Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) have become an integral part of our lives, yet there are many rural communities who have yet to benefit from having access to technology at the tips of their fingers. Efforts have been made to reduce the digital gap faced by these communities, and one such notable initiative that has been undertaken by the Institute of Social Informatics and Technological Innovations (ISITI) is the “Telecentre Programme for Orang Asli (TPOA) West Malaysia”.
After a successful implementation of the eBario project and its replication to four other sites, Larapan and Buayan in Sabah as well as Long Lamai and Ba’Kelalan in Sarawak, ISITI, was once again tasked with the expansion of the telecentre model to four Orang Asli sites in West Malaysia through the TPOA project. Four selected Semai and Temiar Orang Asli settlements were identified to be part of the project, namely in Pos Sinderut and Pos Lenjang in Kuala Lipis, Pahang and Pos Gob and Pos Balar in Gua Musang, Kelantan.
The TPOA project is a community-university based initiative spearheaded by UNIMAS in partnership with Jabatan Kemajuan Orang Asli (JAKOA), Economic Planning Unit (EPU) and Ministy of Rural and Regional Development (KKLW). This programme aims at developing community telecentres as a platform to leverage on the usage of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) for socioeconomic development of the local community, building capacities, identifying programmatic gaps, and impacting social policy.
The team of researchers from UNIMAS, led by Associate Professor Dr. Poline Bala, has been working together with the community on this important and timely transformation-driven project over the past seven years. The project, which started with a needs analysis of the communities at the chosen sites in 2011, has now seen the completion of the infrastructure delivery phase which is built on ISITI’s homegrown optimised telecentre model. The telecentres at all four sites will now play the role as knowledge centres, which is crucial towards the continued sustainability of these telecentres within the communities.
With the availability of the infrastructure and facilities at these sites, the programme teams then worked closely with the community to six programmes, namely health, training, education, agribusiness, tourism and indigenous knowledge, which were specifically designed to meet with the needs of the communities. This handover ceremony marks the successful completion of this phase, and local community champions will now take over the roles of empowering their respective communities towards leveraging on technology to bring about a meaningful impact in their lives.
The handover ceremony will see the attendance of YBhg Professor Datuk Dr. Mohamad Kadim bin Suaidi, the Vice Chancellor of Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (UNIMAS), the Director General of JAKOA, YBHG. Dato Ajis Bin Sitin, the Director of JAKOA, Pahang, En. Johari Bin Alwi, JAKOA IT Offcer, En. Abdul Muhaimin Bin Suhaimi, and JAKOA Officer for the Lipis District, En. Azman bin Ngadiron. Representatives from the four sites will also be present thorugh video-conferencing from their respective telecentres.