Library in a Box helps connect students with no internet connectivity

By Danielle Sendou Ringgit
@sendouringgit
danielleringgit@theborneopost.com

With internet connectivity being a problem in most rural areas, Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas) and Pustaka Negeri Sarawak (Pustaka) came up with a solution enabling users to access internet information offline!

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MoU signing ceremony at Pustaka Negeri Sarawak between Unimas and Pustaka. From left Abdullah, Bujang, Yap, Bolhassan (second right) and Masli

During an MoU signing ceremony between Unimas and Pustaka on November 4th, Unimas deputy vice chancellor (Research and Innovation) Professor Dr Kopli Bujang announced their joint collaboration in a project called Library in the Box.

“Sarawak being the biggest state in Malaysia still has a lot of rural areas and we want to reach out to the general public by bringing information to areas that do not have internet connection as well as areas with slow  internet connection,” said Kopli.

By using a low cost device called Raspberry Pi – a portable credit-card sized computer that can stores digital content and information – students or users in rural areas who have no access to the internet will be able to get access to material typically found online such as Wikipedia, eBooks and journals stored on the device.

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Unimas Dean of Faculty of Computer Science and IT Dr Johari Abdullah elaborating more on  the Raspberry Pi device during the MoU signing ceremony

According to Unimas Dean of Faculty of Computer Science and IT Dr Johari Abdullah, the project which started about six months ago will make use of Raspberry Pi in schools in rural areas or village libraries.

With digital content consisting of school-related materials and information such as Wikipedia and Khan Academy, Unimas and Pustaka will be collaborating on developing the module and contents of the projects as they are still lacking, especially on local subject matter.

“We will start with 10 pilot projects first, either in rural libraries or Pusat Internet 1 Malaysia (P11M), depending on the area,” said Johari, adding that they hope the pilot projects will have finished their testing and implementing stages by the end of the year.

As of now, Johari said that there are about more than 200 village libraries in the state, in which they hope to implement the project.

“From the 10 pilots, we will determine what are the challenges and so on and after the pilot projects are proven to be successful, then we will move on to more places, depending on the success of the pilot projects,” he said, adding that Teluk Melano was one of those 10 pilot projects.

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Raspberry Pi is a low cost portable credit-card sized computer that can store digital content and information.

“The rest of the areas will be decided by Pustaka in terms of which areas are suitable to have the pilot projects implemented,” he said.

Emphasising on the importance of ICT usage in national and economic development as well as the utilisation of ICT in daily life, Kopli added that ICT affected the role and function of libraries throughout the world and also at Unimas.

“Rather than just being a physical building that stores information contained in books and documents, the roles of libraries also includes information contained in books and documents, the roles of library also includes dissemination of digital resources, virtual learning environment and so on,” he said.

“Thus, this collaboration will provide a platform for both parties to work together on utilizing ICT in various aspects of library operations and its objectives,” he added.

Also present during the MoU signing was member Pustaka board of management member Datuk Alfred Yap who said that as two institutions known for their respective expertise in research and as the reservoir of information, the collaboration between them will be beneficial to the community in Sarawak.

Under the project, Unimas and Pustaka is hoping to get more funding from members of the public or any interested party in hopes to expand the projects to more areas in the future.

Unimas has been actively involved in bridging the digital divide through several initiatives such as the eBario project, eLamai, eBákelalan which are done through research centre ISITI (Institute of Social Innovation and Technological Innovation).

Also present during the signing of the MoU were Pustaka chief executive officer Rashidah Bolhassan, and Head of Sector Library Service Pustaka Negeri Sarawak Japri Bujang Masli.

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