Visiting ICT4D researcher joins W4RA team

Since June 2015 Cheah ICT4D researcher Cheah WaiShiang is participating in the W4RA team. Cheah studied computer science in Malaysia and Australia and holds a PhD in software engineering. He was involved as a researcher in several ICT4D projects in rural areas of Sarawak, Malaysia, in the telecenters of Long Lamai and Bario.

In Sarawak there are hundreds of rural telecenters. Telecenters in Sarawak are set up by the Malaysian government to provide internet and digital services for socio-economic development of remote rural communities, however, the services are often technology-centered and not truly adapted to the specific needs of the rural communities. E.g. the e-health Check System, which was developed by JAIST researchers is able to record basic health data (health, weight, blood pressure) to raise awareness about health issues and detect common illnesses, however, the system is too expensive for the people in the community, moreover, its interface is not easy to use for people with little digital experience, or those who are not able to read and write.

An e-commerce system that was set up lately to help the communities to sell handycraft and locally produced art to visiting tourists, does not seem to increase the sales, as the total cost of ownership of the system is very costly.

Cheah Waishiang wants to assess the adaptivity and sustainability of the ICTs systems and hardware for the rural communities in Sarawak. He proposes an alternative health awareness system, which is more contextualized. He is currently evaluating the existing e-commerce system, and will propose a new method to assess feasibility of ICT systems at an early stage, that will give more insight in the possible business ideas. Apart from that Cheah is assessing the possibility to set up a digital story telling offline server for kids, to connect them to other villages.