Archive for the ‘Educational Technologies’ Category

Schools in Penampang, Kota Belud to run their own radio, project sponsored by UNICEF

Wednesday, February 13th, 2019

Jenifer Lasimbang

PENAMPANG: Primary schools here and in Kota Belud will be involved in a pilot project that would enable schools to run their own radio programme.

Assistant Education and Innovation Minister, Jenifer Lasimbang explained that such projects are already carried out in countries like Australia and the United States, and that using the radio as a form of teaching and learning had been proven effective.

She said that 24 schools in Penampang had been selected for the pilot project.

At the present time of writing, she was not able to provide the number of primary schools that would be involved in the project in Kota Belud.

The cost for the pilot project is also unavailable as they are still working on arriving at the estimation, she said.

by Jenne Lajiun.

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Boosting transparency, accountability through information technology

Monday, February 11th, 2019
(Stock image for illustration purposes) The adoption of information technology (IT) by the public sector is one of the means to improve services.

OF late there have been several accountability studies involving private and public delivery services

For the government, public services delivery is the ultimate concern. The adoption of information technology (IT) by the public sector is one of the means to improve services.

IT promotes public services provided and disseminates information on websites to improve the government’s transparency and accountability.

Accountability is closely related to openness and transparency. To achieve this, disclosures are necessary for all materials regarding the organisation, financial situation, performance, ownership and in particular, governance of the organisation.

The desire for openness, transparency and accountability has prompted the government to use open data to improve public delivery services.

The Public Sector Open Data Portal launched by the Malaysian Administrative Modernisation and Management Planning Unit (Mampu) in September 2015 is one of the initiatives to enhance transparency and create innovation in digital technology, which will improve accountability.

In 2016, Mampu, in a long-term collaboration with the World Bank, implemented the Open Data Readiness Assessment (Odra) to advance the initiative for Open Government Data.

This also means Malaysia became the first Asean country to implement Odra to assess the readiness to adopt open data.

The Public Service Department is implementing practical approaches to enhance the distribution of information to the masses.

The government has also launched several online portals for the local government, for example, the Public Service Portal (myGovernment), the e-Local Government (e-PBT) system and the OSC Online under Smart Local Government Governance Agenda.

All these portals are aimed at improving public service delivery by increasing the speed and quality of online services.

More needs to be done to improve the accountability of local governments.

By Associate Prof Dr Saunah Zainon.

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E-textbooks just an option

Sunday, January 6th, 2019
Teo visiting the SK Taman Putra Perdana’s Special Needs Integration Programme (PPKI) classroom.

Teo visiting the SK Taman Putra Perdana’s Special Needs Integration Programme (PPKI) classroom.

DIGITAL textbooks are better but the Education Ministry will continue to provide hard copies for now.

Telling parents not to worry, Deputy Education Minister Teo Nie Ching said textbooks would still be distributed as the digital versions were merely an option for those who want it.

“We’ve conducted successful test runs with the e-textbooks in pilot schools so now we want to give parents and students who are ready, the opportunity to access it.

“E-textbooks are more advantageous than the hardcopy especially for students taking their PT3 and SPM exams. It’s easy for revision.

“This is because students can still refer to the e-textbooks after they’ve moved up a form, whereas the hardcopy would have to be returned after a year,” she told a press conference at SK Taman Putra Perdana, Puchong, on Jan 2.

On whether the e-textbooks were popular, she said the ministry would need time to compile the data as it needs feedback from the schools.

Lower secondary students must bring their own devices to access digital textbooks in schools as the ministry has no plans to supply devices for them to use digital textbooks. On Dec 7, Teo told Parlia-ment the government would introduce digital textbooks for those in Forms One to Three this year.

The ministry plans to introduce interactive digital textbooks for those in Form Three in 2020.

And in 2021, those in Forms One, Three and Four, would get interactive digital textbooks.

In 2022, the digital interactive textbooks would be available for those in Forms One to Five.

As of last month, the ministry has turned 495 printed textbooks into digital Portable Document Format (PDF) and have uploaded them in the 1BestariNet website for students and teachers.

On a separate matter, Teo said the special committee tasked with studying the Unified Examination Certificate (UEC) recognition has yet to complete its report.

By Christina Chin
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Keeping technology and society in check

Tuesday, December 4th, 2018

THE incident at the Sri Maha Mariamman Temple last week shows how fragile the state of social stability in Malaysia is. And it highlighted in a stark way the power of social media, for better or worse.

In other countries, social media has been associated with riots and violence. It played a big role in riots in the United Kingdom in 2011, prompting David Cameron to ask whether it would be right to ban people using Facebook, Twitter and Blackberry messenger “when we know they are plotting violence and disorder”.

In India, mobs killed and attacked some people in May this year after social media messages warned that gangs were kidnapping children. Authorities later said there was no indication such gangs existed.

Social media and the Internet are the more visible part of the larger digital society and economy, in which automation, robotics, big data and artificial intelligence are growing rapidly .

On one hand, there are positive aspects, with advocates praising the Fourth Industrial Revolution for advances in economic productivity, communications, entertainment, healthcare, transport, personal convenience, and so on.

On the other hand are warnings of ill effects on culture and children’s intelligence, of mass unemployment, widening inequalities, and social and political instability.

The digital revolution is both Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.

Most mainstream reports now give a good spin to the business “disruption” caused by the digital revolution. This is ironic, as disruption is a term normally used to describe a negative incident or development.

Yet the “disruption” associated with digital-based firms is now being glamorised as something trendy, advanced, and successful.

While the new services provide new sources of profit and bring conveniences to customers, they also have adverse effects including dislocating existing businesses and jobs.

Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad at the Apec summit gave local examples of the displacement of taxi drivers, hotels and retail shops by e-hailing taxi apps, home-­sharing platforms and online retailers.

He warned of more upheavals ahead, such as automation causing an employment crisis.

The prime minister said governments can respond to the age of disruptions in four ways.

First, ensure technology is accessible and affordable to citizens, and does not widen inequality, and the key to that is education.

Second, the losers (displaced businesses and workers) must be taken care of.

Third is the need to build developing countries’ capacity to face disruption, through infrastructure and advanced technologies.

Fourth, there must be international cooperation to manage technological disruptions. This includes the re-evaluation of trade globalisation and economic integration to adjust to technological disruption causing sweeping changes.

Mutual agreement must be found to benefit national governments, not just multinational corporations and advanced economies.

Dr Mahathir’s speech was perhaps the first time a leader from a developing country had conceptually laid out the need to consider the advantages and disadvantages of the digital age, and to take action in response.

Taking off from there, we need to set up a national agenda aimed at deriving benefits while avoiding threats and minimising costs arising from the digital revolution.

Developing countries like Malaysia should draw up a comprehensive plan to address the digital economy and society that takes advantage of benefits while avoiding or minimising the harm and costs.

First are the social, cultural and ethical aspects.

How to benefit from the easier access to information, while preventing people, especially children, from becoming “slaves” to the handphone?

How to ensure that the quest for knowledge and wisdom is not being replaced by instant gratification generated by the Internet?

Or to prevent direct human relations from being significantly re­­placed by our addiction and relation to the mobile phone?

How can the Internet be used to get information quickly but not to spread false news or generate hatred and violence?

Second is to ensure digitisation does not widen inequality, that the benefits are shared equitably and the interests of the “losers” are taken care of.

Major concerns are the impact on existing businesses and workers. Some studies expect up to half the workforce may become obsolete.

The advent of 3-D printing, which can significantly displace local companies and take the place of trade, should be looked at, as well as the impact of new technologies on agriculture, services and industry.

Third is to establish a national policy on the digital economy that enables the country to best take advantage of the digital revolution.

This plan should include building the digital infrastructure, devising data regulatory policies, regulating digital platforms, developing national marketing platforms, harnessing digital start-ups, developing digital competencies and introducing taxes on global firms.

UNCTAD’s Trade and Develop­ment Report 2018 is a good reference for such a national policy.

Fourth is to cooperate with other countries to set up global or regional governance frameworks that are mutually beneficial.

For a start, developing countries should avoid clauses in trade agreements that prevent or restrict their ability to have a suitable national digital policy.

Such clauses, such as the prohibition of data localisation and revelation of source codes, are proposed by developed countries mainly to benefit their big technology companies.

Global cooperation is needed to provide affordable access to technology and tackle the adverse effects of disruption and the risk of dangerous technologies such as new weapons.

Indeed, a new global agreement on the digital economy and society is needed. But that will take years to take shape, if at all. We should start with a national policy.

Technology can be a monster like Hyde if the companies and scientists that create and operate it are given total freedom.

But it can be a good friend like Jekyll if it is well regulated by carefully thought-out policy and plans.

Policy is thus the key, so that humans decide how to use technology rather than allow unregulated technology to control our lives.

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Speak up about cyberbullying: An invisible form on campus

Thursday, November 29th, 2018
(File pix) Jane Teoh (left) and Ruby Faye during the awareness campaign talk on cyberbullying at HELP University. Pix by NSTP/Rosdan Wahid

THERE’S no specific reason why a person is cyberbullied. Even someone as intelligent and beautiful as the reigning Miss Universe Malaysia 2018 Jane Teoh was a target.

Crowned early this year, the 20-year-old accounting and finance student from Penang beat 16 other hopefuls and was also named Miss Online Personality.

Right after winning the beauty pageant, Jane became a victim of photomontages and viral memes. In one incident, her photo was placed in a collage next to an animal with a caption comparing the similarities and at the same time poking fun at her.

“I became doubtful of myself when I saw the picture and read the comments. It made me feel that I am not good enough and that I have to be perfect as that’s what the public expect of me based on what they say online,” said Jane who will be representing the country at the 67th Miss Universe competition in Bangkok, Thailand next month.

Cyberbullying is a form of bullying that happens online, which involves harming, harassing, threatening and humiliating a person usually through social networks, messaging apps, chat rooms as well as via e-mail and on websites.

Common forms of cyberbullying that cause distress to the victims include spreading false rumours, posting humiliating photos or videos and stalking on social networks, and creating fake profiles and websites.

Jane said the experience of being bullied online or offline may be different for everyone, but it could affect every part of a person’s life and it could happen to anyone.

“In this day and age, we can’t deny the fact that social media is a big part of our lives. No matter what you look like on the outside, or even inside, anyone in the online sphere can be judged and victimised.

“But the youth today are more vulnerable and they tend to care about what people have to say about them. This needs to stop,” said Jane who recently kicked off #DareToShout, an awareness campaign on cyberbullying.

As a victim of cyberbullying, Jane understands how it feels like to read unpleasant comments on social media platforms. So it is important for her to reach out to the youth and help them to speak up about cyberbullying and, in time, overcome it.

While many studies are conducted to understand and document the negative impact of cyberbullying on schoolchildren, relatively little attention has been paid to the same issue on young adults at tertiary institutions. Typically understood as a teen issue, cyberbullying has trickled its way into the lives of university students and adults.

There is not much research on cyberbullying at higher education institutions to start with.

One research published in 2017 to understand the prevalence of cyberbullying among tertiary students in the country found that most cyber victims experienced emotional changes and became overly sensitive to their surroundings.

Out of 712 students who participated in the research conducted by academicians from Universiti Tun Hussein Onn Malaysia, 66 per cent reported that they have been cyberbullied. The findings also indicated that seeking assistance from friends and classmates is the most common coping strategy instead of asking help from the counselling centre at university.

HELP University Centre for Psychological and Counselling Services lecturer Sarah Yung said while the negative impact of cyberbullying on youth at schools is well-documented, comparatively less is known about its effects on undergraduates. It may benignly be seen that undergraduates tolerate such actions within the context of a university culture.

“Cyberbullying happens at universities but at a slightly evolved form unlike the bullying we see at schools. It has one dangerous trait — at tertiary level, it is quite invisible.”

“On a university confession page for instance, you can read many negative comments. However, it may not appear as cyberbullying for those aged between 18 and 25 years old.”

Cyberbully, she added, is of a strange trend originating from freedom of speech and speaking one’s mind that is emerging on the Internet and social media— the tool and space for people to express themselves.

The anonymity in social networks makes it easier for people to share their opinions and, in some ways, reflect their thoughts. Bullies know they can hide behind the computer screen and email, and text and post messages that contain hurtful words that are rude and highly defamatory.

“In the case of cyberbullying, there are no details that we can identify such as the face of a victim or the bully.

“Cyberbullying, like bullying, happens for many reasons, but it is certainly easier to bully someone from behind a screen.”

There is an assumption that cyberbully victims in general are helpless, have low self-esteem and lack confidence.

But students who excel academically can be victims of bullies. These are students who are active at universities and communicate well with the staff, faculty and friends.

“If someone posted something mean and we responded by liking that posting, are we also cyberbullies? In other words, am I taking sides with a cyberbully?”


Cyberbullies can cause mental and physical impact such as depression, anxiety, stress, sleeplessness, weight loss and even suicidal thoughts.

For university students, being on the receiving end of cyberbullying can affect their personal lives, grades and relationships inside and outside the university, including avoidance of certain individuals and places where the cyberbully frequents.

Sarah, who is also a registered counsellor, said most youngsters care about how others perceive them, usually believing what people say about them while trying hard to please people to accept them for who they are.

“We cannot escape the strange climate on the Internet that gives a sense of control over how one wants to be pictured by others on the web.

For some, accounts and pictures of the better lives of other people can make them feel that life is unfair.”

Very often, Sarah added, victims do not feel the connection with those around them. They go online hoping that netizens will give them the attention.

“Some young people, who are suffering from stress and a low support system, turn to people online for support.

“If they do not receive the support online, the rejection affects their self-worth. At a stage where one is trying to build one’s identity, one tends to be more vulnerable to the perception of others.”

More students today are struggling with anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts.

“It is a very pressing concern that they are struggling to find meaning in what they do and who they are. At 21, which is the age that one is legally an adult, they think others expect that they should have figured out their life.

“Some 20-year-olds cannot find the meaning of life and do not know how to even describe the missing pieces they feel in their lives.

“The irony is while we live in the age of connectivity, many of these young people feel disconnected. Reality is filtered on the Internet but many of us believe and define the world based on what is on the screen.”

This results in some feeling less about themselves, so they struggle with their selfworth, feel anxious and depressed leading to suicidal thoughts.


“It is easier to choose not to communicate with anybody nowadays. Just take out my phone, put on my earphones and everyone will leave me alone,” Sarah said.

A lack of physical connection may be one of the reasons why the younger generation born in this digital age feels lost in this world.

Communicating with different age groups creates different connections and develops points of view for the young people.

However, Sarah believes regenerating the sense of connection with people around them, especially with different age groups, is important.

“You see your peers as equals. Peer discussions on certain topics may lead you nowhere.

“Having an older figure who can connect to you and be a mentor can generate ties that you may not get from your peers.

“Youths need mentors and we see this especially at universities when lecturers reach out and connect with students. Lecturers become an important bridge for students to cross over to the next level.

“When there is interaction between these two generations, it builds a sense of connection for both.”



Compile the evidence that you can garner which can include text messages, emails, screenshots, instant message conversations and IP addresses according to dates and times.


Share it with someone you trust who can help you find the courage to make it stop.


Block bullies immediately even when they create new accounts.


Control who can see what you write and post, as many social media accounts allow you to go private.


Ignore bullies as retaliating opens up more problems.

A technology-free start for children?

Monday, November 26th, 2018
All in the family: Parenting made simple? Or a phenomenon modern parents have to live with? — AFP

All in the family: Parenting made simple? Or a phenomenon modern parents have to live with? — AFP

IT is amazing to watch my granddaughter use the iPad. She swipes her finger across the screen, chooses her favourite programmes and even skips advertisements. Tiara Azalea is two years and four months. She can hardly speak or manage her own hygiene. And yet, give her a gadget and she is already like a pro.

When she gets bored in the car, she will spend time watching her favourite movies, Moana or Frozen. When she gets grumpy, give her video character Blippi. To get her to eat, show her The Wheels on the Bus series or Diddi. Parenting made simple? Or a phenomenon modern parents have to live with?

She is not alone. In the world we live in, technology is everywhere.

Children at a very young age are exposed to screens. Toddlers are bombarded with millions of images every day. Not surprisingly, they are addicted to the screen even before they can play. Or worse, before they learn to socialise.

The screen is changing the way they understand the world. Some argue that screen addiction among young kids is real.

We are not sure how it will impact upon our children. The Internet is still a work in progress, perhaps in its infancy even. We are not sure how humans will learn, work and socialise in the near future. While it can sound exciting, it can also be scary.

A study published recently in the United States found that children aged 8 to 18 are spending an average of 44.5 hours per week in front of screens. That is worrying.

There is yet a comprehensive study on how children below four are spending time on the Internet and what effect it has on them. In advertising lingo, they are not even qualified yet to be “respondents”, but they are as much exposed to screen images on TV or the Internet.

Parents have every reason to be concerned. So too educationists, child psychologists and behaviourists. We should be worried about whether early exposure to Internet devices will rob them of a natural childhood.

We all acknowledge the fact that screen addiction relates to time spent on these gadgets, however educational it may be. We can see how they lose their sense of time when they are “at it”. They get grumpy when they are interrupted or irritated when deprived.

Parenting in the 21st century isn’t easy. It is amazing how children today are brought up in a digital environment. It is a question of how young to start them on the Internet, some would argue.

The Internet will differentiate the know-a-lot from the know-less. Digital technology is the biggest disruptor in the history of mankind – for better or worse.

We can predict that tomorrow’s education will be based on tablets. Books will be the thing of the past.

But how much is much? How do we really prepare the young to have a childhood that we desire for them?

We want them to be prepared for the future but at the same time, we must develop the necessary tools and ecosystem to ensure that they are social beings, first and last.

We have seen too many stories about adolescents immersing themselves in the world of video games, becoming reclusive at best or societal pests at worse.

I read in The Sunday Times Magazine two weeks ago about how Silicon Valley titans, the ones who got our kids addicted to screens, are sending their own children to elite, tech-free schools.

The piece by Danny Fortson is an eye-opener indeed. As Apple celebrates the 11th birthday of iPhone, it is important to reflect how its creation has become a pivotal moment for mankind.

Today, three billion humans are on IPhones.Many of them, according to one observer, have turned into “dopamine-frazzled zombies”.

One school in San Francisco, where the Silicon Valley lies, is about going back to basics. It has a strict “no-screens policy”.

As nicely put by Fortson, “in the crucible of the global technology industry, the same executives who have flooded the world with smartphones and addictive social media apps happily pay up to US$40,000 (RM167,900) a year to wall off their kids from their creations”.

What an irony. And even more ironic, the creator of iPhone, the late Steve Jobs, sent his daughter to the school back in 1984!

What about our kids? Should we seriously think of a “technology-free” start for them?

We all agree on one thing, that modern technology is addictive by design. Questions must be asked. When is the right time for young kids to be exposed to technology, for it is unavoidable in today’s world?

We can’t expect kids today to go back to the world that my generation once lived in – running around and getting dirty on the open fields and only hearing the dial tones when we started working. We cannot turn back the tide of time.

By Johan Jaaffar
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What languages should we teach our children?

Thursday, November 15th, 2018
(File pix) We may learn Korean for business purposes or love of the culture.

IF we had to teach our children how to survive in an uncertain future, how would we do it? Four big challenges threaten our current world order: climate change, globalisation, migration and digitalisation. Many people wonder what skills and knowledge future generations will need to live and thrive in a radically changing world. What do we need to teach our children?

The task is to create a curriculum for our collective survival as humankind. I will argue here that learning languages must be part of it: not a “nice to have” but an essential life skill. So how will language competence be taught in a curriculum of collective survival?

First, we will strip out what is unnecessary. For instance, we will not teach grammar for its own sake, or archaic forms of the language.

Second, we will treat literature, culture and narrative separately. Not because they are unimportant but because they will play such a crucial role that they must be treated as a subject in their own right. Compared to the task of helping students acquire linguistic competence, teaching the rules and dynamics of meaning-making and interpretation requires a distinctly different approach.

Third, we will focus on the essentials: on helping young people develop a high degree of competence in all four language skills of listening, speaking, reading and writing. They must be able to read and understand complex and lengthy pieces of text at speed and in depth.

They must be able to produce sophisticated and effective pieces of writing in all four major text types: argumentative, discursive, descriptive and narrative. And they must be able to participate in oral communication with a high degree of fluency, subtlety and ease.

In the curriculum of collective survival, language competence will also mean to be competent in more than one language. The benefits of bilingualism are well-documented, and our children will need them.

On a socio-economic level, bilingual individuals have access to a much wider range of opportunities for collaboration, from business deals and power plays to marriage proposals.

On a cognitive level, constantly working the brain by switching between languages has training effects similar to building muscle in a gym. It enhances the executive function, which means bilingual individuals can better focus their attention and have greater problem-solving abilities. And it improves both episodic and semantic memory, i.e. the ability to remember events, feelings and activities as well as facts, concepts, and algorithms.

On a cultural level, bilingual individuals have the crucial ability to see things from more than one perspective. Their increased meta linguistic awareness and multiple cultural frames of reference train them to process seemingly contradictory thoughts simultaneously, to live with ambiguity, paradox and uncertainty.

How then should we advise young people on their language choices within a curriculum of collective survival? In my view, we should encourage every child to become competent in at least three languages.

First, children need to know the national language of their place of citizenship. It is simple: you should be able to speak the official language of the nation-state whose passport you hold. Or at least one of them.

Then, they need to know the lingua franca of the modern world, which is English. For better or worse, English has become the common language of the new trans-national empire that spans the globe, and our children need to be fluent in it.

Things get a bit more complicated when it comes to the third language choice. I see four main options that can make sense for individuals in different contexts. I call them tribal, civilisational, neighbourly and transactional or passionate.

Tribal is the language of belonging, the tongue and dialect of one’s community of origin.

Civilisational means to study the language of one of the world’s major civilisations, often connecting to ancient wisdom and long strands of cultural evolution.

Neighbourly is the ability to converse with people across the border in their own language.

And transactional or passionate would be a language choice guided by a special interest.

For example, an engineer in Zurich, Switzerland, would have grown up with the melodious tones of the Swiss German dialect spoken in his ancestral valley (“tribal”), learned to read and write standard German in primary school (“national”), be expected to at least understand his French and Italian speaking counterparts in neighbouring cantons and countries (both “neighbourly” and “national”), and use English to keep up to date in his industry and negotiate deals with global business partners.

A Tibetan monk in Kathmandu, Nepal, would speak Nepali as the language of citizenship, study modern and classical Tibetan as his tribal and civilisational language, be able to converse in Hindi with the Indian neighbours, and use English to guide his foreign students and keep up with his family in the global diaspora.

A businesswoman in Jakarta, Indonesia, would speak Bahasa Indonesia as her language of citizenship. She might remember some Hokkien from her parents and some Sundanese from her childhood friends (both “tribal”). Later she is perhaps sent to study Mandarin as her civilisational orientation, but now she takes lessons in Korean, ostensibly for business purposes (although she knows she will mostly speak English there anyway) but really because of her love of K-pop (“transactional/passionate”).

My point is: all of these can be valid choices.

What we need to do in our curriculum of collective survival is encourage children to learn at least three languages, give them a framework of language study that will enable them to make sensible and meaningful decisions, and then help them develop their language skills to very high levels of functional competence.

By Ben Schmidt.

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E-textbook introduction draws mixed reaction from public.

Sunday, October 28th, 2018

PETALING JAYA: The surprise announcement by the Deputy Edu­cation Minister on schools going digital with the introduction of e-textbooks next year has drawn mixed reaction from the public.

Although educationist Datuk N. Siva Subramaniam said the move was timely and a step forward in improving the country’s education system, many find that this may pose disadvantages and unforeseen consequences to students, parents and teachers.

Some of the main concerns highlighted include the financial burden students and parents may face should they need the devices, theft of the devices and also health concerns in terms of damaging eyesight among students due to prolonged screen time.

Deputy Edu­cation Minister Teo Nie Ching announced on Friday that e-textbooks would be introduced in secondary schools starting next year, but details were still being ironed out.

She said the ministry was discussing whether to let students download these e-books on their personal devices or on school devices, adding that the content would be in PDF format first but would eventually be made more interactive later on.

One concerned Facebook user, Jamaliah, said, “Yes, no doubt it (going digital) is good but there are many bad (consequences) too. Child­ren will face the screen for long hours and handwriting will be bad.”

She also said that if one buys a tablet today, it becomes obsolete tomorrow.

“Books are better,” she added.

Another user said, “I am more worried about the children’s eyesight in the long term … This is not a good idea for primary or secondary schools. Objection!”

One user asked: “Will the tablets be sponsored by MOE? Any control over its usage at school level?”

In terms of theft control, one comment by Steven read, “How many students can afford this and is our society ready for this? e.g. theft issue?”

On the other hand, there are also those who support the decision and those who believe that there should be a mix of digital and print materials for learning.

“It’s about time anyway … this is the age of digital devices. We cannot prevent it from happening but we can control the type of hardware and software,” said Fakhzan.

On another note, there are also tech issues attached to the e-textbook proposal.
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How it can break big tech’s hold on A.I.

Sunday, October 21st, 2018
PAIRING artificial intelligence (AI) and blockchain might be what you would expect from a scammer looking to make a quick buck in 2018.

The two concepts, after all, are two of the most buzzed about and least understood ideas in the tech universe.

The blockchain, the database design introduced by bitcoin, has lately been the most popular route for anyone looking to raise money for an idea that sounds too good to be true.

Despite how easy the combination is to mock, the idea of applying blockchain to AI is attracting a growing roster of serious entrepreneurs and venture capitalists, many of them with impressive academic credentials.

Dawn Song, a computer science professor at the University of California in the United States, and Ben Goertzel, the chief scientist at Hanson Robotics, have been among big names arguing that blockchain can be a crucial way to push back against some of the most worrying trends facing the field of AI.

Many AI experts are concerned that Facebook, Google and other big companies are hoarding talent in the field. The Internet giants also control the massive troves of online data that are necessary to train and refine the best machine learning programmes.

Song, Goertzel and other entrepreneurs believe blockchain can encourage a broader distribution of the data and algorithms that will determine the future development of AI.

The startups working towards this goal are applying blockchains in a number of ways. At the most basic level, just as blockchain allows money to be moved around without any bank or central authority in the middle, AI experts are hoping a blockchain can allow AI networks to access large stores of data without any big company in control of the data or the algorithms

Ben Goertzel, the chief scientist at Hanson Robotics, with the humanoid robot Sophia, an alternative to Amazon’s Alexa, in his office in Hong Kong. He wants Sophia to reach out to other AI providers if she cannot find answers to users’ questions. NYT PIC

Several startups are setting up blockchain-based marketplaces, where people can buy and sell data. Ocean Protocol, a project based in Berlin, Germany, is building the infrastructure so that anyone can set up a marketplace for any kind of data, with the users of data paying the sources with digital tokens.

Unlike Google and Facebook, which store the data they get from users, the marketplaces built on Ocean Protocol will not have the data themselves — they will just be places for people with data to meet, ensuring that no central player can access or exploit the data.

“Blockchains are incentive machines — you can get people to do stuff by paying them,” said Trent McConaghy, one of the founders of Ocean Protocol, who has been working in AI since the 1990s.

Ocean Protocol is working with several automakers to collect data from cars to create the AI of autonomous cars. All the automakers are expected to share data so none of them have a monopoly over it.

Another startup, Revel, will pay people to collect the data that companies are looking for, like pictures of taxis or recordings of a particular language. Users can let their phones and computers be used to process and categorise the images and sounds — all in exchange for digital tokens. Over a thousand people have already put their computers to work.

These sorts of marketplaces are only the outer layer of the blockchain-based systems that are being built to handle AI data.

One of the biggest concerns that people have about the data being collected by Google and Facebook is the access it gives these companies to the most private details of our lives.

Song is working on a block-chain, known as Oasis, that will use advanced techniques to secure the data being bought and sold, so that no one — not even the company using the data — will get a copy of it.

In the Oasis network, all data moving through the system will be locked into encrypted bundles. Researchers will be able to run the data through their machine learning algorithms — and prove that the calculations were done correctly — without actually seeing the underlying data.

Other startups are using blockchains to open access to the AI models themselves. Goertzel has created SingularityNET, a blockchain that will serve as a link among AI services around the world. If one AI module is unable to come up with an answer, it can consult with others and provide compensation if one of the other modules is able to get it right.


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Rise of the app-trepreneurs

Sunday, September 9th, 2018

KUALA LUMPUR: An online service that helps you plan your own funeral. An app that tracks debts your friends owe you. A platform to help clueless car owners choose parts.

These are just some examples of the unique apps and online services developed by Malaysian entrepreneurs today.

And their creative spark in catering to specific consumer needs is putting Malaysia on track to becoming a leader in developing digital apps in the region, says the National ICT (Information and Communica­tions Technology) Association of Malaysia or Pikom.

Pikom chairman Ganesh Kumar Bangah said it was becoming a trend for niche apps in Malaysia to be developed and more were expected to emerge in future.

“As they cater to new and smaller markets, it is only natural for such need-based niche apps to be crea­ted,” he told Sunday Star recently.

Ganesh said Malaysia had the right ingredients to take the lead in South-East Asia’s digital economy: a talented pool of entrepreneurs and a tech-savvy society.

Malaysia has one of the highest Internet penetrations in South-East Asia at 85.7% and mobile penetration at almost 140%, making it one of the fastest growing emerging e-commerce markets in the region.

“We are at the right stage.

“We are not too small like Singapore nor too diverse like Indonesia.

“That makes us a good testing ground to launch products across South-East Asia, where its digital economy is expected to grow from US$50bil (RM205.3bil) to US$250bil (RM1.03 trillion) over the next seven years.

“If you look at one of the biggest leaders in the digital economy today, it is Grab, which was started in Malaysia.

“So we are a good petri dish for launching apps and finding product market fits, and helping these businesses to grow internationally,” said Ganesh, who heads the association commanding 80% of the total ICT trade here.

Companies which assist start-ups, known as “accelerators”, have also noticed the growth of businesses serving unique needs.

“In the last few years, we have witnessed the emergence of more niche start-ups.

“This is a refreshing and positive change in the tide of the local ecosystem because it gives opportunities to bright entrepreneurs who did not fit previous trends,” said Code Army founder Zafrul Noordin.

He added that this situation was also a reflection of the unique demands and needs of Malaysian consumers which had evolved.

“We also cannot ignore the millennial market, which comprises a huge chunk of Malaysian consumers who prefer to use gadgets, apps, and online resources for their daily needs.

“It is hugely their collective demand for convenience at their fingertips that many of these niche apps and start-ups are formulated,” Zafrul said.

Recently, the Department of Statis­tics Malaysia projected that the e-commerce growth rate in Malaysia would almost double, from 10.6% in 2016 to 20.8% by 2020.

In the same line, Pikom had also predicted that the total ICT contribution to Malaysia’s gross domestic product would grow from RM164.9bil in 2016 to about RM177.7bil in 2017.

Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation chief executive officer Datuk Yasmin Mahmood said the nation’s merchants, SMEs, industries and consumers were forging ahead to digitalise Malaysia’s proud tradition as a global trading nation.

By Yuen Meikeng
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