Disruption, Empathy & Change: A conversation with Abu Samah

Disruption, Empathy and Change: A conversation with Abu Samah

“Someone once mentioned that a student can live without water,” says Asiah Abu Samah, Director of ICT at the University of Malaya, “but they cannot live without Wifi.” That is how much the internet and wifi has become essential to daily life, especially in this Covid-era where the adoption of digital technology has accelerated in all areas.

The University of Malaya (UM) was the first university ever established in the country, from the merging of two colleges back in 1949 in the prehistory of the internet, working its way up to be ranked 65th in the QS World University Rankings and taking its position as the top research university in all of Malaysia. It is technical, scientific and fundamentally IT driven. Abu Samah has grown with the university and so has seen its development from early on. She’s been a part of its initial push for automation, data collection and systems upgrades, but now the entire purpose of UM’s IT systems have fundamentally changed owing to their response to the disruptions caused by the pandemic. Abu Samah highlighted that the previous role of IT at UM was mainly concerned with the planning and development of IT support and services (including application systems development) in-line with the university’s needs, but following such global-to-local catalysts, it has evolved into a more consultative and strategic role. IT has become integral to all aspects of life, and so now operates to advance the best approaches to UM’s ever-expanding needs so that it may move and adapt as an institution in the globally-connected digital environment.


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