How do you use technology to improve citizens’ lives? Tell us about your role or organisation.

I am the the Deputy Director General of ICT at the Malaysian Management and Modernisation Planning Unit (MAMPU), and also the Government CIO. MAMPU is a central agency driving transformation in processes and modernisation of public service delivery.

Our current goal for the next four years in this current 11th Malaysian Plan is to improve and transform public service delivery to be more citizen-centric and to be a catalyst towards improving citizens’ well-being and economic development. We have found more of work becoming related to ICT and digital government because of the widespread use of technology in every facet of our life.

Machine learning, cognitive computing, big data analytics and cloud computing are all technologies that we find relevant because it can improve the way we deliver services to citizens. We are no longer limited to geographical constraints, and can offer the services directly to citizens wherever they are.

We want to make all the agencies realise that there are many opportunities to look internally, by streamlining or re-engineering business processes to take advantage of the so called disruptive technology.

What has been the most exciting thing that you worked on in 2016?

In the last 10 years, agencies have been delivering services online, but the stand is always to only look at their own ministries and vertical business processes. This year, there have been a few exciting things that have been introduced to change this.

One is establishing our Data Exchange Hub for agencies to share data across various processes. This gives them the opportunity make their process more seamless.

Second, we are changing our government online services to be structured our citizens’ life events. Citizens will be able access to services without worrying about which organisation is offering them. It is challenging, but to me, it is the beginning of a better service delivery system.

Third is our move towards being more data-driven. More organisations realise now that they can contribute to open data, while previously many were hesitant to publish their data. This year, we have seen an exponential increase in the number of datasets published, showing that organisations are more comfortable with sharing their data now.

What tool or technique particularly interests you for 2017?

I am interested in methods, techniques and processes to make more civil servants in the Malaysian Government comfortable with digital technologies.

We want our non-technology civil servants, leaders, and business process owners to embrace digital transformation as their own. That is one area where I would like to collaborate with industry partners, government linked companies and other international bodies.

We are also looking at how the use of data can be made more practical. We have advocated agencies to embrace data analytics and open data for the past two years. Data can give us insights for better decision making. It helps us identify what areas of improvement we should tackle, and understand the needs of stakeholders. The challenge is to ensure that we are all on the same page on how we should move forward from here, and that is something we are trying to learn from others we engage with.

There are also talks about IOT and gamification. For example, gamification apps can be used to gain public feedback, in place of surveys. While they are enjoying themselves, they can also give us insights about what they expect from government and their feedback on government services.

If you were to share one piece of advice that you learned in 2016, what would it be?

I’ve learnt that technology can be intimidating to a lot of people. My advice to myself and my team is: Do not forget that technology is only an agent for change. If we are unable to articulate its use and how it will change lives, we will not be able to use technology very effectively. It will mean nothing if it doesn’t actually make internal processes more efficient or meet citizens’ needs.

It’s easy to get caught up in all the hype and buzzwords, but at the end of the day we must be clever in applying it to the reality. It must answer a particular problem that we are supposed to solve or apply to a certain business case that we really need to change.

I am grateful to have a very dedicated and talented team who are beginning to embrace this philosophy. I remind myself and my team to be more inclusive of those who do not understand technology. We had a very good strategy session on Friday and my team is very enthusiastic to forge ahead to 2017.

Who is your hero and why?

My hero is the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). He was the first leader who transformed governance way back in 1400. His teachings, humility and foresight resonate and apply to this day. I remind myself that we must do our level best with whatever goal has been entrusted to us. We should not be fixated on material success, but remember to respect everybody and love people regardless of their religion or race. That is his true teaching, and I try everyday to remember that and apply it in my daily conduct.

And finally, if you could recommend us one place to eat, where would it be?

I love ikan bakar (grilled fish). There’s a place near the Old Palace in Bellamy, Bukit Petaling in KL which has fantastic grilled fish. You must try it the next time you are in KL!