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Perspectives on Malaysia's Open Data journey: MDeC interview

AvantiKumar | May 12, 2015
In the second part of an interview with Computerworld, Malaysia's national ICT agency MDeC's Dr Karl Ng discusses the challenges and opportunities of adopting Open Data initiatives.

To drive Open Data and speed up the adoption Big Data analytics (BDA) among ministries and agencies in Malaysia, the national ICT agency Multimedia Development Corporation (MDeC) recently signed an agreement with the UK's non-profit organisation Open Data Institute (ODI) as well as announcing a National Open Data Champions initiative.

During the official announcement in Putrajaya, which was made in collaboration with the Malaysian Administrative Modernisation and Management Planning Unit (MAMPU) and officiated by the chief secretary to the Government of Malaysia, MDeC's chief executive officer Dato' Yasmin Mahmood said: "Open Data is simply free, non-personal data by the government that can be used and shared by anyone. Local entrepreneurs and businesses can use these data to derive trends and insights that can help them inform on innovative business solutions and models - the primary goal of the National Big Data Analytics (BDA) Initiative that MDeC is driving."

In a two-part interview, Computerworld Malaysia asked Open Data Institute's International Director Richard Stirling to give a broad perspective on Open Data initiatives with an emphasis on what key learnings Malaysia could adopt on the Open Data journey. The second part delves into local plans and expectations with Ir Dr Karl Ng, director, Innovation Capital for MDeC.

Dr Karl Ng, MDeC 

Photo - Ir Dr Karl Ng, Director, Innovation Capital, MDeC 


Could you talk us through some of the strategic thinking and initiatives behind the recent Open Data announcements in Putrajaya?

Unlocking the value of Open Data is one of the three imperatives from the 26th MSC Malaysia Implementation Council Meeting (ICM) chaired by the Prime Minister in October 2014 to drive the nation toward becoming a leading regional BDA hub. The other two imperatives were the establishment of a National BDA Centres of Excellence (COEs) and addressing the shortage of data scientists in Malaysia.

These three imperatives are crucial pillars for the realisation of the goals of the National BDA initiative - spearheaded by MDeC and MAMPU, the objective of which are to drive the adoption of BDA, cultivate a culture of innovation and build a BDA ecosystem that can have significant positive impact on all sectors of the economy.

The partnership between ODI and MDeC, with the support of KSN and in collaboration with MAMPU is to pursue open data adoption among government ministries and agencies. Together we will strive to develop a national strategy for open data adoption, develop competency in open through training and workshops, spur public and private sector innovation via high impact projects and derive success stories to encourage further support from the rakyat [the people], for the rakyat.

How will Malaysians benefit from these Open Data initiatives?

Open Data is free, non-personal data by the government that can be used and shared by anyone. Local entrepreneurs and businesses can use these data to derive trends and insights that can help them inform on innovative business solutions and models. Malaysians can search and use data sets such as fiscal and economy data, halal premises, mosque locations, Dengue hotspots, among others - available on, Malaysia's official Open Data portal.

Data released by Government agencies and ministries open up an endless field of opportunity to all sectors, giving anyone the chance to innovate and create new solutions which can benefit both businesses and the rakyat.

Open Data allows Malaysia's leading industry and key government partners from the network of BDA Innovation Centres of Excellence (COE)to plan and execute high impact projects and solutions that can boost growth across sectors. This can also potentially generate various job opportunities and create a sustainable ecosystem as a catalyst for further growth.

What are the potential issues you have identified in the initial year of implementation?

From total obscurity in 2013, Malaysia is now ranked 41st among 86 countries in the Open Data Barometer! However, there are several areas that requires further action:

  • The Open Data Barometer findings show countries with open data initiatives implemented at a city-level experience greater political and economic impact. Therefore, we need to encourage higher Open Data adoption at city and state levels as well to achieve greater impact - and we want the Ministries and agencies to set the right example for the rest.
  • Secondly, for data to be truly open, it must be published under an open licence as well as released in bulk to allow maximum effectiveness.
  • We encourage ministries and agencies to not only open up more datasets, but also to ensure the quality of these datasets that conform to international standards. They need ensure datasets are sharable, structured and reliable data to the people - that has potential to uncover supply, generate demand, create and share knowledge for the benefit of businesses and the society.


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