We debunk Malaysians’ fears over PADU, the new central data hub

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If you haven’t heard yet, Malaysia has a new Central Database Hub called PADU, which stands for Pangkalan Data Utama in Malay. It’s been the buzzword of the past week, with many Malaysians either scrambling to register themselves, or voicing their opposition to it online.

As for myself, I wasn’t too concerned about it, not in the beginning at least. We’ve had several new governmental initiatives over the past few years, and most of them haven’t majorly impacted my Gen Z day-to-day life. 

But I’m still chronically online, which means most local trending topics come by my way.

Looking at the debates against it online, I found two recurring reasons on why people don’t agree with it: 

  • They’ve confused PADU with MyDigital ID (another new government initiative), and
  • They’re worried about their personal data getting leaked

So I decided to do a bit of sleuthing to address and debunk these fears. Here what you need to know about PADU in a nutshell.

But first, what exactly is PADU?

PADU is precisely what it sounds like—a database centre that collects information on local citizens. It was developed in seven months through a collaboration between three main authorities, namely the Ministry of Economy, Department of Statistics Malaysia (DOSM), and Malaysian Administrative Modernisation and Management Planning Unit (MAMPU).

According to the government, this new hub will be used to have a more accurate picture of the national household income.

Image Credit: Vulcan Post, information taken from PADU

Hence, the idea for PADU is to give citizens a hand in updating their personal information. By registering yourself on PADU’s site, you can update and confirm 39 personal data, including current address, number of household members, and career details.

Those residing in remote locations without internet access aren’t left out either. It was shared by the DOSM that in-person outreach programmes will be carried out to help with the system’s manual registration.

What does PADU really mean for you?

The Minister of Economy, Rafizi Ramli, explained in a report by The Star that the public is given a three-month period (from January 2 until March 31) to update and verify their information in the database.

You may be wondering what happens after this three-month period, like will you no longer be able to update your information? We don’t know, unfortunately.

Based on PADU’s FAQ page, those eligible can only update their personal data in the system during the period set by the government. Perhaps there might be another window to update your data in the future.

Rafizi Ramli, the Minister of Economy Malaysia / Image Credit: TheEdgeTV

However, all this isn’t compulsory. Rafizi has confirmed previously that no action will be taken if you choose to sit out on this. But by opting out, your eligibility for targeted subsidies will be determined according to the information that is currently available in the government system.

Based on an earlier report by New Straits Times, the data on PADU is taken from about 270 governmental ministries, agencies, and statutory bodies. All are done within existing data-sharing agreements.

Launched by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim last Tuesday (January 2), the goal of PADU is to ensure a more efficient manner of distributing aid, subsidies, and general social protection. This includes the much-anticipated targeted subsidies for petrol.

Image Credit: Anwar Ibrahim

It’s also to see that the right groups get the help they need and to prevent misuse of funds. But aside from that, the government claims it has the potential for:

  • Strengthening disaster and crisis management
  • Guiding education and job mismatch issues
  • Helping in strategic national budget management
  • Becoming a catalyst for Digital Government

All things that seem to be good for the nation and its people as a whole, right?

So why the strong resistance against PADU?

As of last Sunday (January 7), the DOSM reported that nearly 800k Malaysians have registered on PADU. And it’s reported that the local government is targeting 500,000 users to access PADU every day, and for 200,000 users to update their information on a daily basis.

But there is still clear opposition from a sizable group of Malaysians, here’s why: 

1. Confusing PADU with MyDigital ID

One of the reasons is because some people have confused PADU with MyDigital ID, a new National Digital Identity initiative.

Essentially MyDigital ID is an online system which assists in verifying and authenticating your ID in the digital age. This doesn’t mean it replaces your myKad though. Instead, it’s an extension to verify your identity online.

According to Malay Mail, MyDigital ID acts like a single sign-on authentication and works similar to Google’s sign-in, where it supports your credentials. But instead of a Google account, it authenticates your identity while conducting business in both government and private sectors.

Elaborating further on this, the Ministry of Science, Technology, Innovation and Economy (MOSTI) claims that it prevents identity fraud in online transactions.  

Image Credti: MyDigital ID

This is because in the private sector, MyDigital ID could offer a secure electronic Know Your Customer (e-KYC) process, thereby removing the need for physical IC and fingerprint verification. It’s most notably a game changer for digital banks as new customers can create savings accounts with less hassle. 

On the government side, the single unified National Digital ID would remove the need of registering different accounts on online government platforms. So you can access all services with just a single ID.

Therefore, MyDigital and PADU are not the same thing. They serve different purposes and function differently in the system.

2. Is the Central Database Hub really secure?

Last October, The Star shared an alarming CyberSecurity Malaysia report stating that the government sector experienced the greatest number of data breaches (22%) in the first half of 2023. 

Then in December 2023, Cybersecurity company Surfshark ranked Malaysia as the eighth most breached country in Q3 for the year, with 494,699 leaked accounts.

People queuing up to register for PADU with help from DOSM officers / Image Credit: PEDi Felda Jengka 22

Besides that, there was also the recent PADU loophole netizens found last week, where anyone could just use another person’s identification card (IC) number and register them without the actual owner’s knowledge.

Rafizi explained in a report by New Straits Times that this issue was not found during the Security Posture Assessment (SPA). After realising this error, he reassured the public that PADU’s team took immediate to rectify it within the hour.

So you can see why some Malaysians are reluctant to trust that there won’t be another breach of personal data.

Keeping this in mind, Rafizi reassured the people last Friday (January 5) that they are taking steps to prevent this. To reduce the risk of data leakage, PADU will be placed under the purview of civil servants instead of third-party vendors. 

Rafizi explained that in the past, data leakages happened when the government contracted third-party vendors to develop government data applications. 

“The difference is that civil servants will be bound by the Official Secrets Act 1972 (OSA), so if they went against it, they can be charged,” The Star recorded him saying at a press conference. 

Should you or should you not register on PADU?

That is entirely up to you. 

Aman registering himself on PADU / Image Credit: Jabatan Penerangan Negeri Terengganu

But if you look at it from another perspective, the government already possesses a good deal of personal data about you regardless. From your birth and medical records to your employment information, it’s mostly (if not all) already logged into the system.

The only difference with PADU is that you can update the system with the latest information. This way, you can actually gain whichever government subsidies and programmes that you’re qualified for. 

And who knows? If the potential for PADU really lives up to the government’s claims, it might even help in national disasters like the annual flood crisis.

  • Learn more about PADU here.
  • Read other articles we’ve written about Malaysian startups here.

Featured Image Credit: PADU

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