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Malaysian citizens to get a national digital ID

According to a recent report, the citizens of Malaysia may soon have a national digital ID, according to the Communications and Multimedia Minister.

The minister said that his ministry was looking to develop this “platform of trust” in cyberspace to eliminate elements of fraud and cheating. He stated that a plan for a national digital ID is being formulated. This digital ID is not meant to replace the current form of identity verification which is a compulsory identity card for Malaysian citizens aged 12 and above, nor would it be mandatory for everyone, he added.

The news was announced at the launch of the Malaysiakini e-commerce summit in Malaysia recently.

The minister added that a national digital ID, which is likely to be out by the middle 2019, was meant to provide a “verifiable platform of trust”, citizens, upon application to join a certain organisation, would be asked for a photocopy or image of their MyKad.

The minister made it clear that is not an example of trust nor is it ‘verifiable’. Comparatively, this is what a national digital ID can offer: citizens could apply to be a member of that organisation by registering your application using the national digital ID. This would be a trusted and verifiable platform, the minister noted.

With e-commerce poised to become the largest retail channel in the world by 2021, the minister said there was a need for such an ID.

Upon looking into the complaints pertaining to e-commerce and mobile phone scams, there is a significant likelihood of fraud and cheating. Verifying the national digital ID would help to ensure a reduction in the scope of such crimes.

The national digital ID project will be a co-operation between his ministry, the Malaysian Communi­cations and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) and Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC).

The minister explained that while MDEC has vast experience in the area, it will be bringing in other stakeholders. He added that to ensure the legality of the creation of this national digital ID, the ministry would study various pieces of existing legislation, including the Perso­nal Data Protection Act 2010.

According to the minister, possessing the national digital ID would enable Malaysians to enjoy numerous benefits. Moreover, a national digital ID will be an integral and crucial platform for the digital government initiative.

It was noted that the government or its agencies can deliver targeted subsidies efficiently via an e-Wallet account that has been registered using the national digital ID.

In an immediate response, MDEC chief executive officer said that the agency was supportive of the initiative. In a tweet, the officer stated that the digital ID card would be a key enabler for unlocking tech entrepreneurship and drive digital adoption. She stated that MCMC, the ministry and MDEC would drive this, with input and participation from industry players.

This is the second time Malaysia is looking into creating such a platform. In 2011, the previous administration the 1Malaysia email project that was to form the basis of a national digital ID, part of the Economic Transformation Programme (ETP).

The 1Malaysia email project was a government initiative to provide a unique and official email account and ID for Malay­sians and would allow them to receive statements, bills and notices from the government.

The RMB50 million contract was awarded to tech firm but faltered after it was revealed that the company was in the danger of being delisted because of financial irregularities. The project was also supposed to include a web portal as a one-stop centre for accessing government services and making payments.

However, hope springs new with the national digital ID initiative.

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