Open Data Matters:
Using Openness to Spur Data Use and Impact in Malaysia
Dr. Mohd Uzir Mahidin,
Chief Statistician of Malaysia
The era of data deluge has increased the demand for reliable sttistics and information when making decisions. It is famously said that “Data is the new oil” and “Data is a strategic asset”. Raw data is meaningless by itself; instead, value is created when it is collected in timely manner, comprehensive, accurate and linked to other related data to produce information.
The need to strengthen modern and dynamic data systems requires the Department of Statistics Malaysia (DOSM) to always be ready and formulate open data strategies to continue driving statistical services in the face of the digital and data revolution, thereby empowering the country’s statistical services. Access to open data allows the analysis, absorption, and sharing of new information released by various parties and is a core tool for improve the use, sharing, and impact our government data.
Promoting Open Data Use
Open data matters in Malaysia because it can have a significant impact on the country’s development and progress. Open data has the potential to bring about significant benefits for Malaysia, including increased transparency, innovation, and evidence-based decision-making. However, to fully realise these benefits, there is a need for continued efforts to improve data quality, accessibility, and usability, as well as to build capacity among government officials, researchers, and the general public.
In Malaysia, the government has been working towards making data more open and accessible to the public by implemented several initiatives to promote the use of open data, including creation of the Open Data Portal to allow users access to a variety of government datasets as well as hackathons and competitions that encourage developers to create innovative solutions using government data.
One notable example of the use of open data in Malaysia is the Flood Relief System, which was developed using open government data. The system provides real-time information on flood conditions in Malaysia, helping to improve emergency response and reduce the impact of flooding. The Flood Relief System was able to gather and analyse the current data which is important for the team to create frameworks and aid the government authorities in developing a more robust infrastructure for the future.
In addition to the previously mentioned initiatives, the Malaysian government has established policies and guidelines to encourage the use of open data. For example, Public Sector Open Data (https://www.data.gov.my) implementation guides government agencies on how to make their data available to the public in a consistent and standardised manner.
The Public Sector Open Data Platform has created an Open Data ecosystem that connects Open Data owners with Open Data users, comprising government agencies, academics, industries, Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), and the public. They can use open data published in the Open Data portal to produce various innovations in the form of applications, data products or research. Overall, this platform provides a comprehensive Open Data management system with accessibility, centralised data sharing, search, and storage for open data sets.
Improving Access to Open Data
As a measure to empower the community through open data access, DOSM launched OpenDOSM NextGen on January 12, 2023. OpenDOSM NextGen is the modern platform for open data access related to official statistics produced by DOSM and other government agencies, with the addition of new features to enhance the overall performance of the platform. OpenDOSM NextGen can be accessed through the https://open.dosm.gov.my portal.
OpenDOSM NextGen offers access to open data with smooth access, minimum downtime, and negligible lag, allowing simultaneous data access. It is DOSM’s continuous modernization and innovation effort towards efficient statistical service delivery that enables value-added contributions to government services and generates new innovative services. This modern interface is designed for a wide range of users, including policymakers, business experts, researchers, youth, students, journalists, data scientists, and the public.
This platform contains data organised in a data catalogue and presented in a dashboard to facilitate users’ understanding of the available data. The OpenDOSM dataset scope will continue to expand from time to time, covering various datasets from other agencies and ministries. Currently the OpenDOSM NextGen platform includes economic data such as Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and consumer prices, as well as demographic data such as population statistics. The OpenDOSM has also made data available on healthcare, financial, social, and other areas. In addition to official statistics issued by DOSM, this platform also contains administrative data from various government agencies, including more than 35 million high-frequency raw data records from PriceCatcher, a mobile application developed by the Ministry of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs.
Promoting Gender Equality through Open Data
Open data has emerged as a crucial instrument for advancing gender equality. Decision-makers can develop evidence-based strategies to address gender gaps in education, employment, health, and income with gender-disaggregated data publicly available. Policymakers may establish targeted actions and properly allocate resources thanks to this data in making gender disaggregated data available in open platform. Additionally, open data promotes gender-responsive governance by empowering people, civil society organisations, and activists to hold governments accountable for their pledges to gender equality. It boosts trust and promotes communication, assisting stakeholders to cooperate and work together to bring about positive transformation.
Encouraging Citizen Engagement through Open Data
Open data not only enables the public to make more accurate decisions but also empowers citizen-to-citizen interaction through public contributions to effective policymaking for the benefit of the nation. OpenDOSM NextGen aims to empower citizen engagement in the culture of innovation through open data. Access to open data through this platform enables analytics and insight into new information produced by various parties.
Through feedback on the OpenDOSM NextGen platform, it is seen to increase value creation among the public, making it easier for users among students, academicians, and researchers to provide scientific research papers. This is evidenced by the numerous positive responses on social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. This is not only symbolic of the use of open data platform but also user feedback for future improvements.
Moving Forward: Areas and Opportunities for Improvement
Despite the progress to date, there are still challenges to overcome to fully realize the potential of open data in Malaysia. For example, there is a need to improve the quality and accuracy of government data as well as ensure that it is made available in a timely and consistent manner. Additionally, there is a need to build capacity among government officials, researchers, and the public to effectively use and analyse open data. DOSM looks forward to continuing its work with partners like Open Data Watch and the broader data for development community to continue to learn, improve, and harness the potential of open data.