Mitch Kapor named adviser to Selangor government
July 3, 2010
Mitch Kapor, a legend of the personal computer industry, has agreed to be an adviser to the Selangor state government. His appointment was announced by the state’s economic adviser Anwar Ibrahim after Kapor gave a talk on innovation and entrepreneurship in Shah Alam this afternoon.
Anwar said Kapor, an old friend, was one of several corporate and industrial giants that he and Selangor Menteri Besar Khalid Ibrahim had approached to help with Selangor’s development plans. Security does not come from secrecy. Security comes from openness and transparency.
Mitch Kapor on open-source software’s strength using “a principle equally applicable in other fields”.
“Like Mitch Kapor and his wife Frieda, who are involved in many worthy causes, they are willing to help — not for power or money, but because they care,” Anwar said, to applause. Obviously anticipating criticism from opposition politicians, Anwar announced that Kapor had agreed to take up the advisory position at an honorarium of RM1 a month. He also thanked “Kapoor” (as many frequently addressed him) for taking the time to give the talk while the couple were on holiday in Malaysia
Kapor’s talk on innovation and entrepreneurship held the interest of an appreciative audience made up of Selangor officials, university students and academic staff and members of the IT industry, keen to obtain the insights of a pioneer of the personal computer industry.
He is most well-known as the designer of Lotus 1-2-3 (now owned by IBM), the spreadsheet, graphics and database program of 1982 that was the first “killer” software application and which led to businesses taking the personal computer seriously.
Kapor is now a director of the Mozilla Foundation, the organisation behind the open-source Firefox internet browser, Wikimedia, the foundation behind the Wikipedia encyclopedia, and of Linden Lab, creators of Second Life, a worldwide virtual reality sensation in which people live virtual lives and take part in activities that mirror the physical world.
Kapor said a pro-innovation society would be built on:
- Opportunities for economic and social mobility
- STEM education (science, technology, engineeering and mathematics
- Ubiquitous, afforable broadband
- entrepreneur-friendly culture, tolerant of risk-taking and forgiving of failure
- free sharing of information
Kapor pointed out how calculated risk-taking (not foolhardiness) by a few individuals in the computing industry led to innovations that spread widely causing disruptions and upheavals through the industry at successive stages of its growth, thereby creating opportunities for others.
Failure should not be regarded as shameful but part of the learning experience. “Failure is not binary”, in his words: some things worked, others didn’t, and the successful entrepreneur would pick up on the things that worked and move on, he observed.
Venturing a peek into future, Kapor pointed to the worldwide success of the virtual reality games World of Warcraft and Second Life, in which people willingly devoted thousands of hours of their time collaboratively, and the success of the open-source software movement, on which much of the Internet survives.
There were now opportunities for social entrepreneurship in which people would come together through the Internet for the common good. Online peer-to-peer lending was one example, in which small donations by individuals all over the world were helping to finance many in poor countries with small projects. Similarly, individuals were raising education loans through the Internet for post-secondary education.
The Internet was making possible efficient flows of capital, helping to change lives.
We can succeed, on merit, says Anwar
In his closing remarks, Anwar said the Pakatan Rakyat stood firmly behind meritocracy: “those with the capacity to succeed must be encouraged”, he said. He rejected the Barisan Nasional’s politics of fear which believed that the changing paradigm would be at the expense of the Malay people.
Meritocracy was a policy that was timely, he said. “Innovation transcends racial boundaries,” he said. Malaysia had the capacity to succeed — the challenge lay in governance, rather. “We will support those who can succeed”, he said, while an affirmative action policy based on needs would ensure that the poor and the marginalised would not be left behind.
“We must be brave enough to take these opportunities by transcending racial animosities,” he said. The current massive Barisan Nasional campaign based on race and religion was irrelevant. “We will fight them, through the Internet,” he said, to which the audience responded with cheers and loud applause.