Saturday, September 16, 2006

The 3C Approach in Community Computing

Malaysia's National Information Technology Council (NITC) has formulated the National Information Technology Agenda (NITA) for the nation's development in the use of ICTs. The NITA promotes development based on a traingular approach called the National Information Technology Framework (NITF) as illustrated in the attached diagram. It consists of an interconnected triangle illustrating an integrated development of the 3Cs, i.e. Community, Connectivity and Content. The community or people dimension concerns building capacity through education, skills, creativity and innovation all with the aim to enhance human development. The connectivity or infostructure dimension aims at providing the hard and soft infrastructure needed to create the foundation for an information age society, telecommunications and terminal equipment, and the soft infrastructure of data, laws and regulations. The third element, content and applications consists of local content and and application development referred to as solutions for the information age in work and life in areas of infotainment, edutainment and info-communication. (References: NITA, Malaysia; Study on National Strategic Framework on Bridging the Digital Divide, Malaysia 2006).

In applying ICT4D the abovesaid NITF can be adopted as the 3C Approach in community computing. A holistic and integrated development of the 3Cs leads to development of access and equity, qualitative transformation and values creation, and in all form the basis of developing a Values and Knowledge Based Community.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

e-WargaKota: Sustainable e-Inclusion Initiative for the Urban Poor

Much has been said on ICT4D, e-Inclusion, bridging the digital divide, digital dividend, etc. Reports and literature on these usually discuss "buzz words" like capacity building, indigenous content development, participatory approach, smart partnerships among Government, civil society and private sector, top-down-up approach, sustainability and so on.

One initiative which put these elements into practice is "e-WargaKota" implemented for the urban poor community in Malaysia's capital city of Kuala Lumpur. Following is a brief description of the project.



Principal Promoter: Kuala Lumpur City Hall
Co-Promoter : Bionergy Sdn Bhd
Contact Person : Dr. Shamsul Bahar Abdul-Kadir


  • Kuala Lumpur City Hall
  • Bionergy Sdn. Bhd
  • Ministry of Rural and Regional Development, Malaysia
  • Ministry of Housing and Local Government, Malaysia
  • P.A. Sri Perak Residents’ Association
  • P.R. Jalan Jelatek Residents’ Association
  • UKM Pakarunding Sdn. Bhd., National University of Malaysia

Objective :
The main objective of the project is to improve family income and enhance social interaction among the target community. Family members are able to make use of ICT to improve or complement their day-to-day activities in business and commerce. Social interaction is enhanced with the provision of ICT-based communication environment, which include information on family and community profiles, community teleinfo, advisory and counseling services, community information sharing and multipurpose telecentre.Goals :The goal of the project is to “Bridge the Digital Divide” of the target community by the provision of easy access to ICT, locally based relevant and appropriate content and community development efforts towards bringing the community to mainstream knowledge and value-based society.Profile of target community :The target community is resident families of two public low-cost housing areas in Kuala Lumpur, including the heads of households, other adult family members and their school-going children.


This project specifically addresses income generation and social issues through community development efforts with the provision of innovative and people friendly ICT based environment. This environment enhances social interaction and enables community members easy access to guidance, information on basic business management skills and tools, and readily available resources in entrepreneurship and small business development. The environment also enables relevant government agencies to effectively monitor project’s progress for further development of the participants and community.

This project provides a community networked multipurpose telecentre at the respective housing area, each equipped with 21 personal computers and broadband Internet connectivity. The data center is at main server to be placed at Kuala Lumpur City Hall. Local and indigenous web-based content relevant to the target community are purposely developed with community’s participation from the beginning. An “Event-Based Soft System Methodology” and a “5-Layered Architecture” are used for content and applications technical development.

Community development is emphasized where local language, customs and practices are considered and leveraged upon to effect attitudinal and behavioral changes. An intensive and holistic community development programme including community organization, social mobilisation, training and guidance forms an integral and important part of the project. The respective community is organized and empowered to conduct day-to-day management of the telecentre. Acculturation to effective use of the online applications is ongoing.

Sustainability issues including institutional, social and financial sustainability are addressed and solutions provided are being further developed.


The pilot phase of one year duration beginning June 2003 has been successfully completed. An impact study conducted at the end of pilot phase in May 2004 by an independent team of researchers from National University of Malaysia shows positive and encouraging outcomes.Two telecentres which function as community resource and service centers are now operational. Members of special commitees set-up by the Residents’ Associations are trained and are now able to manage each of the telecenters as business entities providing ICT-based services for the community, and generating revenue for the Residents’ Associations. A total of 31 community trainers have been trained who in turn conduct ICT literacy classes to other community members. Specific ICT applications are developed to cater for various needs of the community. The web portal is and six online applications are e-AhliWargaKota (e-Membership), e-Usahawan (e-Entrepreneur), e-Bantuan (e-Assistance), e-Bimbingan (e-Guidance), e-Jiran (e-Neighbour), and e-UrusPWK (e-WK Centre Management).

There are many lessons learnt from the project which are useful in planning other similar initiatives in Bridging the Digital Divide. The experience and processes are well documented. The impact study and current observations indicate fulfillment of project objectives. Further organizational and processes development, especially in monitoring and governance issues at the local government level are needed.

The community is well motivated and recently is requesting additional online applications and further training to enhance their capabilities.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Agriculture Micro-Enterprise: The TaniNet Experience

Malaysia has long promoted ICT4D in her Bridging the Digital Divide initiatives. Among the earlier initiatives beginning year 1999 are community-specific projects under the Demonstrator Applications Grant Scheme (DAGS).

TaniNet was initiated in September 1999. It started off as an online interactive service through the Internet offering agriculture and biotechnology information and services to the rural farming community in the State of Selangor, Malaysia. To improve farmers’ access to online services, each of the four Area Farmers’ Organisations (AFOs) involved in the project were provided with one PC and Internet access. The officers and AFOs committee members manning the offices were trained to facilitate and assist members and their families in using ICT for their daily activities. The software engine structure consists of a web portal equipped with a typical set of website facilities and online applications. Community-based activities include field and online surveys, stakeholders’ workshops, capacity building and other community events.

At the project beginning surveys were done to ascertain how community members fulfill their daily information needs. Popular periodicals and newspapers in the local language and style were high in the list. The TaniNet website was thus designed accordingly with feature articles and news articles posted periodically in popular style magazine format. Other appropriate online application modules were also developed.

For the farming business needs, a simple e-commerce engine was deployed for demonstration and trials. This was followed by field visits and workshops with the farmers’ organizations. It was observed the unique socio-political and organizational set-up, trade practices and culture among the farmers, farm units, farmers’ organizations, the Farmers’ Organisation Authority and other associated business units provide a good opportunity to fulfill the socio-economic objectives of the farmers and Government by incorporating ICTs for development. Use of ICTs can be integrated into existing business processes in a continuous an incremental manner. The right approach and methodology is crucial to ensure minimal disruption to existing practices so as to ably manage intermediation and change in long established legacy systems in the agriculture industry in Malaysia.

It is learnt that solutions are also specific to business processes. Examples of business processes among the small farmers are issuance of farm subsidies, micro-credit management, business flow from production to market of specific farm produce such as palm oil, padi, chicken meat, fresh vegetables, etc. Certain activities are also locality specific due to local socio-political and economic conditions.

The TaniNet project concept and design is in line with many successful e-agriculture projects in other parts of the world. Among the interesting features of TaniNet is the low-cost telecentre set-up, use of intermediaries, appropriate integration of ICT into existing business culture and practices. Due recognition is given to TaniNet by international agencies - it is recognized as a success story in the Global Knowledge Partnership (GKP;,

a finalist in Infodev / IICD Award Competition in 2000 (, published as a case study in the Journal of Informing Science (, the experience published as a book chapter (Electronic Business and Education – Recent Advances in Internet Infrastructures, Chin, Patricelli and Milutinovic, Kluwer Academic Publishers, Boston/Dordrecht/London, 2002) and as reference in many Malaysian and International conferences on ICT4D.

TaniNet has demonstrated the approach, project design and methodology to be used to incorporate ICT into community development. In March 2001, with the Farmers’ Organisation Authority as Co-Promoter and endorsed by the Malaysia's Ministry of Agriculture, the Strategic Thrusts Implementation Committee under the National Information Technology Couuncil (NITC) accepted the pilot phase of TaniNet as “Proof of Concept” and directed for it to be up-scaled and implemented for national roll-out into the next phase incorporating e-business solutions. This however has not been executed due to various reasons, among which is the promotion of many uncoordinated initiatives and proposals being championed by different implementing agencies in the agriculture and ICT sectors.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Eradicate The Digital Divide – Stakeholders not doing enough or not doing right!

Government and civil society organisations in developing countries need to put more concerted and holistic initiatives not to just “bridge the digital divide” but “eradicate the digital divide”. When Malaysia gained independence from colonial rule and started her socio-economic development programmes in the late 1950s and early 1960s, comprehensive “literacy eradication” programmes were implemented. These “literacy eradication” programmes provided the skills for reading and writing, but also more importantly initiated mind-set changes for the socio-economically marginalised to value literacy and to make best use of their new found knowledge for self, family and community development. Malaysia’s rural development programmes were then of world class and provided models and best practices for other developing nations. The success was among others due to full commitment and concerted effort by the nation’s political leadership, government, civil society organisations and the communities themselves. There was a sense of mission and mass movement to do so.

At present, literacy is no longer a big issue in Malaysia, but the digital divide is. Numerous “bridging the digital divide” or BDD programmes and projects are being implemented nationwide by government and non-government organisations including the private sector. However, unlike the “literacy eradication” programmes in earlier years of the nation’s Independence, ICT literacy and bridging the digital divide are not viewed as critical for socio-economic development. Where it is viewed so, misguided approaches and false objectives are usually the norm, thus leading to failures or sub-optimal outcomes of such programmes.

Much research and literature is available on the importance of bridging the digital divide, ICT for development (ICT4D) and “e-Inclusion”. Malaysia has also formulated it own National Information Technology Agenda or NITA which provide a comprehensive policy framework towards value use of ICTs toward development of a knowledge-based society. Unfortunately the principles of NITA, ICT4D and e-Inclusion are not fully understood by most, from the top political leadership down to field level programme implementers, leading to poor programme design or implementation, inefficiencies, suboptimal outcomes or even counter productive results. If this issue is not properly addressed, the socio-economic marginalised sections of society will remain marginalised and the poor will remain relatively poor, leading to obvious implications in the nation’s development.