Yes, I believe in technology
By Danielle Ringgit @danitbpseeds
COULD YOU IMAGINE life without electricity and having to do your homework in the dark at night? How about life without smartphones, laptops, and all those fancy gadgets that we can hardly live without now?
Most of us would probably be freaked out just because we are so used to having technology present in our daily lives even to just carry out a minor and simple routine.
In extreme cases, some cannot go through the day without checking their Facebook page at least 40 times while others can’t resist checking their handphones constantly because they imagine that it’s vibrating when it’s not. And then there are those types of people who would not even walk to a nearby shop only 5 minutes’ walk away but insist on using their cars.
However, there are valid reasons why we depend on technologies: Routine work can be done at a much faster pace and most news travel faster through the internet before it becomes part of the 6 o’clock news.
One of the most successful stories to emerge from the positive use of technology is the eBario Innovation Village.
Bario, better known as the ‘Land of a Thousand Hand-Shakes’ is the homeland to the Kelabit ethnic minority. Located in the located in the centre of the Kelabit Highlands in the northeast of Sarawak, in close proximity to the international border with the IndonesianKalimantan, it would require a 15-hour drive on a logging road or a one-hour twin otter flight.
This part of Sarawak used to be isolated from technology, making was impossible for the inhabitants of this scenic but hard-to-reach place reach out to the rest of the world. Communication was limited to short wave radio and communication via phone and the Internet were unheard of. Through the eBario project, Bario finally got connected to the rest of Sarawak and has showed tremendous positive development.
It all began in 1998, when eBario started off as a research project undertaken by the Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas) with the support of the International Development Research Centre of Canada and the government of Malaysia.
The general idea of the eBario project was to bring in Internet-access to the remote and isolated community of Kelabit people in Bario.
The project team worked closely with the community leaders, coming up with projects that helped resolve the problems, aspirations and opportunities that the community members themselves voiced out.
The first phase of the project (called baseline studies) included a variety of interviews and surveys that helped the team and the community know each other better because it was important for both parties to be involved during the course of the project.
The second phase (called the implementation phase) moved on to transportation of equipment, power supply, dealing with language, accommodation for people and equipment, and familiarisation of the beneficiaries.
Provided a generous grant from the International Development Research Council (IDRC) of the Canadian government and Demonstrator Application Scheme of the Malaysian Government administered by MIMOS, the project managed to establish a telecentre to provide the community computers with access to the Internet.
Aside from that, two computer laboratories were provided for two schools; one at the primary school (SK Bario) and another at the junior secondary school. They also installed an Information technology Literacy Programme (ITLP) for both students and teachers.
Since then, the eBario project has won prestigious awards like e-Bario Innovation Village under the Institute of Social Informatics and Technological Innovations (ISITI), and two awards in the 1st Global Telecentre Awards organised by Telecentre.org Foundation which is why it has become Unimas’ best example of Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI).
On February 19th, this year participants of different backgrounds made up of researchers, scientists, professionals, technologists, innovators, policy makers, industry representatives as well as civil societies attended a workshop organised by the RESPONSIBILITY project team of Unimas to gather constructive feedback between targeted stakeholders of RRI in the region and the RESPONSIBILITY Research team.
According to vice chancellor Prof Dr Mohamad Kadim Suaidi, the RRI project was potentially an important forum in South East Asia, and the theme for the inaugural forum was ‘Responsible Business as an Enabler of an Innovation’.
Unimas vice-chancellor Prof Dr Mohamad Kadim Suaidi pointed out in a press conference that technology should be built with the 3As concept in order for it to be useful to society which are: accessible, affordable and appropriate.
The outcomes of the workshop would help understand concerns and issues concerning the construction of Responsibility Forum and Observatory which will be used to aid stakeholders in creating understanding in RRI between different movers in Europe and around the globe.
Unimas was one of the three institutions from non-EU countries to represent the Asia Pacific region and has been recognised internationally as an institution that encourages research that contributes to the development of the community.