How data sharing helps Malaysia plan for trade deals

By Sean Nolan

Interview with Dr Yusminar Yunus, Principal ICT Consultant of the ICT Consultancy Department, MAMPU.

Did you know that Malaysia’s data collection is capable of recording which of its Halal products are the most popular internationally?

This is helpful for officials to understand its economy and negotiate trade deals. The Malaysian Administrative Modernisation and Management Planning Unit (MAMPU) is pushing for more data sharing between ministries to uncover such insights.

Dr Yusminar Yunus, Principal ICT Consultant of the ICT Consultancy Department shares MAMPU’s upcoming priorities for making citizen services more convenient, and for integrating AI and the cloud.

Cross ministry data sharing

One of the challenges of her job is encouraging more ministries to share their data with a unified system, admits Yusminar. MAMPU has worked to help ministries share data to improve policymaking.

This includes the collecting of data from halal certifiers, trade authorities and other government agencies. This revealed a “new discovery”: that countries not traditionally seen as Muslim were still importing high amounts of halal products from Malaysia, she shares.

Countries such as the United Kingdom and China were some of the top importers of these goods, she adds. From these analytics, the trade ministry then knew the regions to focus on in negotiating export deals.

The collation of data across ministries has also helped the government better understand the needs of school dropouts. By studying population data and the welfare policies relevant to these individuals, the number of dropouts will soon decline, predicts Yusminar.

The Covid-19 pandemic has forced those in the public sector to work remotely, but Yusminar puts a seamless transition down to shared data. Civil servants could share data remotely through a system of digital filing numbers.

Citizen centric reforms 

In the education sector, MAMPU was able to introduce the DELIMa platform as learning went remote due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The digital application brings together Google Classroom, Microsoft 365 and Apple’s Teacher Learning centre to give educators an array of online teaching tools.

With almost 3 million people already logged into the platform, this digital innovation is providing a popular alternative to the school classroom. During a peak hour there are almost 200,000 teachers and 1.1 million students using DELIMa, revealed Yusminar.

MAMPU has been incorporating machine learning and artificial intelligence into government public relations. They believe that with the capability of understanding natural language using these digital services, the citizen’s views are better heard.

As these artificial intelligence programmes develop ‘sentiment analysis’, they learn how to judge the perception of Malaysian citizens on the public sector. In turn, this allows policies to be based more accurately on what citizens would like to see changed.

MAMPU is also encouraging health clinics across Malaysia to share data into a unified cloud system which all clinics will be able to access. This would mean patient records are accessed instantly regardless of location, speeding up the care-giving process.

Digital training efforts 

The digital skills of the workforce are also under MAMPU’s jurisdiction. The organisation has created education programmes to further the understanding of coding and technology, explains Yusminar.

“We want to be like Estonia. In Estonia everyone knows about digitalisation,” she states. Officials from selected ministries will be able to access the John Hopkins University data science curriculum on online learning platform Coursera.

“So we teach them data science and after that we coach” public sector officials, ultimately leading them to use that knowledge to improve their own respective areas, shares Yusminar. The digital education programs have been so popular, ministries have been asking to get involved.

Across public trade, education, and health, MAMPU’s innovations have led to greater convenience for citizens and government. Their goal continues to be transition to digital where possible, allowing for technological advancements to help provide better public services.