Implementation Coordination Unit, Prime Minister’s Department

The Problem

Poverty is a global concern. According to Global Monitoring Report from Millennium Development Goals published by World Bank on 13th April 2007, about 21% or 1.3 billion of the world’s population are identified as poor. Malaysia is no exception and in 1970, it was estimated about 49.3% of households reported still living under the poverty threshold. Government then managed to reduce the poverty to 3.6% and hardcore poverty to 0.7% in 2007 due to the expansion of the economy and the implementation of specific programmes towards increasing the productivity and improving the living standards of the poor.

Given such a successful achievement, Malaysian government is still committed and continued to play the leading role to reduce the incidence of poverty until 2.8% and zero hardcore poverty by end of 2010. With regard to this, more target-specific programmes should be planned. However, the incidence of poverty was become a small proportion of Malaysian population and the challenge was how to address and reach the deep pockets of poverty in remotes areas across the region particularly in urban and rural areas without having information who they are, living situation and where they lived.

There are several ministries, agencies, NGOs and Associations responsible for poverty eradication programmes at federal and state levels. Before eKasih was introduced, only a small percentage of agencies have a record of the beneficiaries or recipients of assistances in an automated system while some of them are still entirely using manual process. There was no integration or consolidation among them results multiple sets of data. As an example, one individual can apply assistance from many agencies while the agencies did not know what assistance already being given to that individual. These were caused a high possibility of overlapping of assistance and furthermore lead to data integrity and consistency issues.

There was no single agency to coordinate and monitor the poverty eradication programmes at the national level. As a result, nobody is ensured that the poor really receive or enjoy the benefits thereof. Apart from that, no progress monitoring is done to the poor after the assistance was given. They might be felled back to poor after few months survived. There are also no standardize mechanism and established unified criteria used by agencies to determine poverty groups and this has created many problems such as unverified data and many more issues in dealing with aid distribution to the poor and hardcore poor. Moreover, for agencies practicing manual process, the data might not reliable and not even be up-to-date and timely that were caused inaccuracies in reporting and resulted in duplication and leakages. Thus, the statistics used at national level for planning might not be accurate.

Solution and Key Benefits

 What is the initiative about? (the solution)
eKasih was established in October 2007 as a new initiative to improve the effectiveness of poverty eradication implementation programmes. It is a centralized National Poverty Data Bank which keeps information related to poverty such as detail profile of the poor and hardcore poor, aids’ received from various government agencies, economic programmes/projects etc. The main objective of eKasih is to avoid duplication of aids/programmes given and leakages to the poor and hardcore poor by establishing a central data bank which can be accessed and used by all agencies and other related parties involved in poverty eradication programmes at federal and state levels. Thus, all agencies are accessed and referred to the same repository.

eKasih keeps detail profiling of the poor and hardcore poor as a base for national poverty programmes planning and aid distribution. Information captured is detail of programme/project information, head of household (HOH) profile, member of household (MOH) profile including details of location, residence, education levels, skills and job, property ownership, health condition, sources of household income and aids received. As of November 2011, there are more than 350,000 head of household and more than 1.2 million member of household registered and verified in eKasih.

The system has four main components, i.e. poverty profile (individual, aids, programmes/projects), Executive Information System (dashboard, GIS, dynamic reporting) and Knowledge Based (best practices, e-library). Executive Information System (EIS) provides facility for management to monitor and track the latest status of poverty in the form of dashboard and GIS for better presentation.

eKasih is an online web based application system operating on Microsoft platform. The application is running on Windows Server 2003 using Microsoft Internet Information Services (IIS) 2.0 Web Server. It used Microsoft ASP.NET 2005 as the web development tools and is written using C Sharp (C#). For the content management tools, it used Microsoft SharePoint Server 2007. The web application is connected to Microsoft SQL Server 2005 database engine.

Report generated by the application is pre-designed using Microsoft Reporting Services. For the Executive Information System (EIS) and data analysis, eKasih uses another supporting tool, Speedminer Business Intelligence to generate an ad-hoc analysis and dynamic reporting for the top management in the form of dashboard, performance tracking, trajectory and poverty mapping. ETL Server is used to load the data from eKasih database to Business Intelligence Server (EIS module).

The system was completed and implemented nationwide starting from July 2008. Every agency responsible for poverty is granted online access to the same source of data according to their group of responsibilities. As a result, agencies are able to provide suitable programmes for the poor and hardcore poor based on information stored in eKasih. Poverty status and poverty mapping can be accessed by all registered users. Coordination and monitoring of the poor and hardcore poor can easily be done through eKasih as the entire poverty list is already captured.

eKasih has also enhanced its reporting module to a mobile application called ICU Mobile Executive Report (iMEX) which enables Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, Cabinet Ministers and Chief Secretaries of the related ministries to access eKasih reports through iPad, iPhone, Blackberry and Androids. The application was launched on September 2011. The technology makes the monitoring and planning at the fingertips at a very quick, concise, and intuitive way.

Actors and Stakeholders

 Who proposed the solution, who implemented it and who were the stakeholders?
On 31st October 2007, at Cabinet of Malaysia Meeting had decided to appoint Implementation Coordination Unit, Prime Minister’s Department (ICU JPM) as the main coordinator in eradicating poverty. The decision to establish a National Databank of Poverty was also made during the Chief Minister Meeting dated 1st November 2007. In line with that, ICU formed a project team to develop the National Databank of Poverty also known as eKasih.

The concept of ekasih was originated during the workshop conducted to discuss strategy for poverty eradication programmes in July 2007 after ICU was appointed as coordination agency. During the workshop, it was agreed that a national databank must be established to overcome the issue of duplication of aids given to the poor and to encourage data sharing among government agencies. The activities include user requirements, study, develop form for poverty census, system design, developed prototype system, actual system and data entry system to capture poverty census data.
eKasih was developed from scratch using new platform and programming language. The project team attended technical training to learn about the product before the actual development started. To get real benefit of the technical training, eKasih was used as the case study during the training. The team has good knowledge, expertise and experience of the products used and able to support the current system and enhancements required.

There are 2 divisions in ICU JPM involved in eKasih implementation. The application development is done by National Databank and Innovation Centre (NADI) while managing business of alleviating poverty through planning, coordination and monitoring for poverty eradication programmes is done by People Welfare Division (BSR).

There are 6 main ministries involved in programmes/projects delivery and distribution. There are Ministry of Education (MOE), Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development (KPWKM), Ministry of Agriculture and Agro-Based Industry (MOA), Ministry of Rural and Regional Development (KKLW), Ministry of Federal Territories and Urban Welbeing (KWPKB) and Ministry of Human Resource (MOHR).
The stakeholders of eKasih are Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, Cabinet Ministers of Malaysia and Chief Secretary to the Government of the ministry involved in giving assistance. Sharing and easily accessible information and knowledge especially in IT related experiences had facilitated government agencies to delivery mechanism and speedy decision making.

(a) Strategies

 Describe how and when the initiative was implemented by answering these questions
 a.      What were the strategies used to implement the initiative? In no more than 500 words, provide a summary of the main objectives and strategies of the initiative, how they were established and by whom.
Emphasis will be on addressing persistent socio-economic inequalities, creating a bigger middle income group and reducing income disparities among ethnic groups between rural and urban areas. With eKasih, impact of the program can be easily measured and duplication of programmes/projects to the same target can be avoided.

The concept of eKasih is well accepted by all ministries/agencies and cabinet ministers as one of the innovative solution to improve efficiency in aids and programmes/projects distribution to the poor/hardcore poor. Report on poverty status is presented at various high profiles meeting including National Action Committee chaired by the Prime Minister.

The statistic indicates that the implementation of eKasih has significant reduction on the poverty rate. Since it was rollout in July 2008, monthly tracking report from eKasih shows a significant reduction of the poor and hardcore poor in the system as a result of aids and suitable programme/project given to the right target. As of November 2011, about 70,000 of the poor and hardcore poor were out from poverty and the number will tremendously increase by end of this year.

eKasih act as focal points for knowledge sharing and benefits of eKasih are a mixture of G2G, G2C and G2B. In case of G2G, eKasih not only provides benefits to ICU JPM, it also helps other agencies to alleviate issues of data integrity and monitor the impact of the programmes. For G2C, there is no doubt that eKasih is directly benefits the community especially the under privilege groups where need analysis are easily done. For private sectors and companies, they are encouraged to partner with Government agencies to implement economic projects which directly involve or benefit the participant. They are also encouraged to use the registered eKasih participants and priorities for any project under company social responsibility (CSR) or giving special incentives for children in education and health. Referring and using data from eKasih, making delivery more targets specific.

In August 2010, eKasih was selected as a winner for MSC Malaysia APICTA Award under Best of e-Inclusion & e-Community categories. This Award is presented to the most innovative nomination for developing ICT solutions in Malaysia that support communities and bridge the digital divide. Then, on October 2010, eKasih has been selected as a winner for International APICTA Award under Best of e-Government categories defeating 17 nations across the Asia-Pacific region. There are a total of 29 Malaysian finalists for the awards, consisting of 24 companies, 3 universities and 2 schools and 4 Malaysian entries had won including eKasih. eKasih was even recognised by Futuregov as it was shortlisted for the best electronic government application category in October 2009.

(b) Implementation

 b.      What were the key development and implementation steps and the chronology? No more than 500 words
eKasih is a fast-track project and was developed using prototyping approach. This has proven very fast especially to get the user requirement’s confirmation. Prototyping also facilitates the system implementation since the users will know what to expect. A working and acceptable prototype of eKasih was developed first from which the complete system will be built.

User requirement workshop was conducted to get the user needs and feedbacks. This workshop was attended by key users from all the main ministries and agencies involved in poverty eradication programmes. From the workshop, the system requirements were finalised and properly documented. Business Process Reengineering (BPR) was also conducted to study the workflow and the process of aid distribution at ministries and agencies before the system is developed.

The development of eKasih started in January 2008 using internal resources which comprises of six personnel. Poverty census by Department of Statistics (DOS) was conducted concurrently with the application development. This strategy was opted in order to make sure both the application and the poverty profiles are ready at the same time.

A series of road shows were then conducted collaboratively between the system owner, People Welfare Division (BSR) and the application developers. These road shows were targeted to potential eKasih users at federal and state levels, with the aim to explain the basic concept of eKasih. The road shows proved beneficial not only in getting the users to understand what eKasih is all about, but also gathering useful comments and feedbacks that can be considered to be implemented in eKasih.

The development of eKasih was completed in May 2008. eKasih was rollout initially only to State Development Office (SDO) of ICU JPM in June 2008. eKasih was then further enhanced and improved based on the feedback gathered from the users during this first implementation phase. As the system was developed in-house, it can easily be modified and enhanced without incurring any additional cost. Finally, eKasih was released to the ministries and agencies both at the federal and state level in July 2008.

Over the years, eKasih continuously undergoes several modifications in order to meet the new user requirements and changes in the nation development policy.

(c) Overcoming Obstacles

 c.      What were the main obstacles encountered? How were they overcome? No more than 500 words
Through the implementation of eKasih, there are some of the major obstacles discovered. The first obstacle is dealing with large volume of data collection particularly in Raising Living Standard of Low Income Household (LIH). This is one of the Malaysia’s National Key Result Area (NKRA) announced by the government in 2010. This group which household income is less than RM2,300.00 per month and the group made up about 40% of total Malaysia’s population. The biggest challenge, though, is allowing for components to be upgraded, application system enhancement while continuing to process data on daily basis. Fortunately, eKasih was designed using three-tier architecture which is flexible and robust. It can easily be expanded to accommodate large volume of data and increase in number of users with minimal changes to the system. Information captured can also be expanded to cover wider range of information related to LIH such as criteria and measurement for LIH.

The second obstacle is frequent change in policy and procedure in the implementation process flow. Changes in development policy will normally have a direct impact on eKasih in terms of the processes as well as the application system itself. Thus, eKasih need to be dynamic and constantly realign its strategies and directions. As the number and diversity of programmes/projects increases, the techniques of monitoring of aid distribution also need to be improved in order to address new challenges and demands. In order to accommodate these demands, some policies or procedures may also need to be changed. Reflecting these considerations, a permanent team has been set up at ICU JPM, to operate, maintain and study the impact of any policy changes to eKasih.

The third obstacle is network infrastructure readiness. The availability of a reliable and high performance communication network throughout Malaysia is very critical to the success of eKasih implementation. This is especially in the rural and remote areas where the accessibility and connectivity of the network is unstable and unreliable due to geographical limitation. The Government has recently approved the implementation of the National Broadband Project that focuses on upgrading the network infrastructure and bandwidth nationwide. This project is crucial to the success of IT industry. While waiting for the National Broadband project to take off, ICU JPM has also initiated its own network upgrading exercise in collaboration with Malaysian Administrative Modernisation and Management Planning Unit (MAMPU). Network bandwidth for eKasih sites across the nation has been upgraded from 64 kbps to a minimum of 256 kbps.

The last obstacles discovered is high turn-over rate among officers involved in eKasih implementation. Among the main reasons were promotion, relocation and retirement. Some ministries and agencies have back-up officers to take over or carry out duties in the event if the responsible officer is unavailable. Continuous change management and training programmes need also to be carried out to ensure continuity. Another approach adopted is the ‘Training for Trainer’ concept. By doing so, the trainers can act as first level support within the ministries or agencies.

(d) Use of Resources

 d.      What resources were used for the initiative and what were its key benefits? In no more than 500 words, specify what were the financial, technical and human resources’ costs associated with this initiative. Describe how resources were mobilized
eKasih was developed in-house using internal resources and without system development cost. The time taken to develop was five months. The team comprises of six people which include one project manager and five system developers. The cost for development is only for the infrastructure such as Web Front End Server, Application Server, Database Server, software license, storage, communication peripherals and maintenance which cost about RM7.0 Million. The server is located at ICU and accessed by 3,900 users from 264 agencies throughout the country. ICU Team lead the development work with the engagement from Microsoft Consultant Services (MCS) as the Technical Advisor.

Data collection was conducted by Department of Statistics (DOS) in the initial stage. DOS was engaged since they are a premier government entrusted with the responsibility to collect, interpret and disseminate latest and real time statistics in the monitoring of national economic performance and social development. A total of RM6.0 Million was allocated for the first three years of data collection to DOS to conduct poverty census across the region. There are 332 of part-time enumerators among local citizens were hired and trained by DOS and deployed nationwide.

There is also a Project Manager in each district of the 14 states appointed among the poor and hardcore poor who is responsible to help in the implementation process, user training, resolve issues and act as a single point of contact for eKasih.

An ongoing updating is done by Statistician attached at State Development Office (SDO). They are responsible for verification of poor and hardcore poor profile.

Sustainability and Transferability

  Is the initiative sustainable and transferable?
It is our vision to make ekasih as the pinnacle reference for poverty in Malaysia. Social Safety Net is another potential direction where eKasih participants would be given a Smart Card with special privileges including discounts for basic needs such rice, sugar, flour, cooking oil etc. They are also eligible for special discounts for basic infrastructure such as housing rentals and purchasing, electricity, water, public transportation etc. Their children will get special assistant for education including uniforms, transport and tuition.

Being an internal development application system, the maintenance of eKasih is also done in-house. Data-entries are on-going process and actively used by agencies and ministries. Having a feature of an online open registration and verification, eKasih maintains its sustainability not only to public but also stakeholders as the reports are given to Prime Minister every fourth nightly. In fact, the same module will be replicated and expanded to cover Low Income Households (LIH) which household income is less than RM2,300.00 per month under the Greater eKasih initiatives.

Having proven its benefits, eKasih can also be replicated to other country which has the similar government structure as Malaysia with some customisations. This is really a Malaysia product which can be marketed to outside world. Comprehensive development of eKasih system has led to a new perspective in the development of other systems in this country. The idea of using a centralised and uniform data for the same purpose by the various parties had addressed to an effective development process.

Lessons Learned

 What are the impact of your initiative and the lessons learned?
Among the lessons learned are top management support and user commitment. The success of eKasih depends upon the commitment and involvement of a cross-section of individuals throughout the ministries and agencies. Leadership within the project team is also crucial as well as support from the top management to ensure all parties concerned about the initiative.

Another lesson learned is on the involvement of local leaders. At initial stage, local leaders were missed out during the census and realising that their involvement are crucial to ensure data accuracy, the next round of census local leaders are included to strengthen data collection.

Change management process plays an important role in making sure the implementation of a project is successful. In the case of eKasih, the change management process start from the beginning of the project where the awareness briefing was given to all potential users at the federal, state and district level.

Appropriate and continuous training is another essential component which makes the initiative success. Trained users are more likely to play the role than those who do not receive adequate and timely training.. Training is provided on scheduled basis and can also be arranged upon request. Workstation is also provided whereby the users can have walk-in training if required.

Httpwatch is one of the network tools used to capture the HTTP traffic and detect potential problems at users’ place. It will summarize the HTTP activity in user’s browser in a log files. Another tools used is called PingPlotter which helps to pinpoint where the network and internet connection problems in an intuitive graphical way, and continue monitoring the connection in long-term to further identify an issues. A series of tour is carried out to all SDO, ministries and agencies’ office once a year and supported by our Infrastructure Unit in NADI. An analytical report is then presented to the team and possible actions will be taken to fix the issues to ensure reliability and availability of the system infrastructure.

The success of eKasih was contributed by the function and its role as a national poverty database that includes complete profile information of the target group. Through the monitoring and tracking modules, it helps aid agencies and departments to coordinate and implement an effective implementation strategy. The use of complete data in eKasih has assisted in determining the Government policies in the implementation of poverty eradication programmes.
Good cooperation and active participation of all parties at the federal and state levels has helped eKasih to achieve the objectives outlined. Support from the Government also contributed to the implementation of poverty eradication programmes and the welfare of the people which is more structured and focused. Utilization of complete information in eKasih by all the agencies involved in poverty eradication already has been adopted. Cooperation and support from local leaders to accept eKasih as a strong focal point in monitoring, evaluating and performance of poverty reduction in their respective areas has also been shown effective.

Contact Information

Institution Name:   Implementation Coordination Unit, Prime Minister’s Department
Institution Type:   Government Agency  
Contact Person:   Nordin Normi
Title:   Mdm  
Telephone/ Fax:   +603-88723801603-88883685
Institution's / Project's Website:   www.ekasih.gov.my
E-mail:   normi@icu.gov.my  
Address:   People Welfare Division, Implementation Coordination Unit, Prime Minister's Department, 1st Floor, West Block, Bangunan Perdana Putra
Postal Code:   62502
City:   Putrajaya
State/Province:   Federal Territory Putrajaya
Country:   Malaysia

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