Looking back at the year, 2017 has been a very eventful one for both my Ministry and the country.
Most notably, the Fourth Industrial Revolution is no longer just a hoo-ha but will be rolled out in roadmaps with action plans to help us fully leap to a digitalised world.
For me this year stood out from the rest as it was the first time decision-makers in Ministries, government and politics held parallel dialogues with millions of youths throughout the country.
Led by the Ministry of Youth and Sports, the National Transformation 2050 (TN50) dialogues were systematically organised, making sure that every voice count.
All comments and aspirations made during the engagements were archived by a designated secretariat, of which in our Ministry is the Technology Foresight Division, to ensure that the follow-through would be done.
I will share the findings of what our youths aspire in science, technology and innovation here in due course.
Last year, Mosti organised the country’s very first National Innovation and Creative Economy (Nice) Expo in October. There has never been a larger and a more collaborative platform in bringing the country’s best innovators together. Many brilliant ideas were proposed to me during TN50 dialogues for example, but it would be a waste if you do not develop it further. We hope that the 374,000 visitors at Nice were inspired by local the local innovations and were informed on the procedures on how to take their ideas to the next level if desired.
At the same time, the National Science Centre in Kuala Lumpur reopened its doors to the public after two years of prolonged closure due to maintenance work. Despite the building’s closure throughout this time the staff at the centre proactively organised science outreach activities at schools and public spaces. When it reopened, as part of our science enculturation efforts, the Ministry decided to waive the entrance fees until the last day of 2017.
The number of visitors have been overwhelming at the science centre, reasonably and expectedly so, especially on weekends. Families are also taking advantage of the school holidays and free entry, coming in droves.
The centre reportedly receives several thousand visitors a day. Then in early December, photos of vandalism at the science centre surfaced on social media and sparked a debate on whether Malaysians have the fundamental mindset to enjoy state-of-the-art infrastructure.
The photos implied otherwise. Several exhibits were deliberately damaged by a minority of irresponsible visitors and are now undergoing repairs, depriving incoming visitors of having a chance to view them.
Some visitors were also ignorant of cleanliness – there were unpleasant scenes of rubbish being disposed anywhere but the bin. You might be shocked to learn that even the outdoor fountain that is meant to be aesthetic was turned into a makeshift water pool!
Futuristic and modern science centres, or any exhibitions for that matter, are commonly designed to empower visitors to explore the place independently. If you visit museums in Europe for example, you would be provided with an audio guide and a virtual map that help you navigate and probe the exhibits freely and at your own pace.
This holds especially true at an interactive place like the science centre, where children and adults alike should be given free rein and the creative space they need to learn, with little supervision.
Although the science centre has beefed up measures to reduce vandalism such as by putting up reminder posters and by increasing supervision of visitors, our mindset is still the largest obstacle in achieving progress.
This exact issue of Malaysians lacking the right mentality to be a developed country has frequently been raised at TN50 dialogues. We could be provided with first-world facilities, but do we have the “first-world mindset” in utilising them? Yet make no mistake, the National Science Centre is still in full operation and very welcoming of visitors.
So if there is any resolution we Malaysians would like to set for ourselves for the New Year, we need to adopt a progressive, positive and optimistic mentality. The first step is to simply be more considerate and thoughtful of others to achieve the larger and nobler objective, putting our selfish gains aside. We need to inculcate in our community a responsibility for public facilities, keeping the environment clean, and let us call out on those who do not.
Only then, talks regarding a 2050 policy could be meaningful.
With this, I wish everyone a very blessed 2018 ahead!