ICT volunteers programme works on building IT-savvy communities in cross-cultural exchange
By Danielle Sendou Ringgit
When Kim Hyungyum and his teammates arrived in Sarawak a little more than a month ago, he found the experience challenging at first, but soon enough the ICT volunteers grew comfortable adjusting to their placement in Kampong Pinang, Kota Samarahan.
This was the second time that Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) hosted the International Internet Volunteer (IIV) programme, where one of the three IIV teams were placed at the 1Malaysia Internet Centres (Pi1M) in Kampong Pinang for the Malaysia ICT Volunteer (MIV) with IIV programme.
Here from July 11th till August 18th under the MIV with IIV programme, the Korean volunteers worked closely with Sarawak’s MIV volunteers on promoting cross-cultural exchange and improve the volunteers’ experience carrying out ICT-related activities.
Initiated by International Telecommunication Union (ITU) with National Information Society Agency (NIA), in partnership with multiple stakeholders like government and non-governmental organisations (NGOs), the IIV programme aims to promote the use of ICT for sustainable development.
These include promoting the development of ICT applications, services and contents and providing volunteering opportunities to gain and share knowledge and experience with various people.
As one of the five MIV volunteers, 29-year-old Yumizal Juan from Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas) acted as translator for the IIV volunteers as they taught MIV and the youths at Kampong Pinang some basic programming, advanced photo editing and internet usage.
“Among the things that we learnt from IIV was how to use Pixlr, a user friendly online software which can be used by anyone – especially entrepreneurs to edit photos so that they can promote their business,” he said, explaining that Pixlr was a cloud-based set of tools and utilities for photo editing and can be used for the non-professionals.
From there, Yumizal hoped to pass what he learnt to the local community especially those with their own businesses so that they could use the new ICT skill in promoting their products.
The MIV with IIV programme also gave Yumizal and his fellow MIV mates some eye-openers about the e-culture or digital culture from Korea.
“From what I learnt from them, they said that the Koreans are more faster and competitive as opposed to us here who are more relaxed,” he said.
Minimizing the digital gaps takes one step a time
According to MCMC senior director of advocacy and outreach division Eneng Faridah Iskandar, with the Pi1M, they hoped to lessen the digital gap between the community and technology.
“We do not want it to be an infrastructure that is not utilised and so we want the community to fully benefit from the internet centre and the volunteers can contribute in order for us to achieve a smart digital nation,” she said.
“Regarding ICT enhancement and internet usage, we do not want it to just urban centered, but we want it to be within the whole nation to be connected digitally and embrace digital lifestyle,” she added.
As the manager of Kampong Pinang Pi1M for two years now, Norpatimah Matden has been teaching a handful of local entrepreneurs from the kampong on how to use social media to promote and market their product or service so that they can reach to more customers.
With a population of 1, 989 people and 221 houses in Kampong Pinang, Norpatimah noted that most of the local entrepreneurs there were more into catering and food businesses such as kek lapis, kerepek and baked goods.
“Among the things that I showed them was how to open an email and Facebook account to promote their business, utilise Adobe Photoshop and basic photo and video editing so that they could make their products more attractive to customers and also make their own business cards,” she said.
As of now, she said that among all the entrepreneurs she taught, about six are actively using social media to promote their businesses.
According to the Penghulu of Kampong Pinang, Semawi Sulong, with Pi1M, the center has been especially beneficial to the local community regardless of their age.
He noted that aside from encouraging the community to use technology in a positive way so that they can be more IT savvy, local entrepreneurs are also benefiting by promoting their businesses.
“As for the youths, as they are exposed at an early age, they would not feel awkward or intimidated in using technology to help them in their school work, as the internet centre is complete with computer, internet, printer and laminate machine and more,” he said.
“The IIV programme encourages the local community to be exposed to other culture especially the Korean culture. To those who attended the class at Pi1M by the IIV and MIV programme, it also encourages the community to converse in English aside from being exposed to the technology used in Korea as well as promoting Sarawak and Malaysian culture to them,” he added.
With volunteerism, entrepreneurship, community development and ICT development taken into consideration, the MIV and IIV programme is a catalyst in building a smart digital nation by minimizing digital gap between technology and people one step at a time.
Having spent about six weeks with the locals, Kim said aside from organising classes, they also got to meet a lot of people whom he described as friendly, helpful and considerate.
“We had classes for ICT and culture, but unfortunately we could not spend as much time as we liked with the students since they have school,” said Kim about the programme which also included culture classes which exposed their Sarawakian participants to facets of Korean culture such as language, traditional games, traditional calligraphy, traditional mask making and cooking classes.
While the children showed more interest in learning ICT, Kim reasoned that with most houses not equipped with computers, the adult community was more interested in utilising their smartphones instead of learning about ICT on desktops.
“The kids are interested, in my opinion but if we let the community as a whole be exposed and experience ICT usage, maybe this can spark their interest,” said Min Jiwon.
Together, the MIV and IIV programme organised and held a mini carnival ‘Annyong Haseyo Day’ to highlight what the community had learnt from the IIV volunteers as well as to show their appreciation to the local community for their hospitality.
Volunteerism among the youths
“I hope that a programme like this can give a motivation to the youths to be volunteers and help their own community use ICT in a positive way that can help in community development,” said Eneng, hoping that one day Malaysia would be able to send its own volunteers to other countries as educators as well.
Also present during the mini carnival day was Assistant Minister for Public Utilities (Electricity and Telecommunications) Dr Abdul Rahman Junaidi.
“Through this carnival, I can see that it highlighted two aspects; the spirit of volunteerism among the youths and the ICT aspect where it should be stressed more among the youths on how to use it in a positive and smart way,” said Dr Abdul Rahman.
“So far, it has been a very good achievement by MCMC and I hope we can diversify and expand more activities like this in the future,” he said.
He said that for Sarawak, the programme can be enhanced and expanded, and through collaboration with the ministry, it can be held in more venues for other youths as well.
“We are in Kota Samarahan now, but I think in the future we can do it in three different sub-regions; southern, central and northern region,” he said.
“I am hoping to expand this volunteering programme, but we need to look into several aspect because it needs commitment from the volunteers themselves as well as from the community themselves,” said Eneng.
“And that is why I feel that our choice at Kampong Pinang for the MIV with IIV programme is the right one,” she said.