RM4 million to replicate e-Bario: In view of eBario’s success and international acclaim for the innovative application of ICT.
In view of eBario’s success and international acclaim for the innovative application of ICT to sustain social and economic development in rural communities, the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (under the Demonstrators Application Grant Scheme) has recently awarded a RM4 million grant to the UNIMAS eBario team for them to replicate the eBario project in five remote sites in Malaysia.
The sites are one each in Terengganu, Pahang and Sabah, and another two in Sarawak. The grant will allow the rural informatics group to research into the replicability and the upscaling of the project, and identify new models of deploying ICT technology to other remote communities throughout Malaysia. The project is headed by Prof Dr Khairuddin Abd Hamid .
Background on the e-Bario Project
The eBario is a pilot research project involving the innovative application of ICTs (Information and Communication Technologies) with the goal of continually sustaining social and economic programs in a rural community in Sarawak which does not have the basic amenities such as electricity, water and telecommunications. One of the innovation and key lessons learnt is that there is a need to focus on people and not just on technology. The project employed a participatory approach whereby the community members were involved in all phases of the project, from planning, implementation, to operation and maintenance of the project. This project has realised a computer laboratory and a community telecentre, both of which are heavily utilised by the students and community. The computer laboratory at the school is equipped with computers as well as Internet access and is used by the students and staff. The telecentre on the other hand provides education, e-government services, e-commerce, health, tele-medicine and personal communication. Computers at the school are powered by diesel generators, while computers at the telecentre are using an innovative hybrid system of solar panel and diesel generator. This Internet access is provided through the use of solar-powered VSAT (very small aperture terminal), a satellite telecommunication system, probably the pioneer application of this technology in the rural area in Malaysia.
Among the important findings of the research include the fact that the success of the eBario project has been largely due to the active participation of the Bario community. The eBario project has demonstrated a people-centred approach in providing ICTs to an isolated rural community in Malaysia. By engaging the community prior, during and after the deployment of ICTs, Bario now has access to telephone and the Internet, and is applying ICTs to enhance its livelihood.