Thursday, September 26, 2013

Eyeing Najib's "geekiness" from the eyes off Azmi Anshar

DEEP in his heart, Datuk Seri Najib Razak is a techie and a geek who adores and consumes everything and anything digital, from a shiny, super smartphone to social media like Facebook and Twitter, primary bully pulpit to extrapolate ideas and articulate state policies.

If Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad was the architect of Malaysia's major entry into the digital age in the mid-1990s (the ex-PM pushed hard for the Multimedia Super Corridor and insisted on a censorship-free Internet then, even if he has second thoughts about it now), then Najib is the great consumer who lives and embraces daily the digital lifestyle -- just like the rest of us.
How many world leaders have actually cared to visit Twitter, Facebook and Google complexes to get a better feel of the future of the digital lifestyle?
Few heads of governments do what Najib does. Sure, they have millions in Twitter followers but a precious few actually blast tweets from all over the place on their own volition without an aide fussing or assisting, and make personal replies like Najib does.
Najib looked statesmanlike in his dealings with the tech titans while discussing digital divide and integration issues but within, who knows, he was as giddy as the geek that he is, enjoying those mind-blowing technology and toys that most of us might never get to see.
Nevertheless, that digital savviness is the drive behind Najib's meetings with Dick Costolo, Mark Zuckerberg and Larry Page, the respective CEOs of Twitter, Facebook and Google, on his tour of the United States, utilising the access to exchange ideas and inspect the eye-opening technology.
Najib had the imagination to take the initiative to tour these command centres of today's zeitgeists, the greatest contemporary human inventions that have totally and profoundly disrupted millions of lives.
The difference from Dr Mahathir's digital era to the one Najib is embracing is glaring. Those days, Dr Mahathir entertained visits from Bill Gates (former Microsoft CEO) and still the richest human in the world and a host of tech titans from HP, Oracle, Dell, Cisco and Intel to help boost the MSC's status.
These days, Microsoft's fortune (though not Gates' wealth) have fallen behind: no longer are they tech's driving force and the fact Najib paid courtesy visits to social media companies is a huge manifestation in the power shift.
Had Steve Jobs, the late leader of the cult of Mac, iPod, iPhone and iPad, been alive, chances are that Najib would have snared a meeting with Apple's co-founder, too, as part of his learning curve on the thunderous tectonic swing of consumer technology.
Now that Najib has been granted access to Facebook, Twitter and Google's privileged dominions, what can we expect from the prime minister upon his return?
Off hand, Najib has postulated the idea of stepping up disaster alerts after neighbourhood earthquakes that ignite powerful tremors and tsunamis seemed to be getting closer and closer to home.
Perhaps gizmos intertwined with social media to predict moods of electric thunderstorms influencing monsoon patterns and flash floods would be useful, too.
Najib outlined digital platforms to communicate government policies, which would be a natural fit for his administration and how to elevate Malaysians' commute with Asean as a community, one that fits and yet goes beyond national interest and identity.
Perhaps the PM can distil his newly-acquired digital intelligence to narrow the digital divide and construct barometers to measure socio-economic progress while elucidating ideas about how such social media can be reshaped to unite Malaysians after the fractious general election.
The PM could also sow ideas on integrating the imminent goods and services tax to the billions of ringgit spent on shopping online.
Malaysia's future will certainly be shaped by Najib's invaluable insight into how new Internet technology will sculpt the coming future of civilisation as we know it.
Whether we like or not, social media rules the world and it would be a smart move to mould relevant policies and projects to align with what Messrs Zuckerberg, Page and Costolo have in their sights to make more people make more connections.
All we have to do is crystallise a way to carve our niche and capitalise on these trailblazers' intent to continue rocking the world with us inside, hurtled around like raggedy dolls.

Read more: Najib's 'geekiness' is vital springboard for digital future - Columnist - New Straits Times

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