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.