The modernization of public sector administration has been at the top of the government's priorities in recent years. How would you assess the progress made by MAMPU?
We have done a lot. In fact, many ministries and agencies are not as up-to-date as we would like in terms of what we are entering and producing. But many agencies and ministries are also receiving our ideas very well. For example, one of the things that we have introduced is online exams. We used to have to organize different centers throughout Malaysia for public examinations for people who applied for jobs in the public service, even if sometimes there were just a few applicants. That was very taxing in terms of human resources, time, and money. But now we are going 100% online. So we organize examinations online, and on certain days people anywhere who have access to the internet can take part, and the questions are structured that they will not be able to cheat. We don't have to send supervisors; we know that there will be some verification questions during the follow-up face-to-face interview. I have heard that a country in Europe has wanted to do the same thing, but they have been having problems with the security aspects. Another ASEAN country that wants to do this is Brunei. They're coming here to learn from us. This has been a very successful project. The other thing that we are doing is introducing big data. Another is the One Malaysia One Call Centre (1MOCC), and also the One Malaysia Training Centre (1MTC). This has really enabled us to improve quality, reduce costs, and increase the efficiency of the public service. For example, at the 1MTC, we put all the various facilities available throughout the country onto one website. Anybody who wants to organize a function, whether it's a wedding, seminar, conference, or whatever, they just go there. They look at what the equipment they need. If they cannot find it, they inform us about what they need. Then we help them to source out where they can have it. It's very cheap compared to hotels. We save a lot of money, but not only that; whatever facilities we have under utilized in the past are now being fully utilized, using the 1MTC System. 1MOCC is a system for the public to call just one number and they can ask any question. Our trained receptionists will answer or direct that call to the relevant agencies. There have been many other things we have been introducing under the public service system transformation program.
What is the current percentage of government services available online and what is being done to improve the quality of these services?
We have 70% of our services online. Due to financial constraints, some agencies could not participate in what we proposed because they have other priorities. In some cases, what they have now in terms of what they are doing cannot fit into our proposed system and they will have to make adjustments later on. We will give them one or two years to change their system before they can migrate to our system. Those are some of the not-so-major constraints, but it does delay the 100% target that we set.
Other countries have approached Malaysia to learn from its civil service sector and public administration. What can other countries learn from Malaysia?
If the developing countries can follow what we do in Malaysia, I would be very proud. We have the Government Transformation Programme (GTP). We have the Economic Transformation Programme (ETP). We have the Political Transformation Programme (PTP). The various transformations that we have introduced have been very well received. So much so that the United Nations has recommended that other countries that want to transform their government, their economic development, their physical development, and political system copy Malaysia as a model. One country has done that; Tanzania. One of our top officers in charge of all this transformation has been invited to more or less assist the government of Tanzania to introduce a similar transformation. From what they learn about ours, they will make some adaptations depending on the circumstances that they have there, because each country has different scenarios. Then one of the states in India is also trying to learn about what we have done here. Harvard is using one of our transformation programs as a case study. That is how unique our transformation program is. Our rankings improved, in ease of doing business, and in the various indices have increased. Wherever the public thinks we have not been transparent enough, we try to figure out what they want in terms of transparency. We try to comply. Of course there are many areas where we cannot be totally transparent, for example in terms of military secrets and so on. But other than those, we have been progressing a lot. In the past we had a tender system, for example, where things were very much not publicized and now tenders and projects are very much open; they are put online for people to access. Of course there are some very special projects, such as high-tech projects that only very specific companies can do, where you cannot have an open tender, or having an open tender is just wasting time. The first thing that people have to understand if they want to learn from what Malaysia is doing is that Malaysia is very committed. It must not just be a publicity stunt. The commitment must be there. Of course one advantage we have in terms of giving the commitment is that from independence until today the continuity in terms of leadership has been very smooth. Otherwise, a new government that takes over from a previous government may have a different agenda. Sometimes, having one government ruling for decades and decades may not work well for some countries, but in the case of Malaysia we have no regrets.
MAMPU is working with the Multimedia Development Corporation (MDeC) on developing Malaysia's Big Data Framework. Could you elaborate on this?
We need to synchronize everything. Data is everywhere but we need to congregate it under one big center. So when you want to do research, for example, you just have to go into one place and get the information from there. We have to understand how big data works, otherwise we will miss many things.
What are some of the challenges that you expect to face in the coming years in terms of improving public sector delivery?
Being a developing country that aspires to be a developed country in the next five to six years, we are short of scientists in the field of ICT. We are still looking for scientists who really understand all these things and take the lead. Another is that a large part of Malaysia is rural. Those who are lagging behind in terms of ICT knowledge pose a big challenge. We would like the rural people to benefit a lot from this modernization. We have tried our best to help in terms of providing free tablets and laptops and we spend hundreds of millions on that. We have programs by the government's Malaysia Communications and Multimedia Commission. The government also gets contributions from the various ICT companies and then politicians suggest where we think the funds should go. These are some of the efforts that we have made.
What are your priorities for 2015?
We are very much focused on big data and open data. We have several phases. The first is done already but we have a problem with the second phase. The first cannot be utilized without the second, so the government has to provide money for the next phase. Completing this will be our priority. But a lot of things have improved. I am proud to be part of this administration. Our Prime Minister is a very intelligent man.
© The Business Year - March 2015