By Datuk Rauf Nasir
Malaysia has long been at the forefront of digital transformation. Over the decades, efforts have continued to overcome challenges surrounding digitalisation – namely, by broadening nationwide connectivity, enhancing the flow and handling of data, and building cohesive connections between the advanced technologies.
With the COVID-19 pandemic having upended the way societies operate, the government had to accelerate the digitalisation of many public services to minimise disruption and ensure that people can continue accessing them without compromising public health and safety.
Now furthering its goal to become a regional leader in the digital economy, the country’s government recognises the potential the digital economy brings as a prime socio-economic driver. This is namely via the Malaysia Digital Economy Blueprint, which aims to transform the country into a digitally driven nation utilising Industry 4.0 applications. This transformation will improve standards of living for Malaysians, enable businesses to tap into new business verticals and opportunities, as well as for the government to provide more efficient and effective services.
At this juncture, Malaysia’s communication service providers (CSPs) will be instrumental in providing the network connectivity required to enable continuous and scalable digital transformation for governments across the federal, state, and municipal levels.
Digital opportunities for Malaysia’s public sector
Malaysia’s public sector will benefit from harnessing digitalised services further. This is especially with the growing ubiquity of Industry 4.0 applications such as the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML). Some notable applications include:
Managing urban growth
With urban sprawls growing larger, making living and activity centres more dispersed, governments will need to find new ways to connect communities physically and virtually. As current traffic conditions in major cities in Malaysia are leading to work productivity losses, technological advancements to public transportation networks can help people become more efficient as they cater to more people, using autonomous shuttles and high-speed rails, along with IoT sensors to monitor traffic.
Furthermore, urban data can be digitalised – whereby local governments can disseminate and share information through an integrated operations centre – to deliver better services and address problems related to urbanisation, which will only continue to grow. For instance, an operations centre can manage operations from looking through the entry of foreign visitors into the city and analysing traffic conditions with digital mapping to managing and monitoring a river’s water quality index using remote sensors. The availability of such data can help the city grow in a more sustainable and well-managed manner.
Smart city solutions can also be applied toward vigilance. For example, AI technology can be integrated with cameras to maintain public safety, allowing physical security personnel to be deployed more effectively to maintain order and address pertinent misdemeanours to improve crime monitoring and reduction.
Improving crisis response
Urban centres can also be better managed with real-time monitoring systems implemented to forecast heavy rainfall or heatwaves, with a smart flood warning system used to alert people to prepare in anticipation of flash floods.
Residents and users can also detect and monitor flood water levels and determine if they are at risk of being flooded. This helps them make better preparations to move to higher ground, salvaging as many valuable possessions as possible and mitigating potentially significant disruption to their lives.
These applications are only possible with enhanced network connectivity as well as utilisation of deployed solutions along with a robust backhaul network. It is here where CSPs can play a catalytic role in helping the government implement these solutions to address longstanding connectivity limitations and ensure that the digital transformation is made holistically.
To accelerate the needed processes, the government can benefit by setting up a standardised framework for the digitalisation of documents and applications, improving data security, and building an integrated database that supports data sharing across ministries and departments. This would then help with the creation of evidence-based policies, as well as making implementation productive and efficient, using smart solutions like digitalised public services, digitalised public assets, public data management and citizen engagement.
How Malaysia is addressing public sector digitalisation challenges
A digital-first public sector improves productivity and efficiency in government service delivery, as it helps overcome the limitations posed by legacy technologies and operations. However, doing so requires unfettered access to high-performance networks across the country, which Malaysia has been looking to achieve via landmark efforts such as the Jendela initiative.
Yet, beyond ensuring connectivity, a successful digital transformation also rests on the sharing of data across all levels of the public sector. This will be key to addressing complexities in attaining the national vision of effectively using smart solutions, especially regarding information fragmentation between various government departments, at all levels across the country.
By moving the management of crucial data away from silos, Malaysia’s public sector can improve its adaptability for the digital age – for today and tomorrow. Beyond that, crucial public data must also be shared widely, and Malaysia’s launching of an open data platform in 2020 – aimed at simplifying and improving the dissemination of public data – has helped public service information scale the digital transformation efforts between Malaysia’s society and enterprises.
CSPs – the key to realising a digital-first Malaysian public sector
With efforts to digitally transform the public sector underway, Malaysia’s CSPs – being the crucial deliverer of robust networks – can help the government deploy smart solutions, as collaborations between both parties is instrumental to realising not only Malaysia’s digital ambitions, but also the country’s longer term socio-economic aims.
CSPs will be important in providing the nodes required to power future-ready applications, with strong leadership set by the government. This sets the tone for the rest of the country, helping Malaysia to reinforce its position as a major digital economy and provide shared benefits for the many.
Datuk Rauf Nasir is Managing Director of Malaysia, Sri Lanka & Maldives, Nokia.