vision. Though the pandemic has accelerated business digitalisation, not all SMEs have been able to benefit equally, so it’d be interesting to see what he can come up with to efficiently support SMEs in a tech-enabled future.

  • You can read more articles we’ve written about MDEC here and Malaysia’s Digital Economy Blueprint here.

Featured Image Credit: Mahadhir Aziz, CEO of MDEC and former CEO of Futurise

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