1. Malaysia’s E-Government through a Gender Lens: Introduction

The Malaysian Administrative, Modernisation and Management Planning Unit (MAMPU) in the Prime Minister’s Department has been responsible for spearheading the country’s e-government initiative since 1996.1 The responsibility of MAMPU encompasses the planning, design, execution and implementation of various types of e-government initiatives for the country.

The implementation of Malaysia’s e-government began with the conceptualisation of the Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC)—a program for the creation of a Special Economic Zone, also in 1996 (Abdul Karim and Mohd Khalid 2003). The MSC seeks to improve the convenience, accessibility and quality of interactions with citizens and businesses, as well as to improve information flows and processes within government, to enhance the speed and quality of policy development, coordination, and enforcement. Following this, MAMPU, as lead agency for Malaysia’s e-government initiative, developed the Electronic Government Blueprint as well as the Electronic Government IT Policy and Standard in 1997. In 2003, it developed the first Public Sector ICT Strategic Plan to align Information and Communication Technology (ICT) initiatives of various public agencies to the Malaysian government’s ICT vision, and also to ensure the delivery of high-quality, efficient services to the Malaysian citizen. In 2011, MAMPU developed the second Public Sector ICT Strategic Plan 2011–2015. This Plan emphasises the need to work towards the long-term vision of completely automated service delivery systems with zero face-to-face contact, whilst simultaneously recognising the need to maintain traditional, over-the-counter services to prevent exclusion of marginalised groups, in the current situation where there is a digital divide in access (MAMPU 2011: 33 and 17).

Broadly, the vision behind Malaysia’s e-government initiatives has been one of leveraging the multimedia capabilities of ICTs to facilitate resource sharing between government agencies and the design of citizen-centric service delivery (MAMPU 2003: 6) thereby enhancing the relationship and quality of interaction between the government of Malaysia and its citizens. Public policy documents such as the Eighth Malaysian Plan (2001–2005), Knowledge-Based Economy Masterplan (2002–2010), Public Sector ICT Masterplan (2003) and the Ninth Malaysia Plan (2006–2010) have acknowledged the transformational role of ICTs in public service delivery and governance, and identified specific strategic directions towards this.

In addition to emphasising the need to improve internal management and effectiveness of government, Malaysia's e-government vision is also closely linked to its Vision 2020 of building “a united (Malaysian) nation, with a confident Malaysian society, infused by strong moral and ethical values... a society that is democratic, liberal and tolerant, caring, economically just and equitable, progressive and prosperous, and in full possession of an economy that is competitive, dynamic, robust and resilient” (cited in Deka, Zain and Mahanti 2012: abstract).2 The primary instrument through which Vision 2020 is being implemented is the Eleventh Malaysia Plan 2016–2020 (EMP), which has six strategic areas:

  • Enhancing inclusiveness towards an equitable society
  • Improving wellbeing for all
  • Accelerating human capital development for an advanced nation
  • Pursuing green growth for sustainability and resilience
  • Strengthening infrastructure to support economic expansion
  • Re-engineering economic growth for greater prosperity

It is within this policy framework, which prioritises productivity and economic competitiveness, that Malaysia's e-government efforts are located. The thrust of e-government initiatives has thus been in the direction of developing seven innovative flagship applications for transforming Malaysia into a knowledge-based society, as summarised below:

  1. Electronic Government (lead agency: MAMPU): Under the e-government flagship, seven main projects were identified that constitute the core of Malaysia’s e-government applications – Electronic Procurement, Project Monitoring System, Electronic Services Delivery, Human Resource Management Information System, Generic Office Environment, JobsMalaysia, and E-Syariah3.
  2. Multipurpose Smart Card (lead agency: Central Bank of Malaysia; now known as the MyKad): Objective is to provide a secure identification platform for private and government transactions and processes.
  3. Smart School (lead agency: Ministry of Education): The Smart School flagship application aims to ensure that every school has the necessary computer lab facilities to enable students’ access to the Internet. These computer lab facilities are also meant to develop and deliver content for students’ learning.4
  4. Telehealth (lead agency: Ministry of Health): The telehealth flagship application is meant to ensure that the Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) becomes a central regional hub for telehealth facilities and virtual medical consultations.
  5. Research and Development Clusters (lead agency: Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation): The objective is to ensure that the MSC becomes an attractive location for companies to develop next generation multimedia technologies and innovations.
  6. Electronic Business (lead agency: Ministry of Finance): The objective is to promote the adoption of ICT in the business sector.
  7. Technopreneur Development (lead agency: Multimedia Development Corporation): The objective is to spawn and nurture the growth of SMEs in the strategic areas of ICT and multimedia industries.

Although many government services are available online, they are not well integrated. To address this gap, MAMPU launched the eKL project in 2007. eKL seeks to develop public services through an integrated and connected Klang Valley5 (MAMPU 2009a). Based on the theme One Government—Many Agencies, the eKL project sought to integrate service delivery across agencies in order to ensure that services are delivered in a standardised, systematic, and seamless manner (The Edge, 29 Dec, 2008; cited in Siddiquee and Mohamed 2015: 54). Under eKL, a number of innovations have already been introduced. MyBayar is the online payment gateway that offers citizens a convenient and secured way to making online payment to the government. MyForms is the centralised forms directory that makes forms available to citizens and businesses with downloadable and online submission options. MySMS15888, the short messaging system, is another channel that enables people on the move to stay connected to government services. It provides two-way communication between government agencies and citizens where governmental information, news, and services are made available to mobile phone subscribers anytime and anywhere.

The government's target is to achieve digitalisation of 90 per cent of services by 2015 (Malaysiakini 2014). For the period 2011–2015, MAMPU has charted the strategies and directions for e-Government through the Public Sector ICT Strategic Plan. Projects that have been implemented include the consolidation of the Government Data Centre, Government Cloud Computing, and the Government Unified Communication and Telepresence services. MAMPU's assessment is that mobile-based delivery of services is preferred by citizens. This is where the myGov Mobile gateway comes into play. Launched in 2010, several government agencies have quickly taken advantage of the myGov Mobile gateway to provide users accessibility to useful information via mobile devices such as myHealth app by the Ministry of Health, myJakim by JAKIM (Department of Islamic Development Malaysia), and myTour by the Ministry of Tourism.

Malaysia’s e-Government is not only meant to bring public services online, but is also focused on using the digital opportunity to generate social and economic benefits. The lead agency for e-government, MAMPU, adopts a gender-neutral perspective towards its work (Suhazimah Dzazali and Norhamimah Ibrahim, interview, 2016). Nevertheless, Malaysia's e-government efforts are part of a larger public policy push for reform, transparency, and enhanced openness in government, and should thus also work within the parameters of good governance, and by an extension of that, gender equality. One major stumbling block, however, is the lack of commitment to freedom of information issues. Freedom of information is not guaranteed in Malaysia, neither constitutionally nor through any specific legislation. However, the states of Penang and Selangor have enacted laws to allow for citizens to ask for certain kinds of data to be released to them (Mok 2012; The Malaysian Insider 2011).

The lack of explicit attention to the gender equality agenda is a cause of concern considering that there is an urgent need to invest in women’s equal participation in governance processes, especially the equitable participation of groups of vulnerable women such as indigenous women, women with disabilities, women victims and survivors of violence, poor women, and women at risk of impoverishment.6


  1. For more information on MAMPU, see www.mampu.gov.my.
  2. The full text of Mahathir Mohamad’s speech can be read here, http://unpan1.un.org/intradoc/groups/public/documents/apcity/unpan003223.pdf. Accessed 23 December 2015.
  3. A case management system that integrates the processes related to management of cases for the Syariah Courts. It aims to improve the quality of services of the Syariah Courts and the productivity and efficiency of the management of the Syariah courts throughout the country (for more information, see www.esyariah.gov.my)
  4. Some productivity and social gains have been achieved from improved administration of schools and reduction of paperwork. Exam-oriented curriculum, lack of technical support, and change management of teachers are key challenges in the implementation of the smart school project.
  5. The heartland of Malaysia’s industry and commerce area that is in Selangor, which comprises Kuala Lumpur and its surrounding areas and suburbs, as well as the Port Klang coastline.
  6. Some of these vulnerable groups of women have been identified in more detail as target groups under the National Policy on Women and the National Plan of Action for the Advancement of Women (see section 2.1 for further details).