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‘Demand for spatial data on rise’

HE Datuk Douglas Uggah Embas
HE Datuk Douglas Uggah Embas
Minister – NRE, Government of Malaysia

How is NRE facilitating the use of geospatial technology as a catalyst for sustainable development in the country?
GIS has been an important tool in national and State planning. It is also utilised as a tool for management of natural resources and environment. MaCGDI, an agency of NRE is the coordinating agency for geospatial activities for all government agencies to enable the use of geospatial data in the government sector. MaCGDI has also been a catalyst organisation for setting up spatial data infrastructure and promoting the utilisation of spatial data.

The major concern of developing countries is to organise the provision of relevant land information in support of governance. What are the evolving demands of citizens and how is the government gearing up to their demands?
There is an increasing public demand for geospatial data, both raster (imagery data) and vector data. This has led to the establishment of citizen-government partnership in geospatial data sharing, for use in infrastructure development, natural resources management, environmental monitoring, disaster prevention measures, emergency precaution and other national planning and development aspects. Many government agencies have incorporated the demand for geospatial data in their core daily businesses including the needs of public to access geospatial data. Once again MaCGDI, since 1998, has played a major role in facilitating the use of GIS in various government agencies. Central agencies such as MAMPU also recognise the significance of GIS in planning.

Malaysia is actively pursuing to build spatial data infrastructure (SDI) at the national level. What is your view on the role of SDI in an information society?
The need for information necessitates the establishment of SDI so that data and information can be accessed freely and fast via the Internet. Malaysian Geospatial Data Infrastructure or MyGDI is a Malaysian National SDI that enables the distribution and accessibility of geospatial information. Many government agencies have participated and provided assistance in ensuring that more data be accessed online. This apart, we are now putting efforts to make data accessible for general public and private companies.

There still seems to be lot of resistance to share data among the stakeholders. Can we expect any policy initiatives to facilitate liberal data sharing?
There are already institutional arrangements and mechanisms to facilitate data sharing among the stakeholders. I believe more needs to be done to inculcate data sharing spirit. If the need arises, we may look into the possibility of formulating a national policy to assist data providers and users.

Malaysia has successfully built Razaksat. Is Malaysia looking up to and investing in space science and technology for the sustainable development of the country? If so how? We recognise the benefits of investing in space science and technology especially for sustainable development of our natural resources and environment.
Images obtained from RazakSAT will be utilised for planning and development purposes including urban and road network planning, landscape mapping, forest biomass, marine spatial planning and disaster mitigation. In view of this, the government, through the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MOSTI) will take necessary action to further develop the space science and space technology sector.

Growing population and increasing urbanisation are putting great stress on the per capita availability of natural resources. Any specific initiatives for the effective utilisation of natural resources?
The development and management of natural resources will continue to be given importance in our physical development plans. We have in place policies and regulatory framework to ensure sustainable development of our natural resources. The federal government will strive to continuously work with State governments to achieve the desired result as land and related natural resources come under the jurisdiction of State governments.

Climate change is another issue of great urgency today and geospatial technologies play a vital role in tackling this. How is Malaysian government going ahead in this aspect?
The government is seriously committed to addressing the issues of global warming and climate change through global efforts and domestic measures. In this respect, we recognise that geospatial technologies are increasingly becoming important tools to address climate change issues. Since the issue of climate change is cross-sectoral, NRE will work with other ministries such as Ministry of Energy, Green Technology and Water and MOSTI to address the same.

Malaysia encounters natural disasters frequently like floods and landslides. Is there any initiative to evolve an integrated strategy to tackle these natural disasters?
There is already an integrated strategy in place to address issues related to natural disasters. The coordinating agency responsible for natural disaster and relief management in the country is the National Security Council in Prime Minister’s Department. NRE, being one of the relevant ministries provides support and assistance to the Council in matters such as relief efforts for natural disasters including floods, landslides and transboundary haze.

Does Malaysia believe in the role of public private partnerships in increasing the utility of these technologies? Any initiative in this direction?
We have partnership with all agencies involved in geospatial activities. We also collaborate with private geospatial champions engaged in data development, systems development and GIS application design. Relevant proposals to employ expertise from private professionals are also being considered.

What are the efforts of NRE to increase the awareness and in facilitating geospatial education and popularising it in the country?
Capacity enhancement is crucial for GIS and SDI promotion. Conferences, seminars, workshops and courses are organised from time to time to enhance knowledge and skills of geospatial staff. MaCGDI has also been promoting the importance and value of geospatial technologies amongst GIS communities especially among State and federal agencies.

How do you see geospatial industry growing in Malaysia in the next five years?
Geospatial industry is a growing industry in Malaysia. GIS technology is being fully adopted and adapted by many agencies. Many agencies are currently working on the development of GIS at their workplaces such as the Department of Survey and Mapping (JUPEM), Malaysian Remote Sensing Agency, Department of Agriculture, Forestry Department, Geological Survey Department, Valuation and Property Services Department, Public Work Department and Economic Planning Unit. Government will continue to give importance to geospatial technologies and information. More funds will be made available so that Malaysia will have an excellent SDI and enormous amount of data in place.