Malaysia sets open data targets

By on 06/06/2017
Offices of the Public Service Department of Malaysia in Putrajaya. (Image courtesy: CEphoto, UWE Aranas)

The Malaysian government has agreed to step up public access to official data after taking part in a World Bank programme.

Malaysia is the 14th country to complete the World Bank’s Open Data Readiness Assessment, which aims to show how governments can make large amounts of official data publicly available through open data initiatives (ODIs) – boosting the economy and improving public services.

ODIs aim to achieve socio-economic benefits by making the vast databases of information held by governments available to citizens and businesses online. Open data is released under licences that allow it to be freely used, modified and shared by anyone for any purpose.

The Malaysian assessment was carried out jointly with the Malaysian Administrative Modernization and Management Planning Unit (MAMPU).

It found that the federal government was ready for an ODI on six out of eight key criteria: senior leadership; national technology and skills; funding; civil engagement; demand for open data; and institutional structure.

But there is still work to do on data management policies and procedures and on the wider policy and legal framework, which remain “significant barriers” to achieving the government’s goals for open data laid out in the 11th Malaysia Plan 2016-2020 (11MP), the readiness assessment says.

It sets a target for the country to reach the top 30 of the Global Open Barometer Ranking by the year 2020. Malaysia currently holds 51st place in the ranking, which is compiled by the World Wide Web Foundation – an organisation set up by Sir Tim Berners Lee, the founder of the web.

Announcing the report, Datuk Joseph Entulu Belaun, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, said last month: “We are encouraged by the partnership with the World Bank and look forward to implementing the report’s recommendations.

“Malaysia is the first country in ASEAN to implement the ODRA methodology, which assesses institutional and technical readiness and identifies the actions required to move ahead on the Open Data programme.”

Headquarters of the World Bank Group in Washington DC (Image courtesy: Victorgrigas).

Carolina Vaira, World Bank Senior Governance Specialist and ODRA team member, said: “Worldwide, greater transparency leads to a healthier investment and business climate, which leads to higher growth, more jobs and better social services.”

The report states that “a high level of national leadership” may be required to achieve consensus across government agencies on the scope of legislative, regulatory and/or policy changes that need to be made to turn open data into a practical reality and to make its open release a matter of routine.

However, Malaysia could begin to realise the “enormous socio-economic benefits of open data” without having to invest significant new resources in the initiative by building on investments that it has made to date.

To strengthen the legal and policy framework, the report recommends first implementing a MAMPU circular on open data more systematically across government.

The government should then require all agencies to make an inventory of their data holdings within 12 months and to hold data openly by default, with all exceptions clearly listed.

Limitations of the existing data management policies and procedures include little automated inter-agency data exchange and numerous cases of fees being charged for access to data, it states.

ODIs have been launched in 50 countries around the world since 2009 with support from agencies including the World Bank and United Nations. The top five countries in the Global Open Data Barometer are the UK, Canada, France, the US and South Korea.

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About Liz Heron

Liz Heron is a journalist based in London, who specialises in international news. She worked on daily newspapers for 16 years, reporting extensively on both general news and education. She was Education Editor of the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong and has contributed to a wide range of British media including The Independent, The Guardian and the BBC.

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