Mastura Ishak, Programme Director, Blockchain, Malaysian Industry-Government Group for High Technology, Malaysia

By Chia Jie Lin

Women in GovTech 2018 Special Report.

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

I am working on Blockchain and Distributed Ledger Technology as the Programme Director at MIGHT Malaysia. The organisation itself was created in 1993 by the current Prime Minister to do technology prospecting, i.e. to find technology for business and business for technology in developing Malaysia’s competitiveness. MIGHT started a close engagement on the subject via our Foresight division in 2016, exploring it as a part of the suite of emerging digital technologies that are expected to hyperconverge with game changing impacts not only for businesses, but for government and our social ecosystem.

We have developed touchpoints among the three key stakeholders – identifying potential players in industry that started with communities, government and academia. Without a doubt Malaysia needs to develop its capabilities about this ecosystem, and we realise that a clear policy direction that focuses on potentials to enhance our economic strengths, a connected ecosystem as well as the abundance of talents lead are key success factors in this endeavour.

What has been the most exciting thing that you worked on in 2018?

Working on developing awareness and interest to develop Proof-of-Concept projects involving Blockchain and DLT for non financial sectors among Malaysian industry. One of the completed PoC was by Tenaga Nasional Berhad on Renewable Energy Certificate. In another example, VTOS Malaysia have deployed blockchain alongside telematics for Malaysia Motor Insurance Pool (MMIP), which is an entity under the purview of Bank Negara Malaysia, to monitor engine data for insurance purposes since 2016. Meanwhile, Malaysia’s Ministry of Education have also successfully conducted a project on using blockchain to verify Universities’ Diplomas together with Universiti Islam Malaysia and There are also promising ongoing test cases in the healthcare sector and agribusiness.

If you were to share one piece of advice that you learned in 2018, what would it be?

Technology is an enabler and not an end in itself, and in working for a nation’s interest, one should keep an open and pragmatic mind in exploring how it can best be deployed in local conditions.

What tool or technique particularly interests you for 2019?

I would like to monitor how the digital technologies converge to provide new value proposition for the public (people). Among the technologies that I think would be interesting to watch besides the changing DLT cluster would be genetics engineering, wearables, communications and space.

What are your priorities for 2019?

Aside from work projects, I would like to pursue research at Doctorate level that looks into connecting technology to key factors that could help Malaysia develop a robust SME ecosystem in the changing global environment. I would also like to take the overdue break and travel at leisure to discover new experiences in other parts of the world.

What is one skill that has helped you the most throughout the course of your career?

I never believe in one skill, but skills that enhance one’s life principles and positive worldview. For me the connector has been persistence with an open mind, especially as the world changes at accelerated speed.

What advancements do you predict will happen in your field in the next ten years?

I think there will be many “leapfrog” moments for blockchain and DLT, especially if we think about it as one of the technologies that blur the line between businesses and social environment. The underlying trend that it represent – decentralisation, or what the WEF coined as “the fractured future”, whereby some examples would be of power, social structure, tasks, decision making, processes - are already making inroads into our lives powered by digitalisation. It may come to a point where ignoring the changes will not an option for governments and people.

Currently, the discussions weigh heavily towards regulation, in view of the cryptocurrencies development and the heavily regulated financial sector. In the near future, we see a lot of potential in managing supply chain and (digital) platforms. All these put people as the focus point. But once it matures, as clearer standards and interoperability issues are in place, I think it will move towards the backend role as supporting data structure embedded into mainstream use cases - some in open source framework, and others in proprietary depending on the needs of the users.

It will also work with other technologies - ranging from simple ones like barcodes to the more advanced technologies such as quantum computing, swarm robotics, space logistics and perhaps genetics sciences to facilitate verification of records of transaction.

Coffee, yoga, music… what powers you through your day?

Random happiness to make me say “You’ve made my day”. Maybe I’ll create that token in crypto if I get a full backing.