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Mature Malaysia

Bhanu Rekha

Bhanu Rekha
Associate Editor
Email: [email protected]
Malaysia emerged as a unified State in 1963 after Singapore, Sabah and Sarawak joined peninsular Malaysia (Malaya). After the initial years of conflict with Indonesia, Singapore’s exit and racial strife, Malaysia quickly put itself on the growth path by adopting revolutionary economic policies. After a significant economic growth in the 1980s and 1990s, Malaysia saw a shift from agriculture-based economy to one based on manufacturing and industry in areas like computers and consumer electronics.

With a tropical climate throughout the year, Malaysia is endowed with rich natural resources and a rich culture. True to a local saying, Budi Bahasa Budaya Kita (politeness is our culture), Malaysia has been quite accommodative of different ethnicities, religions and languages. After strengthening the core areas, the country turned to technology innovation and started building world-class infrastructure in line with its Malaysian Plans. In the process, the this equatorial country started investing in geospatial technologies and today, Malaysia has a mature geospatial community, with each government department and organisation either already building or looking at setting up enterprise level GIS facility.

In this edition, we bring a comprehensive report of geospatial technology and industry in Malaysia with details of individual stakeholders comprising geospatial – data providers, users and industry.

Geospatial Data Providers
Being the face of geospatial, data providers – including national mapping agencies, satellite imagery providers and other spatial data providers – constitute the hub of geospatial activity in a country.

They are the prime creators of spatial data and main drivers for the uptake, use and acceptance of geospatial technologies. GIS Development spoke to the majority of data providers in Malaysia to know and understand their mandate, initiatives and their vision for their organisation and the country.

     Data is available on the Geoportal. Users wanting data have to provide their information. The system automatically posts this info to the security system and the user will be intimated about approval/denial in two weeks
– Ahmad Fauzi Bin Nordin, JUPEM

Department of Survey and Mapping Malaysia (JUPEM)
With a mandate to provide survey and mapping services and manage the geospatial data in Malaysia, the Department of Survey and Mapping Malaysia (JUPEM) strives to build state-of-the-art mapping infrastructure, competent human resources and conducive working environment in line with the country’s vision. Under the stewardship of Dato’ Prof. Dr. Abdul Kadir bin Taib, JUPEM is taking progressive initiatives to transform Malaysia into a geospatial paradise.

JUPEM provides basic maps like topographic maps at 1:50,000 and 1:25,000 scales; town maps at 1:10,000 and 1: 5,000 depending upon the size of the towns; utility maps for all the states, district maps, maps for public works departments, boundary demarcation maps for electoral purposes etc using the most advanced surveying and mapping technologies.

All the JUPEM maps are now available in GIS-friendly format and since 2006 all cadastral maps are available online through JUPEM Geoportal.

While development needs require maps to be made easily available, security issues cannot be undermined. Talking on measures to ensure security of geospatial data, Ahmad Fauzi Bin Nordin, Deputy Director General of Survey and Mapping says, “Data is available on the Geoportal. Users trying to buy data have to enter their information. The system automatically posts users’ information to the security system and the user will be intimated about approval/denial. The user then is given a choice to get data online or via post. It roughly takes a user two weeks to get security clearance.”

Apart from providing mapping products and services, JUPEM defines and maintains the National Coordinate Reference System and the Vertical Control Datum for Malaysia. It establishes and manages the geodetic infrastructure for the surveying community in government, business, public and individuals for the purpose of national development, security and defence.

Being the primary data providers in Malaysia, JUPEM is the major stakeholder in MyGDI. Stressing the importance of spatial data infrastructure, Fauzi says, “We definitely see the association between SDI and sustainable development. We are trying to make people, especially in the government, to understand the importance of sharing geospatial data. It helps them in decision making and they should support all our efforts to build a spatial data infrastructure.”

     GEOSIS is an integrated, centralised and Web-based spatial database. It has five GIS applications – Economic GIS, Hydro GIS, Engineering GIS, Map GIS and Exploration GIS
– Mohd Zulkiflee Bin Che Soh, JMG

Department of Minerals and Geoscience (JMG)
The Department of Minerals and Geoscience (JMG) is a major producer of spatial data in Malaysia. The Department collects, analyses and disseminates data and information pertaining to mineral exploration, mining and related activities. It also carries out R&D, technology transfer, mineral resources development, development of GIS-ready datasets and metadata and promotion of research findings to be adopted by the industry. It also encourages optimal use of geoscience information and services for the sustainable development of the country. It also undertakes publication of maps like hydrogeological map, geological map, metallic mineral distribution map, and seismotechtonic map.

Like other data providers, JMG is fast catching up with the trends in geospatial and is building an enterprise level GIS – Geoscience Information System (GEOSIS). Giving details about GEOSIS, Mohd Zulkiflee Bin Che Soh, Senior Geologist, says, “GEOSIS is an integrated, centralised and Web-based spatial database with both textural and spatial aspects. The project was initiated in 2002 and is running in line with Master Plan 2010. It has five GIS applications – Economic GIS, Hydro GIS, Engineering GIS, Map GIS and Exploration GIS. The project is expected to be completed by next year. Once completed, GEOSIS will provide services directly to the public.”

Being a spatial data provider in the country, JMG is a major stakeholder in the Malaysia Geospatial Data Infrastructure (MyGDI). It is the custodian of all geology and mineral resources datasets in MyGDI. It also supervises and updates these data sets on a regular basis.

Department of Agriculture
The Soil Resource Management and Conservation Division under the Department of Agriculture is instrumental in preparing soil maps, soil erosion maps, land use maps, agro-economic maps. The division is utilising geospatial technologies including land surveying, GPS and satellite imagery to produce the imagery.

The Department of Agriculture is developing Agriculture Information System Geodatabase Portal (AgrIS) for the entire department. This Web-based system integrates data in all the States of Malaysia into one system where one can access up-to-date information about soil, rainfall, pests, land use etc. AgrIS is in development at present and is expected to be launched in May 2010.

Being a spatial data producer, Soil Resource Management and Conservation Division is contributing its maps to MyGDI. Says Syed Fadzil Syed Shahabudin, “We do not give actual maps, but share our metadata. One can approach us for the actual map. We do not share the actual maps primarily because surveyors and planners may not understand the intricacies of a soil map. Soil scientists like us will be able to guide data seekers in a better way.”

Malaysian Remote Sensing Agency
The Malaysian Remote Sensing Agency is an agency under the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation. The Agency is a principle R&D organisation in the areas of remote sensing and related technologies in the country; is a focal point for implementing the National Remote Sensing Programme, by acting as the chairman of the national ‘Working Group of Remote Sensing’ and is the coordinator for implementing remote sensing activities in the country. The Agency is a one-stop-shop that facilitates remote sensing data from satellites across the world including RazakSAT for all government agencies. In addition, Remote Sensing Malaysia is also responsible to enter into direct negotiations with foreign satellite operators for the procurement of direct reception of satellite images and is a major stakeholder in MyGDI. To increase trained and skilled work force in user agencies in remote sensing and related technologies, the Agency organises several human capital development programmes.

Department of Irrigation and Drainage Malaysia
With a mandate to manage water resources, river basins, flood risks and coastal zones to achieve environmental sustainability and enhanced quality of life, the Department of Irrigation and Drainage Malaysia uses geospatial technologies extensively to prepare flood risk maps, hydrological maps, prepares hydrodynamic models using LiDAR for flood mitigation and provides river information. “We are using geospatial technologies extensively in the integrated river basin management project we embarked on recently,” says Hj. Zulkefli Bin Hassan, Director, Corporate Development Division. The project envisages enhanced national and State capacity in integrated planning and management of river basins as a necessary step towards a balanced development between environmental and economic objectives.

A reasonable degree of awareness, executive and administrative will and demanding users have triggered the data providers to adapt latest technologies and combine innovation to create top class geospatial infrastructure in the country. The departments have also realised the importance of geospatial data sharing and taking all initiatives to popularise ‘share data’ concept. A proactive government and a wanting user community and industry together have created an environment of synergy in the country essential for the exponential growth of geospatial in Malaysia.

‘RS is commonly used in Malaysia’
The Malaysian National Space Agency (ANGKASA) is responsible in leading and observing the development of space science in Malaysia by providing leadership in educational aspect and research of space science and by assisting the government in formulating and executing national space fundamentals. GIS Development spoke to Dr Mustafa Din Subari to know more…

Dr Mustafa Din Subari

Dr Mustafa Din Subari
Director General, National Space Agency (ANGKASA)
What is the mandate of ANGKASA?
National Space Agency is responsible for the development of the space infrastructure of Malaysia. At the moment, we are operating RazakSAT, Malaysia’s first remote sensing satellite, the imagery of which will be distributed through Malaysian Remote Sensing Agency. We are planning to develop a space based agumentation system in the near future for navigational purposes.

How is the uptake of geospatial technology in Malaysia?
We have been using satellite imagery since 1970s. Remote sensing is one technology which is commonly being used by almost every government agency and is used even at the level of municipalities. In that sense, I can say that almost all agencies and departments in Malaysia are using remote sensing and GIS.

What are the future plans after Razaksat?
RazakSAT-1 has a life of three years. With regard to RazakSat-1, I must highlight that we have strategically placed it in a special orbit so that it image Malaysia more frequently and serves us rather than serving the entire globe. We believe that this orbit placement would serve us in the future as well. To ensure continuity of imagery to our users, we will continue development of RazakSAT series of optical sensors. We have received requests for provision of high resolution data. Availability of such high resolution data will open up many opportunities for people but Malaysia is a small country with limited resources. We can’t have the luxury of too many satellites.

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I am a well-rounded communications, writing and media professional with top-of-the-line experience in all forms of media. Spent the last 11+ years of my productive career in geospatial industry understanding, writing, speaking and advocating for the technology and business dynamics and seeing the positive change constructive communication can bring about in a niche domain. I can balance my intellectual instincts vis-à-vis business needs very well and find them complementing and synergistic. Am equipped with good verbal and written communication skills; am agile and a quick learner; have an eye for detail; ability to build and lead successful teams; strategise, plan, produce and launch - print editions, market studies and marketing campaigns.