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How Malaysia’s Selangor state is tapping cloud

Malaysian state has built a cloud-based payment services platform for citizens and is looking to tap cloud-based analytics to upgrade its surveillance cameras, among other cloud computing initiatives

When Fahmi Ngah proposed, in 2018, that the Selangor government in Malaysia should build a platform to deliver services to 6.5 million citizens in the state, he was given a modest budget to proceed with his plans.

Faced with budget constraints, Fahmi, managing director of the Smart Selangor Delivery Unit (SSDU), had little choice but to turn to the cloud to develop a minimum viable product (MVP) through rapid prototyping while ensuring that the services were readily available and reliable.

That product is now called Cepat, an electronic payments platform that enables citizens to access payment services through a web portal or mobile app. Developed and hosted on Amazon Web Services (AWS), the platform is widely used by Selangor residents to pay their bills and parking charges.

“Parking is more challenging because it has to be done on time, on location, and people get really annoyed if they can’t park their cars on time,” said Fahmi during an AWS media briefing. The challenge was overcome by the high-availability infrastructure of AWS, he added.

Since 2018, the number of payment services on Cepat has trebled, with 80 entities in Selangor connected to the platform through application programming interfaces to facilitate transactions.

The SSDU will relaunch the platform in November 2020, after which it expects the number of payment transactions to increase 10-fold. Fahmi is confident that Cepat will be able to handle the demand by scaling up storage and compute resources in AWS.

He said the move to the cloud will also pave the way for the SSDU to build a centralised disaster recovery datacentre to consolidate on-premise servers currently being operated by 48 state agencies.

Rather than build a large on-premise datacentre with the availability, reliability and performance of public cloud services, Fahmi said the SSDU will set up a hybrid cloud datacentre potentially powered by Amazon Outposts, a managed service that lets organisations use AWS compute, storage, database and other services locally.

“This will allow us to consolidate all of our disaster recovery requirements from different entities within the state,” he said.

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Fahmi said the experience gained from working on Cepat has enabled the state government to roll out an operational portal as part of its response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The portal aggregates real-time data from Malaysia’s health ministry, including where patients live and work, as well as the location of state assets to speed up decision-making.

Fahmi said the data has also been shared with waste management companies so that their employees can be more cautious when they are in areas where coronavirus cases have been reported.

Moving forward, the SSDU is looking to deploy and upgrade the state’s surveillance cameras with real-time intelligence capabilities to deter crime and enforce Covid-19 preventive measures, such as the wearing of face masks and social distancing.

Fahmi said cloud-based analytics can be used to process real-time unstructured data from the cameras, which are expected to be deployed at 12 monitoring centres across the state.

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