MOHD Afiq Barni thought his life ended when he was severely injured in a road accident seven years ago. When he woke up after the crash, he was told that he had suffered a severe spinal cord injury and that he would not be able to walk again.

Afiq said that the months following the accident were the darkest he has experienced, and it took him time to find a new purpose in life.

His calling came when he set up a vehicle modification business called Double A Project Enterprise or DAPE Garage in 2015 with his friend Hairul Anuar, who is also wheelchair-bound.

Specialising in driving aids for the disabled community, DAPE Garage is a niche business aimed at bringing increased mobility to the disabled community so that they can maintain their independence.

For a long time, Afiq relied on word-of-mouth recommendations to drum up business, but all that changed when MYNIC saw the potential in Afiq and provided him with the training on how to build and manage a .my website for his business.

Afiq’s website has helped drive demand and leads – and it has propelled him to use social media to further increase brand awareness and share the progress of his endeavours.

Afiq said that since he started the website, his business has shown a 55% increase in sales. Afiq doesn’t see his disability as a hindrance, instead it has made him more determined to make something of himself. It was his determination and perseverance that spurred MYNIC to introduce a special OKU benefit in hopes that it will inspire others in similar situations.

The digital economy is at the forefront of Malaysia’s economic development plans. The National Budget 2020 also announced several initiatives and benefits to encourage emerging technologies and digitisation, focusing on rural and OKU groups.

By introducing these measures, the government hopes to encourage more firms and entrepreneurs to serve markets that are underserved, lower costs and increase efficiencies, and encourage innovation and economies of scale for new types of business.

However, e-commerce and by extension digital capabilities are dominated by big firms, leaving SMEs, economically disadvantaged individuals, and those with disabilities behind. Indeed, there are several registered businesses who still do not have a digital presence. Out of the 9 million registered businesses in Malaysia, only a fraction, about 750,000, have registered domain names in Malaysia.

Levelling the playing field is necessary because SMEs and micro-enterprises employ some two-thirds of the country’s workforce and contribute to 40% of the economy.

As a national level domain name provider, MYNIC works to address this disproportionate imbalance by digitally empowering all Malaysians.

Our goal through various training programmes is to spur more individuals and businesses to embrace digital processes to stay competitive in this market. Having been a part of several success stories including that of Afiq’s, we know first hand the benefits of narrowing the digital gap.

Consumption habits and patterns were shifting before the Covid-19 pandemic but now more than ever people are relying on the internet to buy products and services they need. In response, businesses have accelerated their shift to digital for businesses.

During our movement control order (MCO) we have seen several Mak Cik Kiahs and micro-SMEs starting their business online. Not only does an internet presence give these small businesses increased exposure and a bigger reach, but it also creates a virtual point of contact with their customers.

Afiq said that bringing DAPE Garage online was one of the best moves for his business. Not only does his website add professionalism and credibility, he also found that more customers are able to find his business through a simple Google search, thanks to his effective search engine optimisation.

Afiq is the perfect example of what hard work and determination can lead to, and I hope that more people can follow in his footsteps.

It is not an exaggeration to say that businesses that are slower to pivot to digitisation will risk losing out on opportunities.

That is why MYNIC, together with the Ministry of Communications and Multimedia Malaysia, is preparing the nation in enabling businesses for a bright digital future especially in rural and OKU communities.

This is to ensure Malaysia becomes a global digital economy and no one is left behind.

Datuk Hasnul Fadhly Hasan is chief executive officer of MYNIC. Comments:

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