“There is an imperative need for a relook at our strategies”

“There is an imperative need for a relook at our strategies”

Ahmad Fauzi Bin Nordin, Director General of JUPEM

Department of Survey and Mapping Malaysia (JUPEM) is looking forward to broader public-private partnership, better collaboration with other authorities and enhance their level of services. Meet Sr Ahmad Fauzi Bin Nordin, Director General of JUPEM, speaking on the direction and strategy in achieving those goals.

Can you give us a bit of an overview of your background, and career with JUPEM?

Being a government scholar, I was immediately employed after graduation in 1978. Back then, I was required to fulfil a year’s training, akin to internship for medical graduates. This was performed in my own birth place, Terengganu. My first posting was in Kuala Kangsar, Perak as a District Surveyor. After about 1½ years, I was promoted to become the Assistant Director of Surveys for the Northern region, and at the same time serving as the Chief of Field Parties for the Malaysia-Thailand international border surveys. A year later, I was promoted again to be the Deputy Director of Survey for JUPEM Kedah-Perlis. Subsequently, more postings for me, and I became the most transferable officer in JUPEM; for instance – 7 postings in the first 9 years of service. I was deemed to take up and absorb challenges well but at a certain point it did create some irritations too. But, I always take things positively and on the positive side, this gave me opportunities to experience most of the works carried out by the department, at all levels. It helps me in understanding the issues and in making better decisions.

Our belated Congratulation on your appointment as new Director General. What are the new ideas and commitment that you would like to bring in? Any new direction being implemented now?

Thank you for your kind thoughts and wishes. Anything new for the department will obviously be tied to the continuous struggle of improving ourselves to fulfil the reason for our very own existence, I mean JUPEM’s existence. You may have already been aware of JUPEM’s core functions, which include undertaking cadastral surveys for the issuance of land titles throughout Peninsular Malaysia. Also, performing topographic mapping, developing and maintaining the national geodetic infrastructure as well as conducting demarcation and survey of Malaysia’s international boundary with its neighbours, both on land as well as in the maritime areas. One function that has stood out – being a very routine one, but yet a fundamental task, is that of national topographic mapping. It sticks out because I feel it is an activity that needs to be significantly improved. On this, we actually have a topographic map revision policy which was put in place, more than a decade ago. Basically, it states that for town and city areas, updating will need to be performed once in 3 years; for developing areas – once in 5 years. And for remote or undeveloped areas, or where there is meagre development – once in 10 years. However, we find that the demand for current and accurate geospatial data is so great that the aforesaid policy has now become obsolete. Currently, clients are talking about the need for at least yearly updates, if not better. But, in reality JUPEM has not been able to wholly provide the frequency of updates based on the existing policy, what more to meet the current demands of clients.

So, there is an imperative need for a relook at the strategies utilised in the production of our topographic maps. On this, what I’ve resolved to undertake are:

Firstly, to get the private sector to be involved with the topographic mapping activity. This will be through continuous contracting out of some of the processes of topographic mapping to the consultant land surveyors. As competency in the private sector is currently limited, this will be carried out on a gradual basis. JUPEM will itself have to ensure that this contracting work will be a permanent feature of JUPEM’s work activity. Only then, would more consultant land surveyors be willing to invest in building their capacity to undertake the work in terms of procuring equipment and technologies as well as building their competency. Currently, there are only a small number of firms that are able to carry out the work. And we would like more to be involved with this, in order to expedite the rate of work completion. By the way, JUPEM will have to do their part in obtaining the needed funding and allocation to contract out the work. I have every confidence that this could be done; because the government will need to enlarge the organisation by at least another 50%, if it intends to fulfil the demand for topographic datasets that are current. And this is something which obviously the government could not afford.

The aforesaid strategy, to me, is most pragmatic considering that the government is for a lean organisation. Furthermore, it is widely acknowledged that the private sector is more productive and efficient. Additionally, an enlarged organisation would be a big future burden on government in regards to the payment of retirement benefits, which are unproductive. Also, it will be a form of smart partnership in between government organisation and the private sector. Getting the private sector firms to be involved, will hopefully spur more innovative and creative solutions and products from data produced too.

Secondly, optimise the government’s call for the use of National Blue Ocean Strategy in undertaking departmental initiatives. On this, it is my intention to collaborate with the Local Authorities in all the states of Malaysia. This essentially will mean innovating on the current pool of resources to achieve high impact programmes. We all know very well that most development occurs at the local level. The local authorities are the ones that generally consider and approve development plans for an area. Hence, they have information on the developments, before and after they occur. In fact, there are already those that require as-built plans to be prepared and submitted to them after completion of construction. So, why not get this available information from them.

We can subsequently use this information and update our maps without having to collect it our self. An updated version of our map could then be given to them in exchange, for their use in performing future local large scale planning. Additionally, we can also obtain information on where developments are approved, and we could use this to plan our data capture for the updates; probably only needing to use our UAVs to image the changes. And this could very well be executed by JUPEM in the States. This, wholesomely could expedite our updating work in a significant way and also reduce our cost of carrying out the work. This idea is still at a conceptual stage. The detail mechanisms are still being worked out. But, what has motivated me to move on to implement this is the support that I’d received from the Secretary General of our Ministry, when I’d made this preliminary proposal to him. Obviously, this approach will need his support because it will eventually need the close collaboration in between two different ministries – the Ministry of Natural Resources & Environment, and the Ministry of Urban Wellbeing, Housing & Local Government.

On further new directions, I strongly believe that we need to significantly increase our own level of commitment to provide better services to our clients. I’ve been emphasising on making use of our development projects to give focus on this matter. One of the initiatives made is to enable our clients to have access to our portal services and amongst other things, create their own maps with facilities to do that thrown in. And we too stand to gain indirectly from the information to be captured in our server; this is more of crowd-sourcing. In addition, I’ve also been stressing on our image library project. This is where I’ve set as the primary objective – of serving our own ortho-photos as the alternative to Google images. I’ve thrown this challenge to my officers, because it does not make sense to find our clients – especially the government departments and agencies, opting for Google images when we ourselves possess better resolution, higher accuracy aerial photo images that could be provided to them. So, the aim is to have this on-line portal service to provide those images to them for their use, as a better alternative; obviously for the areas that we’d completed coverage with our ortho-photos. Additionally, I’d also been stressing on the need to produce more services and products that would be able to meet the needs and demands of users, as well as the need to be “more useful to more people”.

Another major new direction that we would be taking up is that involving underground utility mapping. In this regards, we have just recently obtained approval by the government to our proposal that new utilities must be surveyed at the time that they were emplaced, before they become obscure by earth covering. And that the survey must be performed by authorised land surveyors. We had also been successful in getting this mandatory requirement to be enforced by the local authorities. So, this decision will certainly change the way of doing things, which will eventually have massive cost savings impact to the country. We are working out new arrangements with the concerned authorities, and with these new workflows, underground utility information in future will be transmitted to JUPEM in the states for their keeping and maintenance. And this will assist us in the future in providing accurate, reliable, fit for purpose underground utility data to concerned users, and that’s when we will deliver the so-called “call before you dig services”, when all are in place.

The mission of JUPEM is an advisor to the government, to provide and manage the national mapping and cadastre information efficiently and also responsible to provide the geodetic infrastructure for the planning & development. How do you aim to fulfill this mission?

We have to continue with our efforts of improving our delivery mechanism. Some of our previous efforts have been entrenched into the working system – they become routine work. We have set KPIs which need to be fulfilled by all concerned – at all levels, right from senior executives and top management, down to the support group level. But, there are also the new initiatives that we have made that would eventually enable us to fulfil our mission. Our recent efforts that have borne fruits include the implementation of the e-cadastre system. This was introduced some 4-5 years ago. Through the implementation of this project, we had been able to address all if not most of the problems or weaknesses that were inherent in our old archaic cadastral survey system. By that, we had been able to now have a unified homogeneous cadastral coordinated system throughout the whole of Peninsular Malaysia. Through that project too, we had been able to make use of the state-of-art technologies in undertaking cadastral surveys and this includes the use of GNSS technology. With all the improvements, we have been able to expedite cadastral survey work towards achieving by next year, our aim of performing all cadastral surveys within 2 months of request – not anymore 2 years of what it used to be.

On quite a similar strategy, we are now in the midst of implementing our e-mapping project. This will allow us to use cutting edge technologies to further improve our production mapping, through further maximal automation of all work processes. The advent of GNSS technologies, image processing UAV’s, digital cameras amongst others will allow us to utilise them to expedite our map production. For example, through this project, we will be able to use digital cameras on all fronts. We now have three units to cover the states of Sabah, Sarawak as well as the whole of Peninsular Malaysia. So, there is no longer the need for the processing and scanning of films and there will be lesser need for ground controls for the Aerial Triangulation process. This will save a lot of time. Also, pertaining to image processing – we now have software suites that will significantly lessen the time of image processing. So is the automated generalisation tool, which will also reduce significantly the time to produce smaller scaled databases. Certainly, the use of GNSS for data capture in the field would help expedite the work as well.

For our geodetic infrastructure we are beginning to further densify our MyRTKnet stations. These are COR stations that not only serve as the fiducial geodetic infrastructure for the country but also provide GNSS data corrections for GNSS user, particularly those who use real time kinematic approach in carrying out their surveys. We currently have 78 stations throughout the country, but we are adding another 15 to cover the gaps, especially in the remote areas. This is important to us as GNSS has now become more widely utilised, particularly in cadastral surveying.

As mentioned earlier, another aspect of our work that I’m emphasizing is on upgrading our services to clients – these clients could be government departments and agencies, could also be the public and those from the survey fraternity. It is my conviction that we owe our existence to our clients. So, it would be in the best interest of the department if we could give our level best to them. This certainly is in line with the governments’ drive – the so called “merakyatkan perkhidmatan awam“, the much advocated approach to improve the effectiveness of public service delivery. Hence, physically we will be renovating our premises to provide for a one-stop centre for our services, especially that for the sales of our products and services. Also the much needed premise to provide consultancy for our services. Thereat, will be a showroom for all the products that we produce. This should not only facilitate our dealings with clients but would also serve as a better marketing avenue for our products, thereby fulfilling a different objective of raising revenue for government.

So far how much progress has been made at the work on finishing the base map for the whole country?

Basically, we already have a base map covering the whole of Malaysia at a scale of 1:50000. Additionally, we also have one at 1:25000 covering the whole of Peninsular Malaysia and about half of that of East Malaysia; frankly, the urgency of having a complete one is not that felt for East Malaysia at this scale as we already have them at 1:50000 scale. We have also city and town maps at scales of 1:5000 & 1:10000 for most of the major towns and cities throughout the country, though some badly need updating work to be carried out. As I had mentioned earlier we are going for the regular yearly updates for these areas, and hope that our plan of roping in the private sector to be involved with mapping work would assist us in this long term vision of having very updated current maps for the whole country, especially that of the towns and cities that would normally experience rapid developments and changes.

How is JUPEM contributing towards the economic development of Malaysia?

Taking the current economic scenario into perspective, we have various government policies in place that will spur economic development of Malaysia. They include the ETP (Economic Transformation Programme), the GTP (Government Transformation Programme), Digital Economy etc. Within the aforesaid policies are the various programmes that are supposed to be implemented. For instance, in the case of the ETP, there are the so-called 12 NKEA’s (National Key Economic Areas) that are to be given the focus. A major portion, if not all of these will need the use of geospatial information in their implementation. As an exemplification, the NKEA for the development of Greater Kuala Lumpur/Klang Valley will certainly need the use of geospatial information for planning, land acquisition, valuation, construction etc. And, being the biggest producer and provider of geospatial information in the country, JUPEM obviously had contributed and will continue to significantly contribute to the economic development of Malaysia.

How the development of latest technology had and will transform the landscape of mapping, surveying and cadastre industry in Malaysia?

There is a wide array of technologies that had impacted our topographic mapping and cadastral survey industry in Malaysia. They include GNSS, image capture and processing, soft photogrammetry, GIS , computer databasing, LiDAR, UAVs and cloud computing. These technologies have, in regards to JUPEM, transformed the way we do things -the way that we capture, process, maintain and manage geospatial information. Even the way that we provide the infrastructure to support all measurement activities in Malaysia– I mean the geodetic infrastructure. In this regards, the COR stations, which are active have replaced the static monuments of positional reference-serving as the fiducial or fundamental reference of all measurements. GNSS technologies had been the main driver in this and so was the case in the implementation of e-cadastre, which sees more use of GNSS for cadastral surveying. It’s the same with topographic data capture in the field for field completion, where GNSS and GIS technologies have been widely utilised as well. On the imaging front, we see the coming of digital aerial cameras replacing the analogue ones. We at JUPEM have entirely replaced the latter as it has proven to be more cost effective and productive.

We now have utilised too the new image processing softwares that have enabled us to see significant improvement in the time to process those images. This had assisted us in expediting a part of the process in the whole workflow of topographic mapping. The use of latest technologies in databasing also helps us to manage and maintain our data in a more effective manner apart from allowing us to cut down the time of many of the processes in the work flow. They include the on-line management of work, the generalisation process, the managing of information in the database and the actual production of our maps-digital or hardcopy.

On the future, there certainly would be an increased take up rate of GNSS technologies in the work carried out not only for cadastral surveys but also in other survey work as well. I believe the UAVs for data capturing will become increasingly used. As such, policies on this will need to be worked out – we will take a lead on this, in collaboration with the appropriate authorities. LiDAR too will become more popular to address the need for accurate DTMs for specific applications. The consultant land surveyors will obviously need to raise their competency levels in the concerned technologies, if they are to remain competitive.

As a leader who going to lead JUPEM for many years to come, how do you see JUPEM in next 5 year time?

I foresee that JUPEM will be a more efficient, credible and higher profiled authoritative national geospatial information producer and provider. With the push to bring the department to provide better and enlarged services to broader users through partnership and the NBOS strategy, it should earn more extensive realisation and recognition as to its relevance to national development, resource management, security and particularly economic development. The new and broader areas that we will cover include that of providing underground utility mapping information services (the so-called “call before you dig service”), and large scale geospatial data provider at the local level, including new products that relate to meeting the needs of large-scale data applications, which may include that which will spin off from the development of our multi-purpose cadastre project.

Could you tell some major achievements of JUPEM so far?

To me, one of the biggest achievements over the last decade or so is the securing of government’s approval over a major issue involving underground utility mapping. When JUPEM first started undertaking the task of underground utility mapping in 2006, I had then realised that we are doing something unproductive. What we did, as directed by government then were to keep and maintain underground utility data delivered to us by utility providers. As we soon found out, the data were mostly inaccurate, and in certain circumstances, incomplete. So, I had initiated a proposal to the government, way back in 2007, in the form of a cabinet paper to address the issue. Basically, the proposal is ultimately aimed at obtaining and maintaining good, accurate, fit-for-purpose underground utility data. And the proposed approach is made very clear, i.e. firstly, to make it mandatory for new underground utility surveys to be performed at the time they were emplaced in the ground, and secondly – that the survey must be carried out by authorised land surveyors. The proposal had met with many setbacks and it was only after 7 years that we can get this through. And this was eventually made possible with the assistance of the Secretary General of our Ministry, who had additionally helped to secure another important decision, i.e. getting this requirement to be enforced by the local authorities.

Another most current or latest major achievement would have been the implementation of the coordinated cadastral system, through the e-cadastre project. This has enabled the inherent shortcomings of the archaic cadastral survey system, embedded in the system for decades, to be addressed. Combined with the use of latest technologies, it has enabled cadastral survey work to be performed in a more expeditious manner apart from the endeavour resulting in a national digital cadastral database that is homogenous throughout the whole of Peninsular Malaysia. Certainly, the implementation of the MyRTKnet (Malaysian Real-Time Kinematic Network) infrastructure that supports e-cadastre, could also be considered an achievement by itself as well.

Where do you see the integration of data happening in Malaysia?

In fact, I was talking about this in my presentation during the International Symposium on Spatially Enabling Government in 2012. I did mention about the need for data integration. MaCGDI is the government agency that provides the infrastructure for information to be exchanged. In this regards, they too should provide the tools to integrate information, which come from the various data custodians. With this facility, users can then utilise it for disaster response, flood mitigation, forest management and others. Data and information is one thing, another is the need to focus our efforts on how to make use of them efficiently. So, MacGDI will have to really work on this to ensure data integration being facilitated and made possible by all concerned.