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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.

Looking further ahead, what are the plans to develop and produce more value from Open Data?

Together with our partners, MAMPU and ODI, we are looking into different strategies within each sector to develop and deepen effective open data adoption by ministries and agencies for the benefit of the economy and society as a whole.

There is no single 'best practice' for delivering an open data initiative. We need to make sure there is continued innovation and evaluation to find best-fit approaches that most effectively apply to our country, and complies with our laws, regulations and policies. 

For example, in terms of meeting privacy requirements, the ministries and government agencies will be provided a strict guideline with the support of the Open Data Institute on the type of data that can be shared with the public. The is a living platform - to date, there are 154 datasets from 16 ministries. The data sets available on are non-personal and non-sensitive data that can be used by all Malaysians.

We also propose that the Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA) should be frequently reviewed, and revised if necessary, to protect individuals while simultaneously encouraging data projects.

Could you talk about the thinking behind the Open Data Champions initiative and how are you going to measure the "success" of this initiative?

Ministry of Finance (MOF) was one of the ministries that were successful in driving Open Data adoption within their department as well as in their agencies. They have not only opened up the highest number of datasets, but those are quality datasets that conform to international standards.

We wanted to introduce the National Open Data Champions initiative to help expedite the Open Data adoption process among the other agencies that are still behind the line. These individuals are also responsible in identifying high impact projects and the data required for the development of solutions, as well as ensuring quality data can be used and shared by Malaysians.

What kind of Open Data sets have already been made available to the public in Malaysia and what are the uses you hope to see in the first couple of years from this?

We have now opened 154 sets of data from 16 different ministries. There is still much room for improvement to increase the quality of data and build a culture of open data beyond a single Government department that encompasses agencies at the local and federal levels.

As the next step, we in Malaysia must also then explore opportunities using data from different agencies and ministries. For example, by using data from JAKIM on the number of halal premises and locations, local businesses can strategically open new businesses in areas of high Muslim population. Application developers can introduce a 'Halal Finder' that can help Muslims search for the closest halal premise such as restaurants, slaughter houses or mosques.

You also wanted to put these initiatives into the context of the national Big Data Analytics (BDA) drive?

There has been a lot of interest and a lot of talk about BDA, and we already have pockets of excellence, including in MSC companies who are global leaders in providing BDA solutions.

For example, late last year, MDeC organised the 'National Big App Challenge'- a unique competition that showcased samples of how BDA could be employed in not only private, but public areas as well.


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