The digital world was first envisaged by Lady Ada Lovelace in 1843. She believed that anything could be represented by 0s and 1s: music, transactions, the entirety of our lives.

Governments are following her advice, digitising everything from taxes to transport fares, so it’s fitting that many of Asia’s digital chiefs are women.

From Singapore to Surabaya, and Banda Aceh to Thailand, government digital services are headed up by the heirs to Lady Ada.

Here in Malaysia, Dr Suhazimah Dzazali is at the helm as the Government Chief Information Officer. GovInsider has perched on her comfy couch, sweet tea in hand, to hear her plans for the year ahead.

First steps to a digital identity

First, Dzazali’s team has set up a data exchange hub for ministries to share information and better understand citizens. “It has got to be integrated, and it’s got to be digital first – that is our mantra”, she says.

Creating a common digital identity is crucial to this. The MyIdentity platform, rolled out three years ago, is to be expanded. Every citizen has an identity card with their personally data held with the National Registration Department. MyIdentity allows citizens to update that information without visiting government offices.

It also pools citizens’ identification data together from across government departments. This provides a central repository, which agencies like the immigration department or road transport agency can use to verify users’ identity. “We are extending that concept to a greater [scale]”, Dzazali says.

Predicting citizens’ needs

Second, the government intends to build services that anticipate citizens’ needs. To do this, Dzazali’s team has grouped services into broad clusters: Business; Education; Health; and Welfare.

Her team has sought to make it easier to start a business. A new website gathers all relevant information on business registration and will have over 1,500 licences in one place. “The target is the SMEs”, she says, as they make up half of the country’s economy.

This was tough going given the structure of Malaysia’s government. “That [took] nearly a year of roadshows – getting the local authority and the registration authority to come together and say ‘Yes, we want to do this’”, Dzazali notes. The next step is to roll out digital registration services for businesses, she says.

Education is the next cluster to be developed, and Malaysia will learn from governments like New Zealand and Estonia, where parents are prompted to enroll their children at school through SMS and can set it up with a click of a button.

Children will be pre-registered in a school and parents will be able to confirm this enrollment, or contact government to request a different option. “Normally when you have a child who starts school, young parents don’t know where to start”, she says. Sometimes they miss the window to register their kids for school – “how about we meet that moment of citizen need by sending a message to the parent? Because we have all the information”, Dzazali adds.

Structural changes

Third, the Malaysian Government is looking to create more uniform services. MAMPU has already created common design rules for government digital services. This follows work led by Britain and Australia to create design rules for public services in their respective nations.

Meanwhile, the Chief Secretary has set out plans to boost digital collaboration across government. A committee has brought MAMPU together with the Malaysian Digital Economy Corporation, a new Government Online Services team, and other tech advisors to plan a strategy for digital services.

This strategy is scheduled to be published in the first half of this year, and could set out more plans to build Malaysia’s digital government initiatives.

But Dzazli is already pioneering big changes, pressing ahead with initiatives that learn from others across the world.

Now read our Women in GovTech Q&A to discover Dzazali’s favourite restaurant, heroes, and hopes for 2017.