A `kampung' in the Net

By ANITA MATTHEWS

KAMPUNG REPOH, located in the Batu Kurau constituency 90 kilometres from Ipoh, is a hive of activity.

The village folk are not caught up with tending vegetable patches or harvesting bananas. Instead, they are glued to two multimedia PCs currently housed at the penghulu's (headman) home, which have brought the cyberworld right to their doorsteps.

For the 1,200 folks of the kampung -- or village -- getting a taste of cyberspace was enough to prompt them to stamp their mark on the World Wide Web, with their own homepage (Kg Repoh).

"We had heard of computers and the Internet, but had never used a PC or seen what the Internet was all about," reveals Kampung Repoh's penghulu Ramli Baharim.

The kampung folk's sojourn into cyberspace began after a group of Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) students gave a demo on local online newspapers, and compared online headlines with the printed version.

"They were truly awed when they saw the similarity. What blew them was seeing an online version of the Koran," says UTM's project manager Nurazariah Abidin.

True tech transfer

Nurazariah -- also known as Azah -- a third year student in the Faculty of Development and Human Resources Management at UTM, led a group of seven students to Repoh to as part of the university's Program Limpahan Intelektual 1997. (See sidebar).

The students borrowed six PCs from Yayasan Perak and sourced another four from the university for the project. During a week-long stay in Repoh, the students taught village youths the basics of the PC and how to use the computer as a communications tool.

"We intend to have follow up sessions to make sure the interest is sustained," says Azah, adding that follow up programmes would also include bringing some of the youths back to the varsity for related activities.

"We have the expertise and they have the manpower -- we feel this is true technology transfer," adds Mohd Masdi Musa, a final year student at UTM's Faculty of Information Systems and Computer Science.

The youths selected to participate in the programme included local teachers and several self-employed businessman.

"We picked people from Repoh to make sure they wouldn't run away," chuckles Azah.

The students used Microsoft Front Page and Java-based tools to design the page. It contains information on the village's livelihood and tourist attractions, which were obtained from the villagers.

"For all intents are purposes, the homepage is aimed at putting Repoh on the world map," says Masdi, who also headed the homepage design team.

Initially, the homepage will be updated monthly by the UTM team, before it is handed over to the village team for maintenance.

PCnot motorbikes

Plans are also afoot to add a scanner, printer and video-conferencing equipment to complement the PCs.

"This way we can keep the momentum going and interest upscale all the time," Masdi says.

The students reckon that introducing the villagers to the Internet would be the perfect way to broaden their horizons, and bring the rest of the world to them. It would open avenues, and allow them to "see" or "visit" places they would never have visited in real life.

At the end of the programme, Yayasan Perak also donated two Pentium 166MHz PCs to the village, giving the villagers the means to continue developing the homepage.

"Our kampung folk are happy and now they get excited when talk centres on education. They realise this is the future and they no longer react negatively towards the Internet," says Ramli.

He adds that the PCs will be housed at the village's community centre which is currently being renovated to equip the PCs.

"After the next durian harvest, we hope our folk will go out and buy PCs instead of motorcycles," says Ramli.

In fact, some of the schoolteachers who had taken part in the programme last year have done just that.


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