Kota Samarahan, 8 June 2018: The MOU signing between Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (UNIMAS) and Vrije Universiteit (VU) of Amsterdam is to consolidate the new collaboration between the two universities which started in 2017. Representing UNIMAS, was the Vice Chancellor YBhg Professor Datuk Dr Mohamad Kadim Suaidi while VU was represented by Prof. Hans Akkermans, who is representing the rector Prof. Vinod Subramaniam. Prof. Hans Akkermans is also chairing the VU team in this course.
In 2017, University Malaysia Sarawak and Vrije Universiteit (VU) of Amsterdam started a collaboration project in the field of ICT4D research and education. At VU, researchers from the Network Institute, in the research program W4RA, have developed methods to build information systems in low-resource, low-tech environments, based on collaboration, iteration, adaptation. This methodology has been rolled out and validated in West Africa, since 2009. With this collaboration, this methodology can now be used and tested under different rural conditions, as encountered in rural or sub-urban communities (kampung) in Sarawak, Malaysia.
One of the joint collaboration programs between Faculty of Computer Science and Information Technology, UNIMAS and Informatics Department of Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam is Community Service Learning Program called, “ICT4D in the Field”. It provides a platform for students to apply their knowledge and skills in technology to a local community through field-based approach. The programme will be taught and supervised by academic staff from both universities. It consists of 2 to 3 weeks of field work with local community in Kota Samarahan and Sandor Hilir, related to ICT development projects of special use cases, and aiming for real world implementation, roll out and testing. 11 Master students and 5 lecturers from VU Amsterdam will be participating in this year program starting from 6th June 2018 to 2nd July 2018. It is expected that the program will be an annual event since VU Amsterdam manage to secure funding through the Erasmus program which is a program to enable student exchange program for EU countries. This program is also in line with the aspiration of the state government whom has embarked on the Digital Economy transformation for the state since 2017. It is hoped that the collaboration between UNIMAS and VU Amsterdam will provide a platform for both parties to apply technology that will benefit the community especially in the underprivileged and rural areas.
At UNIMAS, the Institute of Social Informatics and Technological Innovations (ISITI), formerly known as the Centre of Excellence for Rural Informatics (CoERI) was established in April 2011 in Kota Samarahan. The Centre was established given the success of a flagship bridging the digital divide pilot project, eBario. A key focus of ISITI is to bridge the technology-people’s gap; in particular, encompassing technological innovations for indigenous communities.