How technology has made travelling easier

There was a time, not so long ago, when travelling to a foreign land was an adventure that began even before embarking on the journey. Arranging the travel tickets, hotel room bookings, getting a tourist visa, arranging for traveller’s cheques, etc- these were the inescapable formalities. Apart from those formalities came the research work, which required reading up travel brochures or tourist guidebooks on good hotels, places to see and dos and don’ts in the other country. After going through all those troubles, you could only hope that there would be no unpleasant surprises.

Thanks to technological innovations over the last two decades, most of that information is available on your fingertips- literally, in the present era of smartphones. Almost all the research and travel related formalities can be completed in the comfort of the drawing room. Without exaggeration, technology has impacted every single aspect of the experience.

For instance, a travel enthusiast who intends to experience the Tulip season in The Netherlands is likely to start with a Google search, followed by a Wikipedia check on Keukenhof Gardens. Having finalised the Keukenhof Gardens as the primary destination, the next search is most likely to be on places to see in The Netherlands.

Having shortlisted the places to see, the traveller can proceed to identify places to stay during the trip using Booking or Trivago or some other website (or the corresponding smartphone app). For the benefit of those planning to travel on a smaller budget, Airbnb offers less expensive options. Thanks to user reviews and photographs, it is possible to get visual evidence of what lies ahead. Those who are still not satisfied may use a social media app like Facebook or Twitter to get updates from recent visitors.

Hotel bookings done, the next step would be the flight bookings. The traveller may now login to Makemytrip or Yatra or a similar online portal and identify the flights available on the dates of his or her proposed trip that fall within the planned budget.

Then comes the one aspect that cannot be done online: the travel permit. The most daunting part is the documentation required for the visa and those visa interviews. Thankfully, there are online service providers who can make the process much easier. Want information on Schengen visa documents required? Unsure about the travel insurance requirements? The necessary information, at least, can be accessed on a smartphone.

Assuming the visa application is successful, the traveller can plan the packing by checking out the expected weather conditions during the travel dates on Accuweather to decide whether the woollens will be required.

Once there, the traveller need not worry about finding the way around the place, thanks to apps like Google Maps. Technology comes into play even after the trip is over, since most travellers these days share the experiences on social media platforms or travel portals!

None of this was even remotely possible just twenty years ago. Given the speed at which technology is transforming, this could just be the beginning.

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Malaysia and the Journey to Silicon Jungle

Jack Ma opens Malaysia’s ‘digital free trade zone’ with an eye to Southeast Asia’s ecommerce boom

When writing about tech startups in South East Asia, most of the global press tend to focus their attention on Singapore, the financial capital of the region. But we might be seeing the media spend more ink on Malaysia, thanks to a range of new initiatives in the country’s latest budget. The 2018 budget allocated 1 billion RM specifically for investment in the regions tech startups.

The influx of government funding is not the only thing reinvigoration Malaysia’s startup economy. Other factors have combined to help invigorate the scene in Malaysia. The streamlining of government systems and procedures. New developmental initiatives and ample outreach from organisations like the Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC), and MaGIC, one of the largest locally based incubators in the South-East Asia region. These are just some of the reasons it’s become extremely convenient and profitable for entrepreneurs to set-up, grow and scale from Malaysia.

Recently the MDEC introduced the Malaysia Tech Entrepreneur Programme (MTEP). An initiative backed by the Malaysian government which aims to attract international entrepreneurs and help them establish their start-ups in Malaysia. Thanks to then adoption of the Malaysia evisa for travellers, it’s become easy for anyone to apply from anywhere in the world. The MTEP gives out passes of one or five years to both new and established startups.

The Malaysian ecosystem is built right for global tech startups too. Located within the heart of ASEAN, it acts as a gateway for expanding reach into the South East Asian market. Malaysia also functions as a good test market, it’s larger than Singapore, and has three different national demographics, Chinese, Indian and Malay/Indonesian, which can help give a good sense of potential markets. It also is home to Cyberjaya, the smart startup capital that is encouraging developers of smart technology to roadtest their products in a real city. Smart traffic lights, electric vehicles, and digital signage and the ability to link them all together in one city is a compelling invitation.

The country’s startup culture has also been leading the way when it comes to embracing youth and women. Malaysia has a reputation for young talent, with the increased level of education from millennials, there are ample fresh, young minds eager to get onboard with a project. Malaysia also boasts some of the most successful Asian business women. Entrepreneurs like Sasha Tan, Vivy Yusof and Neelofa have paved the way for the next cohort of women in tech, resulting in a higher number of girls getting involved with launching startups, especially when compared to the numbers we see in Western accelerators.

Thanks to the recent budget announcement highlighting the government’s commitment to the industry, it’s clear Malaysia has reaffirmed its position as a regional hub for tech startups, and a centre for innovation and growth within the South East Asian start-up scene. Malaysia already had the talent, ideas and expertise. Now with the added incentives for venture capitalists to invest they’ve got everything they need to develop the new silicon jungle.

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