Covid-19 Exclusives: Helping George Town Businesses Go Digital

loading A follow-up visit with the project's first applicant Lilian Tong, the museum director of the Pinang Peranakan Mansion. Photo: George Town World Heritage Incorporated.

A LIFESTYLE SWITCH can be difficult, which is why the “George Town in the New Normal” project was introduced. To cope with the economic toll brought on by the pandemic, the Penang State Government through George Town World Heritage Incorporated (GTWHI) has allocated RM1mil to aid the digital transition of Penang’s cultural heritage sector. The first phase of the project was launched on July 8.

In line with Theme C of the Penang2030 vision – to empower people to strengthen civic participation – the project focuses on three main components, i.e. support local business, heritage repair and heritage video.

Throughout the MCO period, GWTHI, as Unesco site manager, maintained contact with local businesses and witnessed first-hand their income struggles. When the team, led by general manager Dr. Ang Ming Chee, paid a visit to the operators last May and June, a few confessed to being anxious about losing customers; and so, the project’s first component was identified.

Dr. Ang Ming Chee, the general manager of GTWHI. Photo: George Town World Heritage Incorporated.

Accustomed to the old ways of trade, many of these operators have developed a fear of technology, says Ang.

To overcome this digital phobia, priority is given to long-term businesses who are in particular need of an intermediate agency to step in and provide guidance. To expand their platforms online, GTWHI launched a video tutorial for cultural heritage practitioners who have yet to develop their digital marketing strategy.

“To be sure, there is no a one-size-fits-all answer on how GTWHI will assist local businesses in digital marketing promotion and to reach new customers. But as a form of branding, the applicants will be featured on GTWHI’s social media to be recognised.”

A one-off financial reimbursement of a maximum of RM1,500 will also be provided to qualified owners or tenants of heritage premises within the George Town World Heritage Site for minor repair and maintenance works. This includes upgrading the electrical wiring, repainting interior and exterior walls, removing vegetation from the buildings’ facades, termite treatment and other works in accordance with the rules and regulations of the George Town Special Area Plan.

Accustomed to the old ways of trade, many of these operators have developed a fear of technology, says Ang.

As a whole, the project is expected to benefit 3,000 local businesses within the World Heritage Site; 5,000 local businesses that are part of the site’s cultural and financial ecosystem; 267 heritage building owners or tenants within the site; and 267 cultural heritage practitioners in Penang.

A total of 100 candidates have since applied, shares Ang. “We can’t foresee what the future holds, nor can we promise aim and that is to let the people know that they are not alone in this. Cultural heritage gives people a sense of identity, bolsters them with confidence and offers a state of internal peace. When things outside are unstable and unpredictable, one can turn inwards to find strength and balance.

To show her support, Ang (in red) visited prospective applicants at No. 25 Heritage House, Lebuh Armenian. Photo: George Town World Heritage Incorporated.

“Our current focus is on these three components, but more will be included as we react and respond to future developments and to the needs of the community.” Ang adds that negotiations on collaborative efforts are ongoing. “We are open to work with online platforms or marketing companies that are willing to collaborate freely.”

Related Articles