Malaysia’s ICON2 programme to spur casual app developers

MDeC chief executive officer Datuk Badlisham Ghazali at the launch of the ICON2 programme. Photo from MSC Malaysia NewsCentre.

The Multimedia Development Corporation (MDeC) of Malaysia today announced that it would be allocating RM5 million (US$1.67 million) for the second MSC Malaysia Integrated Content Development Programme (ICON2) to jumpstart web and mobile application development, as well as increase the pool of developers in the country.

The funding would spread out across three programmes: ICONapps, ICONdap, and ICONeX. Speaking at the press conference, MDeC chief executive officer Datuk Badlisham Ghazali said that among the major differences between this and the previous ICON programme, which ran from 2009-2011, is that ICON2 would be focusing more on the creative and technical aspects, instead of just the business aspects.

He said that disbursements would be made based on the quantity and quality of submissions, and added that they are also talking to local telco providers to develop ways of encouraging the growth of domestic mobile content.

At the same time, the selection criteria in ICON2 would emphasise on revenue models, especially where sponsorship and advertising are concerned. Badlisham added that it’s not enough that applicants know how to bring an idea to market, but would have to know and learn marketing skills to make it popular.

“Success in revenue is driven by popularity,” Badlisham said, adding that many developers still lack the nuance of attracting advertisers and sponsors even after they’ve become well-known.

Among the three programmes under the ICON2 programme, ICONapps is the most promising for those new to the mobile apps game. Under this category, individuals are asked to enrol in training programmes to develop web and mobile apps for a fee of RM500, which also includes access to the SDK. If the app goes to market, participants can be reimbursed up to RM10,000.

“The mentorship here would be provided by other developers and entrepreneurs who have had success on developing apps on the Android or iOS platform,” Badlisham said, adding that developers would be compelled to push the app to market under this programme, as opposed to the previous programme, which saw several developers with grants failing to produce the goods.

“Ultimately, the larger goal here is to expand the pool of casual developers, especially among the everyday Malaysians,” he said.

ICONdap meanwhile is a bigger fund aimed at more serious developers. Under this category, online and mobile content app developers would be provided with funding of up to RM200,000. Unlike ICONapps, business plans submitted for ICONdap would be more scrutinised and assessed by its evaluators. “We will decide on the funding based on the viability of the business proposal, and disbursements would be given out on a milestone basis,” he said.

Finally, ICONeX is a digital content hosting and exchange facility in collaboration with the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC), under which cost-effective high bandwidth hosting capabilities would be provided to those who can’t afford high bandwidth costs.

The first ICON programme started in 2009 with a similar amount allocated. In the two years since, it has given out 60 grants, out of which 96 mobile applications were created. Among the more notable apps to come out of the first ICON programme were the 1Malaysia Hotlines iOS app, which is free for download, and the Kiddy Song iOS app, which according to MDeC generated revenue of RM25,000 since it was launched in April last year.

Other iOS apps that were highlighted during the press conference were children’s education tool Tap Colors and JoggerTracker, which helps joggers keep track of their running distances.

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