Written by Lynette Chang | Edited by OCF Lab

Following the release of previous article in Taiwan, this one will have a look at the non-mandatory digital ID in Japan, and mandatory myKad in Malaysia.

※ About the description of MyKad and driver’s license, the content had been corrected on January 12, 2021.

Non-mandatory Digital ID Cards: My Number Card in Japan

All residents in Japan including foreign nationals are issued a unique 12-digit Social Security and Tax Number affectionately known as ‘My Number’. Residents may request for a physical My Number Card to access various online administrative services, such as Japan’s online tax portal e-Tax. The card contains photo identification and an IC chip for online identification.

A sample of the front and back of the My Number Card /Courtesy of The Japan Agency for Local Authority Information Systems. 

An estimated 25 million My Number cards have been issued since its introduction in January 2016, accounting for about 20 percent of Japan’s population1. The Japanese government aims to improve this statistic by setting up a Digital Agency in 2021 and by expanding the areas in which the My Number Card may be used. By March 2021, users will be able to add their healthcare insurance information to their My Number Card. Driver’s license information is also projected to be incorporated into the My Number Card in the near future. 

Mandatory Digital ID Cards: MyKad in Malaysia

The MyKad is a multifunctional national registration identity card issued to all  Malaysian citizens aged 12 and above. It contains photo identification as well as an IC chip, which stores information such as the bearer’s name, address, religion (for Muslims subjected to the Islamic law) and fingerprint minutiae, hence functioning as a form of digital identification when users access services like the Inland Revenue Board, Malaysia’s online tax portal. 

MyKad / Courtesy of MyGovernment (Malaysia)

In addition to being an identification card, MyKad also functions as a driver’s license.
After MyKad was officially launched, although the original separated driver’s license remains usable, the driver’s license is also integrated into its chip. Until September 2018, The Road Transport Department Malaysia issued an executive order to fit the requirement of international driver’s license . The order prohibits the “mandatory” import of the driver’s license data into MyKad.
In terms of domestic travel in Malaysia, MyKad can be added value to pay the toll fee. Also, MyKad can replace the passport and be the identification document when taking domestic flight.
Users may also opt to store basic health information like blood type and chronic disease history in the MyKad chip, to assist doctors and paramedics rendering aid during emergencies.

Since introducing MyKad in 2001, Malaysia has revved up its engine in digitally transforming the country with a new National Digital Identity Initiative (NDI), which aims to roll out a biometric digital identification that can be used to update documents, set up bank accounts, and even enroll children in schools, all with the use of a smart device.

Malaysia’s National Digital ID Study Task Force organized a study from November 2019 to July 2020, to gauge public opinion through a survey posted on the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission’s website2

Data security remains a real concern for some Malaysians, however, as the Personal Data Protection Act 2010 (PDPA)  is seemingly inadequate in providing well-rounded data security. While the PDPA is able to regulate the use of personal data in the private sector, it cannot be enforced in the public sector. In other words, the use of personal data by the Malaysian government or by government organizations is not regulated by the PDPA, which might pose a data security risk. 

Lawyer Louis Liaw from the Rosli Dahlan Saravana Partnership agrees that the National Digital Identity Initiative will bring more convenience to the lives of Malaysians, especially since internet and smartphone penetration rates in Malaysia are already rather high. However, he also believes that there should be legislation in place to regulate and legalize the National Digital Identity framework, so as to strengthen the people’s confidence in the government’s ability to protect their personal data. “Something is needed to regulate the government,” the lawyer quipped while maintaining a positive outlook on the benefits the National Digital Identity Initiative would bring to Malaysia.


  1. TSUKIMORI, OSAMU. “Japan Looks to My Number Cards to Unlock Country’s Digital Transformation.” The Japan Times, 30 Sept. 2020, http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2020/09/30/national/japan-number-card-digital-transformation/
  2. “Press Release: A Safe, Secure And Protected National Digital ID Framework For Malaysia Is Underway: Malaysian Communications And Multimedia Commission (MCMC).” Malaysian Communications And Multimedia Commission (MCMC) | Suruhanjaya Komunikasi Dan Multimedia Malaysia (SKMM), 6 Jan. 2020, http://www.mcmc.gov.my/en/media/press-releases/press-release-a-safe-secure-and-protected-national


The article is licensed by CC BY-SA 4.0. 




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