Malaysia Hosts ‘Hackathon’ to Boost Mobile AppsMalaysia’s communications regulator is jointly hosting a 24-hour “hackathon” with AT&T Inc.T +0.21% beginning Sept. 7, its first effort with a foreign partner to encourage the development of mobile apps.
Developer events in Malaysia have been largely dominated by the government and local companies, but the country is seeking to encourage more Internet entrepreneurs through partnerships with multinational firms, said Mohd Ali Hanafiah, chief planning and development officer at the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission.
“Commercializing the products and content is one of the biggest challenges,” said Mr. Hanafiah. “We don’t have that many market players.”
Malaysia’s Internet use expanded to more than 60% of the population in 2010, according to the latest official data available, but widespread access and comfort with paying for apps is low. Developers in Malaysia face challenges both in getting funding and reaching consumers.
“It’s a chicken-and-egg situation,” says Mr. Hanafiah. “If they can prove demand, funding will automatically trickle in. But sometimes you need the funding first.”
Government regulators are working to extend broadband Internet to rural areas and the urban poor to promote basic Internet literacy. In April, six telecommunications companies agreed to build a submarine cable system linking Malaysia with Singapore, India, Sri Lanka and the Middle East, which may prompt companies to offer more data products and in turn boost the use of applications.
“The more open you can make your network and allow people to access and consume services easily, especially developers, the more you drive overall consumption,” said Abhi Ingle, vice president of Ecosystem and Innovation at AT&T.
AT&T also stands to benefit from the talent being developed, and potential acquisition opportunities. The company has been serving enterprise clients in Malaysia for years and received its Application Service Provider license in the country in 2010.
“We’ve been looking at Asia as one of the fastest growing telecom areas in terms of consumption, and we want to find countries embodying principles of openness that invite others to come in,” said Mr. Ingle.
AT&T said it is making its speech-to-text and voice recognition tools available to developers at the hackathon, adding many developers in the region aren’t aware of its existence. Winners of the event will receive US $10,000 and the chance to present at APECTel in Hawaii later this month and the Malaysia Global Entrepreneurship Summit in October.