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Mr Abdul Fattah Yatim, A Man on a Mission For Blockchain in Malaysia

https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/2810/textAt last week’s CyberSecurity Malaysia CSM-ACE event, we were honoured to get some time with one of Malaysia’s chief advocates for Blockchain technology, Mr Abdul Fattah, Chairman, Malaysia’s National Standards Technical Committee on Blockchain and Distributed Ledger Technologies.
 
The event is Malaysia’s most important cybersecurity event of the year and during his moderated session, Mr Abdul Fattah highlighted that although it may be theoretically possible to breach a blockchain, to the best of his knowledge (and we can confirm he does a LOT of research on this subject), there is no recorded instance of a blockchain being breached.
 
While security is an essential aspect of blockchain, not least because the technology itself is possibly the strongest technology ever developed for guaranteeing data integrity, Mr Abdul Fattah is of the opinion that it has a higher calling than security alone.
 
He is passionate about his country, and he is passionate that the government and businesses in Malaysia need to embrace blockchain quickly or risk being left out on the global e-commerce stage.
 
According to Mr Abdul Fattah, "blockchain is not just another technology”. He believes it to be a foundational technology that will change how trade and commerce are shaped. This is not based on a hunch; Mr Abdul Fattah has been studying how the developed nations are investing in blockchain and sees that as a big wake up call to Malaysia’s leaders.
 
Citing a United Nations’ G20 Insights publication, he points out how leading developed nations have singled out the technology for special focus – read “The G20 Countries Should Engage with Blockchain technologies to Build an Inclusive, Transparent and Accountable Digital  Economy for  All”. Mr Abdul Fattah’s feeling for urgency is palpable when you speak to him, “If Malaysia doesn’t embrace blockchain at all levels, one fine day we will wake up and find that the world is trading without us. We must be ready.”
 
If that were not enough, Mr Abdul Fattah points to the US government as another example of just how important blockchain technology is. Referencing the USA Defense Authorization Act 2018, Fattah went to pains to highlight a particular section in the act " The briefing under subsection shall include a description of potential offensive and defensive cyber applications of blockchain technology and other distributed database technologies"
 
According to Mr Abdul Fattah, the fact that blockchain is specifically referencing in this act shows it to be a foundational technology for national level cyber defence. This should be enough for our leaders here in Malaysia to sit up and take note. Even more, the reference above highlights that the use of blockchain is not just defensive, it’s for offensive application too. Clearly this technology is significant.
 
Mr Abdul Fattah feels he is waving a big red flag for the country’s leaders. But he is a single voice in a sea of other issues, and getting leaders to really take notice and understand the urgency is proving difficult. His role as chairman of Malaysia’s National Standards Technical Committee on Blockchain does help him get the message across to government, but in his view, he is hampered by a few things.
 
The message is probably not getting through to the highest levels of government. The technology itself is difficult to understand, and it has been closely associated with cryptocurrencies which means that the country’s leaders are not grasping just how important blockchain is going to be for international trade and cyber defence.
 
He recognises that no government anywhere ever moves fast when it comes to technology. Often, standards and laws for new technologies like artificial intelligence and data privacy take so long that the technology has moved on by the time the rules are laid down.
 
For Mr Abdul Fattah, blockchain is different. He feels it could end up being as important as the creation of the internet itself. While he accepts that the wheels of government take time to turn, in the case of blockchain, he is seeing governments across the world, even in Southeast Asia, move faster than Malaysia.
 
Mr Abdul Fattah is a determined man on a mission for his country. His biggest worry is that countries that don’t lead in blockchain won’t be able to lead in international e-commerce. For Yatim, Malaysia will lose control and may have to follow the agenda of other countries that more quickly build better foundations in blockchain.
 
He doesn’t feel it’s too late, but time is running out. Governments need to be educated quickly, and more collaboration with companies building commercial blockchain offerings needs to happen. As chairman of his country’s National Standards Technical Committee on Blockchain and Distributed Ledger Technologies, Fattah is taking ownership for a big task. It really could be in Malaysia’s interests that he is successful.

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