Subba’s Serendipitous moments

June 13, 2009

Government 2.0 — Empowering the people at the Malaysia NICT

I was an invited speaker at the Malaysia National ICT conference at Putrajaya, organized by MDEC between 9-11 June 2009. I was pretty impressed with the scale, size and involvement of everyone concerned.

My presentation slides can be viewed/downloaded here. My special thanks to Zern Liew, who really helped me with some of the visuals. He is a fantastic visual thinker and we tuned in well with each other.

I was also on the panel discussion moderated by Roslan Bakri Zarkaria of MDEC. He was energetic and mingled with the audience and thus kept the tempo high. I was equally impressed with the fellow panelists James Smith of futuregov who talked about teh research project on the perceptions, initiaties of Gov 2.0 in different parts of Asia. The other speaker Ashran spoke about Open Innovation which is increasingly gaining currency and it was wrapped up by Ashraf of Consoci talking about specific Malaysian initiatives.

I was equally impressed by Devan’s attempt of explaining the mash-ups where he talked about possible applications integrating the data on parks and incidence of dengue fever. He brought about the possibility so well that I hope the Government CIOs were listening. Just reinforced my point about which I mentioned in my talk. I was equally impressed with Joel Neoh of Youth Asia where he shared research data about the Malaysian youth expectations from the Government. Clearly it seems to me that the Malaysian youth is not apathetic to the workings of the Government. I wonder what would be the results if the survey was done in Singapore.

I got the impression that the MDEC is doing its best to seed initiatives and support efforts to usher in Web 2.0 models into the government. It is tough ushering in change; more so in a government set up. Malaysia has always taken a cautious approach towards deploying new technology or even making social interventions due to the nature of businesses there and the kind of social structure. It would be interesting to see how they are able to bring in openness, a culture of sharing and a more transparent pubic-private partnership.

One thing about Malaysians that has always impressed me is the quality of talent amongst the entrepreneurs and their strong commitment to Malaysia. Surprisingly most of them do not have a global vision and are content to stay within Malaysia. Given the opportunities that Malaysia itself provides, it is easy to understand.

But in this hyper-competitive and inter-connected world, is it a smart thing to be a walled garden?

While I was at the airport I bumped into a friend and he asked me a profound question: His question was: Isn’t an empowered people a threat to the government itself in Asia ? The perfect answer still eludes me.



  1. Hi Mr. Subba,

    It was pleasing to see you today at the IIS meet and while browing the LinkedIN, I came across your blog and more about you.

    The question in my opinion, is slightly confusing to me (may be I dont carry the same wisdom) but would like to comment surely that we need to go the defintion of the Govt (I am talking from the POV of Indian Democracy context) – by the people, of the people, for the people. The answer lies within – empowered people will ensure empowered & proactive govt. This is something we always want OR what else we want the govt to be?

    So, if the Govt does not empower its citizens, it is the citizens who have to move further & ensure they become strength to the Govt. No question of threat ever unless we have dumbs sitting at the top to be pushed out.

    Your presentation is definitely thought provoking… telling me that I need to upgrade myself (most of us) as the max I have reached is only to LinkedIn and the world is moving to Facebook or Twitter or other mediums.

    Thanks for the thought provoking stuff… I am sure, we have a lot to learn from you.

    Warm regards

    Comment by Rajesh Kumar Goel — June 14, 2009 @ 10:15 pm | Reply

  2. The last two years I have wrote a few apps using US government data and I believe there is plenty of great stuff in there. However is extremely in short of good, relevant data sources. I got the feeling that the government was trying to get only cherry-picked data sources.

    Comment by Balaji Viswanathan — June 15, 2009 @ 7:45 am | Reply

  3. Excellent presentation Subba,

    Even during your talk, Roslan and I were talking about how good you presented the case for moving forward with gov 2.0. I hope it’s ok if i took some of your points for use in future talks/presentations.

    I think the entrepreneurs involved and committed to this undertaking know that convincing the government to take bold steps will not be an easy task. I think slowly, with Devan’s initiative, and the youths that Joel has access to, we could make small changes step by step and get people to think of the possibilities, instead of the impossibilities.

    As to the question: Isn’t an empowered people a threat to the government itself in Asia ? My answer is this:
    People are already becoming empowered in the Information Age. I think it’s one of the reasons why a black man is now president of America. I think you summed it up perfectly that day, after the session, when you said ‘We know what the cost of doing this is. But the question we need to really understand is: What is the cost of NOT doing this?’. If people are already becoming empowered by information and knowledge, wouldn’t it be a bigger threat to the govt NOT to empower (i.e. involve) their people?

    This fact, of course, takes time to sink in. Especially if you’ve been out of touch with what the next generation have been up to.

    It was an honor knowing you sir 🙂

    Comment by Asyraf — June 15, 2009 @ 6:08 pm | Reply

  4. Hi Subba
    nice presentation with a strong visual appeal.
    choice of vivacious colours, imagery is apt with the contents.

    Comment by milind — June 21, 2009 @ 7:44 pm | Reply

  5. Hi Subba, your presentation slides look really interesting but we are wondering about the context of some of them, having not seen your presentation in person (especially the chicken!). Would it be possible to publish your speakers notes? Regards, Nikki.

    Comment by Nikki — June 24, 2009 @ 7:20 am | Reply

  6. I saw your presentation slides, and boy! what all these people say must be true – it is bold, loud, and thought-provoking. I wish I was there to hear you speak in person… although the essence comes through, I am sure the meat of the story is in the details. How can I get a hold of your speech you made? It would be good to learn!

    Comment by Santosh Nair — June 25, 2009 @ 12:18 am | Reply

  7. Thanks to everyone for your compliments.

    To Santosh and Nikki:
    I will add the speaker notes in due course and send them to you, since you seem to be interested in the content. This could take a week as I am currently busy.

    If you are organizing an event and would like me to be a speaker, do let me know. I would be happy to do that and also discuss what other governments in Asia are doing on the gov 2.0 initiatives.

    Comment by Subbaraman Iyer — June 25, 2009 @ 9:35 pm | Reply

    • Hi Subba,
      I work with Siemens, and we have setup a Center of Competence for City Management Solutions in Singapore with the support and collaboration of EDB & IDA. This CoC is responsible for driving the solutions to address the most urgent needs of the various cities around the world. You can find more information on

      It might be interesting for the CoC and you to collaborate on the go-to-cities activities to address their respective concerns and problems.

      Let me know if you are interested to hook up with the CoC; and do send me some writeup that I can forward to them.

      Let’s see if you can identify some common grounds.


      Comment by Santosh Nair — June 27, 2009 @ 6:46 pm | Reply

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