Telecentre Program for Orang Asli (TPOA)
2013 - 2018
Figure 1: Pictures of the 4 Orang Asli Telecentre at respective site.
TPOA, Telecentre Program for Orang Asli, is a project funded by EPU and implemented through JKOA. Four rural sites in Peninsular Malaysia have been selected namely Pos Sinderut and Pos Lending in Pahang; Pos Gob and Pos Balar in Kelantan. The TPOA project leader is Poline Bala and it is a multidisciplinary project, a collaboration between social science, computer science, and engineering. The main objective of TPOA is to improve the quality of living of the Orang Asli communities through the implementation of rural Telecentre programs. Based on the Needs Analysis conducted in 2011 by researchers from the Faculty of Social Science, Unimas, this project has been initiated to address the earlier findings. The main focus of TPOA is the drive of the 6 development programs to improve the local community's leadership and ICT training, education, agribusiness, tourism, indigenous knowledge preservation, and general health. Based on years of experience in telecentre implementation in Sarawak and Sabah, the Telecentre will act as a technological platform to support the 6 development programs hence to make full use of the technology to fast trek the execution of the programs.
The ICT Design and Training Perspective
We will not be talking on behalf of the TPOA project as a whole but just to share the ICT portion where our team has made direct contributions. From the ICT perspective, the four telecentres implemented at each Orang Asli site are the evolved generation of telecentre with a significant number of ICT innovations improved from the previous generation of telecentres in Sarawak and Sabah. The new innovations introduced are one of its kind and the first in the country. Our team has been working closely with each of the program group to provision all technological needs required. Along the implementation, various ICT systems and related technologies have been designed and innovated to support some very unique rural and community requirements.
Within the telecentre, the Internet gateway has been provision via a carefully tailored VSAT connection where not to over provision but meeting the overall project requirements in supporting all planned applications. The main telecentre power supply source is provision via a standalone comprehensive solar power system where its scale has been designed to ensure zero power hiccup and be able to accommodate load growth in the next 5 years. There is also secondary modular solar systems to act as an auxiliary power supply to some of the critical ICT equipment in the telecentre. The main network system is WiFi based, aiming to enable mobility for appliances and users, and meeting the current connectivity requirements of modern smart devices. The main computing devices are carefully specified and chosen to the meet not only the requirements of the 6 development programs but also to take sustainability, portability, usability and ease of learning into consideration. A knowledge learning portal implemented via our very own green ICT architecture innovation has enabled in-house information provision direct to the user appliances within the telecentre allowing massive multimedia rich context available in real-time to all telecentre users. The knowledge portal initiative shall reduce the traffic load to the VSAT connection and improve overall user experience and application reliability. This initiative has also helped to strike a lower VSAT investment to application features ratio, which help to cut down on monthly telecommunication expenses. Other services made available at the telecentre through the operation by the locally trained telecentre caretakers are printing, photocopying, scanning, remote two-way training, local capacity training, on-demand local educational movie playback and the more advanced desktop computer applications.
The ICT based training has adopted the "train-your-own-local-trainers" concept where intensive training will be given to the pioneer group of telecentre caretakers and they will continue to train the rest of the community based on their very own time schedule, their own teaching style and even using their own local language for achieving the most effective learning outcomes. The telecentre caretakers, the users and probably the future caretakers-to-be will be benefited from this mode of the operation where it is not only having the telecentre to be operated entirely by the local community but also indirectly they will learn various soft skills and more importantly develop the leadership among themselves that is crucial for bringing their own community to the next level of development. Since the mode of operation of the telecentre is governed by a local telecentre committee, that created a lot of room for local community innovations on how to make great use of the facilities and services available at the telecentre, some of these innovations include providing WiFi service to outsiders with a charge, smart devices power charging service etc are quickly motivating the local community based telecentre management to learn the concept of gathering funds for the future sustainability of their own telecentre. Of course, there are still many other great initiatives by the other 5 development programs not mention here.
In the technical perspective, our philosophy of design is always to create an extremely user-friendly telecentre ICT architecture where to take advantage of the telecentre services should never be limited by their command of ICT skills and knowledge. The definition of user-friendliness is not limited to the ability to use technology but also to allow ease of operation, managing and maintaining them. A truly community-sustain telecentre will have direct involvement of the community in every stage of the telecentre life cycle. This can be achieved either through intensive training on professional technology or by innovating the said technology to make it easy for user adoption; and we have chosen the later.
Figure 2: The Concept of TPOA Telecentre
Disclaimer: This is not the formal / official writing for the said project. The information published here is only relevant to the ICT portion of the project that our team has involved directly. For more information, please contact the project leader, Poline Bala.
Chong Eng Tan, Poline Bala, Sei Ping Lau and Siew Mooi Wong, “The TPOA Telecentre: A Community Sustainable Telecentre Architecture,” International Journal of Advanced Computer Science and Applications(IJACSA), 11(8), 2020. http://dx.doi.org/10.14569/IJACSA.2020.0110824
C. E. Tan, S. P. Lau, S. M. Wong and P. Bala, "Innovative Use of TPOA Telecentres for Covid-19 Awareness among the Orang Asli Communities," 2020 IEEE 8th R10 Humanitarian Technology Conference (R10-HTC), Kuching, Malaysia, 2020, pp. 1-6, doi: 10.1109/R10-HTC49770.2020.9357028.
P. Bala and C.E. Tan, "Digital inclusion of the Orang Asli of Peninsular Malaysia: Remote virtual mechanism for usability of telecentres amongst indigenous peoples," the Electronic Journal of Information Systems in Developing Countries (EJISDC), 2021. https://doi.org/10.1002/isd2.12171