Archive for the ‘Industry Revolution 4.0 (IR 4.0)’ Category

All that’s left are tough choices

Monday, December 28th, 2020
Joe Biden (pic) can continue Donald Trump’s legacy or protect the semiconductor global supply chain. - AFP picJoe Biden (pic) can continue Donald Trump’s legacy or protect the semiconductor global supply chain. – AFP pic

SEMICONDUCTORS, the backbone of high technology used to produce integrated circuits or chips for computers and smartphones, is China’s biggest single import by value.

China, for years, has been trying to steer away from its dependence on the United States and other countries through innovation-driven development and a plethora of state-led policies.

So when the US hawks added the world’s second-largest smartphone maker Huawei Technologies Co Ltd to the US entity list and barred it from acquiring essential chips from Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, it fired up China to mitigate its reliance on foreign suppliers and pick up the pace towards technological independence.

The Chinese Communist Party in its fifth plenum placed innovation as a key driver for China’s long-term modernisation programme to make headway in core technologies, which likely include production of top-of-the-line semiconductors with a focus on science and technology to provide a strategic support for national development.

The 14th Five-Year Plan reaffirmed China’s commitment to become a global leader in innovation and build success in new industrialisation, informatisation, urbanisation and agricultural transformation via “dual circulation”, a term coined by President Xi Jinping last spring as a strategy to fuel the domestic cycle (production and consumption) by 2035.

After Goldman Sachs predicted that China can produce seven-nanometer (nm) chips by 2023 and New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman said Beijing made attempts to build an entire microchip supply, ending its dependence on US technology through the latest Five-Year Plan, China’s largest chip foundry, SMIC, last month added a new chapter in the country’s chipmaking history by getting closer to introducing the more advanced N+1 7nm node.

Recently, the US Department of Commerce sanctioned dozens of Chinese companies, including SMIC. It was claimed the move would limit the company’s ability to produce semiconductors at advanced technology levels (10nm or below).

The US action was apparently a reaction to China’s step forward for attaining technological self-reliance and SMIC’s rise despite the US blockade.

In the long term, US sanctions could strengthen the Chinese chip-making champion since it reportedly completed the development of process nodes from 28nm to 7nm in record time and may rush for volume production of leading-edge 7nm nodes ahead of schedule.

The only conclusion that can be drawn from the aggressive move is that the US thinks China, if not stopped, may catch up with America soon in technology and potentially end American global technological dominance.

After US President Donald Trump announced that the US was considering imposing exports restrictions on SMIC in September, an industry group in the US with 2,400 members worldwide warned that blacklisting the company would jeopardise the US’ technological edge, affect the delivery of US goods and hit US market share across the world, in addition to having detrimental impact on the US’ industry, economy and national security.

Peterson Institute senior fellow Chad Bown cautioned that restricting major semiconductor manufacturers in Taiwan and South Korea from using US tools to make anything for Huawei would instead threaten the US allies’ sovereignty and set a dangerous precedence of unilateralism.

In a highly-entwined world,the semiconductor industry is a global affair as components for a chip could travel more than 40,000km and cross borders over 70 times before they are installed in a device or delivered to a customer.

The US is using its leverage to disrupt globalisation and global supply chains that experts said won’t be practically feasible, at least in the foreseeable future.

Trump’s White House is impetuously taxing itself in an effort to cut off technology exports to China.

But unlike what happened to Huawei, the US did not add SMIC to the list, which would have prevented it from buying US supplies and technology. However, it remains concerned that US export restrictions are still a threat.

With only weeks left before his departure,Trump is not only causing pain for US exports, he is also infringing on international trade rules by causing harm to the free market, fair competition and the national interest of US allies, as well as killing off what remains of US credibility internationally.

US President-elect Joe Biden will inherit technology chaos from his predecessor; so he will have to make hard choices—carry on Trump’s anti-China legacy to stave off political hogwash in the country or shield the semiconductor global supply chain from disruption to regain the trust of US manufacturers and allies.

Whatever path Biden chooses will define the course of the China-US technology war.

BAzhar Azam.

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Let’s prepare for 4IR

Wednesday, December 16th, 2020
The 4th Industrial Revolution is a key challenge for the country. - NSTP file pic, for illustration purposes only

The 4th Industrial Revolution is a key challenge for the country. – NSTP file pic, for illustration purposes only

LETTERS: The 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR) is a key challenge for the country. We can succeed by realigning our education to help youth acquire skill sets.

Digital information and communication technologies have penetrated all areas of life.

The digital age comprises basic skills that include the use and production of digital media, information processing and retrieval, participation in social networks for creation and sharing of knowledge, and professional computing skills.

Digital literacy improves employability because it is an essential skill, demanded by many employers when they evaluate a job application.

It also works as a catalyst because it enables the acquisition of other life skills.

At the World Economic Forum recently, it was predicted that by 2040, 80 per cent of jobs in the world will be automated. This means humans will lose jobs because of digitalisation and robots.

There will be job disruption by automation and Khazanah Research Institute studies show that 54 per cent of jobs in Malaysia, within one or two decades, are at risk of being impacted by digitalisation.

That is why we should realign our education system, its curriculum and guidance on job transition, such as job-search assistance, education and training on emerging skills.

Also, digital education opportunities should be provided to all from early childhood.

Additionally, empower women to explore Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics and encourage them to enter high-tech industries.


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Important to ensure continuity of research during the pandemic

Monday, December 14th, 2020
While higher education has been moving towards distance learning for years, Covid-19 has turned that leisurely stroll into a stampede. - NSTP file pic, for illustration purposes onlyWhile higher education has been moving towards distance learning for years, Covid-19 has turned that leisurely stroll into a stampede. – NSTP file pic, for illustration purposes only

EVERY industry is grapplling with profound changes and challenges during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Many have experienced disruptions, including the higher education sector. Starting from mid-March this year, colleges and universities around the world closed campuses, sent students home and moved teaching online.

While higher education has been moving towards distance learning for years, Covid-19 has turned that leisurely stroll into a stampede.

The latest direction from the Higher Education Ministry resulted in universities planning to continue with the online-only model and campuses are expected to stay closed until next year. Universities have a well-developed collaboration between education, research, as well as professional and community services.

Most tend to highlight cutting-edge research as one of their most distinguished and competitive strengths. In Malaysia, the research universities are Universiti Malaya, Universiti Putra Malaysia, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, Universiti Sains Malaysia and Universiti Teknologi Malaysia; all listed among the top 200 universities in the world and the top one per cent in the world, according to the report by Quacquarelli Symonds World University Rankings 2021 on June 10 this year.

The main purpose of research is to inform action, prove a theory and contribute to developing knowledge in a field of study. Knowledge generated by research is the basis of sustainable development.

Thus, the continuity of research activities during the pandemic is equally important to the university. Researchers must be proactive when planning for the continuity of their research as the Covid-19 situation evolves. The virus is affecting people and projects alike.

Researchers must consider its implications on the ability to achieve the milestones and deliverables for a research project. Do physical distancing measures impact the ability to undertake the research planned?

Are there restrictions to accessing the facilities, equipment and supplies needed for the research? These are questions that to be answered. The appointment of graduate research assistants to work on research projects may be affected as the potential students are not on campus.

Researchers need to communicate with the research office to facilitate appointments in accordance with the most up to date guidelines as the impacts of Covid-19 are still being felt. Proactive communication with the funders is essential to agree on ways to adapt, so the research project can continue to progress.

It will also help reassure funders that researchers are committed to continuing and value their support. This allows for consideration if the milestones and deliverables can be changed in scope or timeline. Covid-19 keeps people apart, across time zones and offices, without easy means to work together spontaneously.

Therefore, functional, collaborative, easy-to-use communication tools are vital to recover lost interpersonal experiences.

Virtual platforms should be utilised as a communication and collaboration tool. The importance of having the hardware, infrastructure, support and knowledge in information technology should not be taken for granted.

Researchers need to quickly adapt to survive this challenging period. Life-long learning, which has always been the root of the university education system, is also put to test.

As the researchers will be working apart from each other, a single, trusted source of data is important to avoid data incompleteness and inaccuracy. Field work requiring long-distance travel of groups, site visits, face-to face meetings, workshops and other gatherings should be postponed and rescheduled.

The following Enterprise Risk Management principles are applicable to universities during the Covid-19 crisis: FOCUS on the people of your organisation by thinking about their needs and struggles working remotely or on the front line; THINK about what is strategically important for your organisation before zeroing in on risks; UNDERSTAND the risks of what’s most important strategically, so you can narrow in on the most important risk for your company and what needs to go right; LEARN how to respond to risks effectively without expecting perfection; and, CONSISTENTLY monitor and communicate the risks your organisation is facing internally and externally.

The situation provides a fascinating look at how research teams need to consider new risks and mitigation measures during this crisis.

To properly assess and manage the short- and long-term risks, researchers need to shift their priorities and work habits to deal with this new normal.

Researchers engaging in opportunities with potential funders should ensure that proposed deliverables are sufficiently flexible in light of further potential restrictions. It is important to be proactive, and taking action is paramount.

By Dr Ruhanita Maelah.

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Malaysia records highest score for open data readiness in Asean region — DOSM

Friday, December 11th, 2020

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia recorded the highest score in open data readiness among Asean member states (AMS) through the assessment made by ASEANstats in 2020, said the office of Chief Statistician Malaysia, Department of Statistics (DOSM).

The department, however, did not elaborate on the score but said Malaysia was once again entrusted to lead the Working Group on System of National Accounts (WGSNA) 2021-2022.

It said as the lead countries initiating the Big Data concept note, Malaysia and Indonesia would further collaborate in developing AMS capacity-building plans to achieve its objectives within the stipulated time frame.

“In conjunction with the 10th anniversary of the Asean Community Statistical System Committee (ACSS10), Malaysia has shared best practices and experiences on the compilation of International Merchandise Trade Statistics (IMTS), Statistics of International Trade in Services (SITS) and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“The sharing is in the form of videographics and infographics at the ACSS High-Level Forum held on Dec 10, back-to-back with ACSS10,” it said.

According to the statement, the Covid-19 outbreak has demanded the DOSM to relook its data collection approach and communication tools.

“As a new norm, DOSM leverages digital and technology platforms as one of the best initiatives in generating national official statistics to assist the government in evidence-based decision making.

“Among these were three special online surveys to measure the impact of Covid-19 on individuals and companies, and released seven volumes of the Malaysian Economic Statistics Review (MESR) and 223 series of various reports to reflect the latest economic and social developments.

“DOSM has also developed a special landing page that displays interactive visualisation of Covid-19… all these best practices are shared at the international platforms such as webinars, forums, conferences and the Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) special Covid-19 websites,” it said.

Meanwhile, the statement said heads of the Asean National Statistical Offices participated in the ACSS10 from Dec 8 to 9, hosted virtually by the General Statistics Office of Vietnam as the Chair of ACSS10.

It said the DOSM joined the session led by the Chief Statistician Malaysia, Datuk Seri Dr Mohd Uzir Mahidin as well as the International Statistical Organisation and Development Partners.

The session discussed the key deliverables and agreed to strengthen statistical cooperation, namely the ACSS Open Data Implementation Framework, Asean-Help-Asean Framework, the outcome of the Mid-Term Review of the ACSS Strategic Plan 2016-2025 and the revised ACSS Strategic Plan, 2021-2025.

by Bernama.

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Let’s go back to basics in addressing provocative news

Friday, December 11th, 2020
Pix for illustration purposes only. -- File PixPix for illustration purposes only. — File Pix

FORWARDED messages — messages delivering either true, questionable or fake news — keep us somewhat informed and bewilderingly engaged.

Questionable and fake news albeit entertaining has led to various problems, so much so that the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission developed a fact checking site called

However, there is a category of news passed through social media that can cause quite a stir among the masses. This type of news cannot be addressed by fact checking websites. As there isn’t (yet) a term coined for this type of news, let us refer to it as “provocative news”.

It is often biasedly reported — touching on sensitive issues such as politics, race and religion. It contains messages that deviates from cultural norms, elicits negative emotion, and possibly instigates social disharmony and uncertainty. The question of whether the content is true, questionable or fake is of secondary importance when it comes to provocative news, as it is simply problematic.

A recent study conducted by Prof Dr Ezhar Tamam and his team of researchers at Universiti Putra Malaysia found that three in five Malaysians are exposed to provocative news on a frequent basis. It also found that most social media users do not discriminate the source of news that they read.

Making matters even more complicated is the comment section or thread on social media. A biased news post would most likely attract and encourage more people to hop on the negative band wagon.

While solving this issue may seem like an impossible conundrum given the nature of social media, but all is not lost. Part of the solution may lie in digital literacy. Besides having the skill of using technology, digital literacy also encompasses appropriate use of technology.

Addressing provocative news is a human-based issue where principles and values must come into play. Values taught to us at home and in school such as respect and benevolence should be applied on screen and off screen.

We are living in an era called the Fourth Industrial Revolution, where embracing digital technology is a necessity and not an option. Despite technology dominating a huge chunk of our lives, we must not forget the basics of being responsible individuals and members of society.

Retraining workers in the age of automation

Saturday, December 5th, 2020
Neglecting the training and human resource development aspect, also the lack of awareness about its importance can make it hard for any organisation to overcome Industry 4.0 challenges. - NSTP/File pic/for illustration purposes only.Neglecting the training and human resource development aspect, also the lack of awareness about its importance can make it hard for any organisation to overcome Industry 4.0 challenges. – NSTP/File pic/for illustration purposes only.

THE role of training and development in the era of Industry 4.0 will become more significant and challenging in the effort to yield knowledgeable and highly skilled human resource.

This is very much linked with the demands of Industry 4.0 that is based on computer technology and automation. Human resource has to be exposed with the need to equip one’s capability in addressing the demands of Industry 4.0. These can be achieved through training and human resource development.

The investment strategy in the current and future organisation’s human resource training and development will demonstrate the transition of training and development towards empowering the skills in the simulation and virtual reality, system integration, the Internet of Things (IoT) industry, cyber security, cloud computing, supply chain, super data analysis and robotic automation.

All this will bring an organisation to another level in the business competition in the future. Due to this, an emphasis starts to be given to human resource development through the Technical Education and Vocational Training (TVET). TVET is seen to be among an important national agenda in education to produce highly skilled human resource at par with the demands of Industry 4.0. On the part of the Education Ministry, it introduces the change of the landscape of the higher learning education framework towards Industry 4.0 to ensure the marketability of graduates and future graduates in the job market.

Pembangunan Sumber Manusia Berhad (PSMB) was mandated by the government to administer and manage the Human Resource Development Fund or Kumpulan Wang Pembangunan Sumber Manusia (KWPSM) which is a specific fund under the Human Resources Ministry. KWPSM gives flexibility and job security to employees through the skill re-training and enhanced skills process.

Through the National Labour Human Capital Development Master Plan or Pelan Induk Pembangunan Modal Insan Tenaga Kerja Kebangsaan KWPSM (2018-2025), an emphasis parallel with the requirement of Industry 4.0 has been given. Among the main aims of the Master Plan is to empower human capital through enhanced skills, retraining skills and diversifying skills. Statistics show that until 2017, a total of 21,928 employers have registered and contributed to KWPSM involving 2,136,763 employees.

From this total number, employers from the registered manufacturing sector totalled 9,380, whereas for the service sector 12,372 employers and the mining and quarry sector 1,146 employers. The commitment from the government and organisations shows that training and development is an important investment that can change and improve human resource at present and in the future.

Neglecting the training and human resource development aspect, also the lack of awareness about its importance can make it hard for any organisation to overcome Industry 4.0 challenges. Coupled with the environmental pressure caused by Industry 4.0 covering the aspects of technology, social, economy and so on, organisational wellbeing and sustainability, human resource can surely be affected.

Studies done by industrial psychologists show that training and development play a significant role in minimising work stress caused by an uncomfortable working environment. According to researchers, only training and development can educate employees to modify their work stations to fulfill their needs and comfort.

Training and development can also minimise individual level of fatigue and tiredness. This indicates that training and development can increase the strength, flexibility and tolerance of individuals towards pain or the skills in carrying out their tasks. Other research works also illustrate how training and development can increase the motivation, work quality, health level and employees’ security and productivity.

There are several factors that determine the success of the training and development program implementation namely the support of the higher management, the advancement of technology and staff commitment. Without staff commitment in following the training and development program planned, this will affect the skills that are to be developed.

Among the skills that need to be emphasised human resource training and development are critical thinking and problem-solving, communication, collaboration, creativity and emotional well-being. Among these, emotional well-being is seen to be complementary, one that will balance the requirements of Industry 4.0 with the organisation’s human resource capability.

The impact of Industry 4.0 also comes in the form of emotions among the employees, especially in terms of the needs for their service, future skills and challenges of the organisational environment. Emotional well-being will facilitate the organisation in making changes and empower human resource’s mental aspect to face any possibility that can arise from Industry 4.0.

The challenges of Industry 4.0 should be regarded as a paradigm shift to the efficacy and costs of the organization. Both these dimensions must be emphasised in rendering success to efficacious and effective training and development. If it is handled wisely, both these dimensions will be able to help the organisation to generally achieve competitive edge through the enhanced operational management and reduce costs.

By Dr Zafir Khan Mohamed Makhbul.

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Creativity, innovative mindset integral to producing talent for IR 4.0

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2020
We are constantly bombarded with the imagery of robots, machines and  on-screen data projections, so much so  that  some of us might have misconstrued the Fourth Industrial Revolution (IR4.0)  as being an era where only the technical, engineering and programming experts can thrive.  - NSTP/File pic

We are constantly bombarded with the imagery of robots, machines and on-screen data projections, so much so that some of us might have misconstrued the Fourth Industrial Revolution (IR4.0) as being an era where only the technical, engineering and programming experts can thrive. – NSTP/File pic

IN a tumultuous economic landscape which is at the mercy of a raging pandemic that is disrupting supply chains, consumer demands, bottom lines and operations, many businesses are struggling to keep afloat.

But, there are those that manage to tackle these challenges and not only salvage their business, but pave new revenue streams.

None, perhaps, is more spectacular than Airbnb. At a time when the hospitality industry is driven to the brink of collapse — the world’s five largest hotel chains lost over US$25 billion while the airline industry lost over US$84 billion this year — Airbnb reported its second-biggest quarter ever with a revenue of over US$1.34 billion this year.

MKM Partners analyst Rohit Kulkani predicted that Airbnb’s bookings next year could exceed its levels last year. New York University (NYU) Stern School of Business’s Scott Galloway described the San Francisco hospitality firm as the “most valuable private firm in the world” and will likely be worth more than the three largest hotel chains in the world.

What amazes and inspires me, though, is that unlike most tech companies where the founders possessed a strong technical background, Airbnb’s co-founders are graduates of the Rhode Island School of Design. Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia launched Airbnb initially as a way for designers to find a reasonably-priced place to stay while travelling.

Don’t think that Airbnb is not a tech company — it is. It has a more employees with an engineering background than Amazon or Uber. But, the leadership and innovation of its two art-based co-founders are the “secret sauce” that made it so different from other firms. Airbnb co-founders are not the anomaly. Think of what the late Steve Jobs brought to Apple or Steve Wozniak, the engineer, who is credited for Apple’s era-defining products such as the iPod, iPhone and Macbook. However, it was Job’s creative vision that breathed a new lease of life to Apple with the “Think Different” campaign.

The creatives, artists, humanities and social scientists are not the people who would cross our minds when we envision the workforce of the future.

We are constantly bombarded with the imagery of robots, machines and on-screen data projections, so much so that some of us might have misconstrued the Fourth Industrial Revolution (IR4.0) as being an era where only the technical, engineering and programming experts can thrive.

The US$160 billion global gaming industry certainly disagrees. Content and creativity are integral parts of the continually innovating and growing workforce of the future. Action-adventure video games with a cult following like Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us were credited for its exceptional attention to the game’s storyline, character arc and emotions.

Video games investor and NYU lecturer Joost Van Dreunen said that content development made up over one-third of the gaming industry. Xbox’s parent company, Microsoft, acquired ZeniMax media — the creator of the best-selling video game franchise, including Fallout — for US$7.5 billion in cash.

It is impossible to talk about content without talking about the biggest and fastest-growing content hub on the planet — Netflix.

As it faces tough competition from Disney+, Amazon Prime, and HBO Max, the streaming platform is expected to invest over US$17 billion on content this year from all over the world. According to Bloomberg’s intelligence data, Netflix’s investment in content and those of other streaming services, are only going to get higher every year.

So, to the storytellers, the creatives, the creators, the artists, and those who dare to dream big, the future of work in the era of IR4.0 is a global open field to explore. Our desire to connect, to realise our purpose and to express that makes the usage of technology in all aspects much more fulfilling.

As the conventional movie theatre business is grappling with the expansion of streaming giants and consumers’ receptiveness to live-streaming content as well as the growth of the “fanfic” industry, our content industry can also learn to move forward with an innovative mindset.

Perhaps, it’s time we relook at the national dream of winning the Best Foreign Film category at the Oscars, and instead focus our policies, research, and development, on nurturing, growing and producing talents that can compete in the industry with products that matter.

By Nuradilla Noorazam.

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‘Half of Malaysia’s SMEs not digitally ready’

Monday, November 30th, 2020
KUALA LUMPUR: Digital transformation remains a challenge for most Malaysian small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), said Siemens Malaysia Sdn Bhd president and chief executive officer Adam Yee.

According to Siemens Malaysia’s findings, 50 per cent of SMEs are not prepared to adopt the new normal of working from home as they are lagging in terms of infrastructure and the system to enable their staff to do so.

Yee said Covid-19 had pushed SMEs to adopt digitalisation to ease the impact of the pandemic on business operations to ensure continuity and survival.

“The pandemic is forcing most SMEs to adopt to digital business requirements for their operations and during the Movement Control Order.

“There are three factors hindering SMEs to move their businesses digitally — the misconception of high cost when adopting technology, lack of understanding of digital technology, as well as shortage of digital talent in the workforce,” he told the New Straits Times recently.

Siemens Malaysia Sdn Bhd president and chief executive officer Adam Yee. -- File Pix

Siemens Malaysia Sdn Bhd president and chief executive officer Adam Yee. — File Pix

Therefore, Siemens, with the Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation, has been conducting the Digital Transformation Acceleration Programme. The company has been appointed as digital transformation labs partner to assist Malaysian companies with digital transformation plans.

Yee said under the programme, Siemens was helping companies identify their business plans using specific methodologies to brainstorm on new ideas, design new business models, develop new products and technology designs, and pilot the implementation plan.

He said when Siemens started assessing the digital readiness of companies, it found that SMEs were unwilling to invest for digital purposes.

Yee said it was important for Siemens, under the programme, to educate and advise SMEs about gains they could achieve through digital transformation.

“SMEs have to start to think what their journey entails or what their goals are to be competitive in the market.”

By Farah Adilla.

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Kelantan student must climb hill for internet connection

Monday, November 30th, 2020
Nurlieda Khaleeda Mohd Azmi climbing up the hill behind her house in Tanah Merah, Kelantan,  yesterday to get a better Internet connection. -- NSTP/ NIK ABDULLAH NIK OMARNurlieda Khaleeda Mohd Azmi climbing up the hill behind her house in Tanah Merah, Kelantan, yesterday to get a better Internet connection. — NSTP/ NIK ABDULLAH NIK OMAR

TANAH MERAH: WITH a mosquito coil and a small fan beside her, Nurlieda Khaleeda Mohd Azmi calmly answers some examination questions under a tent erected atop a 20m-high hill. On her table is her laptop and a WiFi modem.

The hill, located just behind the 20-year-old’s house in Kampung Bukit Petai Tujuh is the only location in her village with good Internet coverage.

Nurlieda studies medical laboratory technology at University of Malaya Medical Centre.

She is fine with her location despite having to put up with mosquitoes, leeches and possibly snakes disturbing her at the hilly forest area.

She said her village and five surrounding villages faced a common state problem of poor broadband and Internet coverage.

“This makes it hard for her and other students who need to attend online classes amid the pandemic.

The other five villages are Kampung Mengat, Degong, Che Nakaf, Jerangau Dalam and Jerangau Luar.

“I returned to my village in July and since then, I have been following online classes.

“Usually, I would need to travel 3km away from my village to receive better Internet coverage,” she told Harian Metro at her home.

Nurlieda Khaleeda Mohd Azmi studying inside a tent behind her house in Tanah Merah, Kelantan. -- -- NSTP/ NIK ABDULLAH NIK OMARNurlieda Khaleeda Mohd Azmi studying inside a tent behind her house in Tanah Merah, Kelantan. — – NSTP/ NIK ABDULLAH NIK OMAR

She said she would “attend” one or two hours of the online classes while she was in a car, as she had to venture further away from her village for better Internet reception.

Whenever there are online classes at night, her father or a younger sibling would accompany her in the car as they try to find better reception.

Nurlieda, the eldest of five siblings, said a few days before her examinations started on Nov 23, she began to worry about how she would record a live video of herself while taking the examination, which was a requirement by lecturers.

Her father, Mohd Azmi Ahmad, 48, previously placed a WiFi modem on a pole, which was set up behind the family home, but to no avail.

“I’ve been using the tent throughout my exams. We used extension cords so that I can connect my laptop and other items in the tent to an electricity supply.

“For one or two hours when the exam is running, I need to take a video of myself using my handphone, which I fasten on a tripod so my lecturer can see.

“I have taken three exam papers and everything has been running smoothly.”

Her father said Nurlieda shared the same problem with his third child, Muhammad Amein Khalielee, 18, a Universiti Teknologi Mara student.

“He also needs the Internet to complete his assignments,” he said.

By Siti Rohana Idris.

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Never too old to gain digital literacy

Sunday, November 22nd, 2020

Crash course: Tan (standing) teaching senior citizens during a workshop in January at the Multimedia University in Johor.

PETALING JAYA: Two years ago, when Dr Tan Yun Yi returned to Malaysia after completing her studies in Hong Kong, she was devastated to see that cybercrime cases targeting senior citizens were on the rise.

Deciding that something must be done to help them improve their digital literacy, she set up Bengkel Teknologi Senior in 2019 at the Centre for Instructional Technology and Multimedia, Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM), where she is a lecturer.

The two-day programme offered free technology classes to Malaysian seniors over the age of 55.

“We teach them the fundamentals of cybersecurity so they could be more cautious and aware of online scams and threats.

“They are also introduced to creative modules such as digital graphics, digital photography, video production and video editing, which as it turns out, they enjoyed the most.

“In addition, they are also exposed to the usage of mobile apps that could improve their social independence such as ride hailing, food ordering, online shopping, GPS navigation and medical apps, ” said the Kelantan-born Tan in an interview.

She said each programme was designed to have a maximum of 20 participants, and priority would be given to seniors from B40 families or those living alone or far from the younger generation.

Before setting up Bengkel Teknologi Senior, the 32-year-old started her involvement with the senior citizen community when she was pursuing her PhD studies in Hong Kong.

“I would visit nursing homes to keep the seniors company and talk to them. I also visited senior citizens living alone in public housing, ” she said.

In one of her visits, Tan met a wheelchair-bound senior who lived alone and spent most of her time sitting in her living room, listening to the radio.

Although the woman was happy to meet Tan, she admitted that growing old meant losing the independence to do things on her own.

“She felt her days were very long and meaningless as she had to rely on social workers to send her food daily because she was unable to go out due to her weak legs.

“Sometimes, she also had to stay hungry a little longer when social workers were late due to unforeseen circumstances, ” she related.

Tan shared with her the convenience of digital services and how it could help her to regain her independence.

“I told her that food could be delivered to her doorstep via food delivery apps and also e-hailing service.

“She looked very interested to learn more but told me that no one would have the patience to teach old folks like her, ” said Tan.

That was when Tan realised that technology was something the younger generation took for granted and they had forgotten how seniors might be struggling to keep up.

After returning to Malaysia, Tan tried to launch her project by applying for grants and going for pitching sessions but failed.

“It did not stop me. If education is crucial for our first 20 years, what makes it less important for the next 20 years?” she asked.

All the stumbling blocks Tan had to overcome to see her project through has been worth it as she witnessed how it has helped and transformed the senior citizens.

“We saw how they changed from being fearful of using their own mobile devices to being able to make their first order on a food delivery app, ” she said.

Some participants also learnt to use navigational apps like Waze, while several others even purchased a smartphone so that they could use it during the workshop.

“One participant told us she wanted to own a smartphone but could not get anyone to assist her as her own family members were not supportive.

“We were touched when she informed us that our project has made her dream come true, ” said Tan.

Initially, the workshops were scheduled to be held once every two months as Tan and her project members planned to travel to every state to interact with the participants.

However, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the workshop had to be restructured as its target beneficiaries were in the vulnerable and high-risk group.

To date, Tan said workshops had been conducted in Selangor, Johor and Kelantan.

Her next step is to set up an age-friendly technology learning lab at the centre in USM.

“With the lab that will also function as a one-stop centre, we will be able to provide more free learning sessions to more senior citizens, especially in the northern region, ” she said.

Tan’s vision is for a future where there will be no more seniors left behind in technology and digital literacy.

“Although we might not be able to reach out to every senior citizen, we hope that this project could be the starting point to inspire more people and organisations to help address digital ageism and digital divide, ” she said.

For her efforts, Bengkel Teknologi Senior is recognised as one of the 10 winners of the Star Golden Hearts Award 2020, an annual award that celebrates everyday Malaysian unsung heroes.


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