The Borneo Post
UTS establishing ‘Community Network’ with Bawang Assan in Sibu
KUCHING: The University of Technology Sarawak (UTS) is currently carrying out an initiative to develop the first Community Network in Malaysia.
The university, according to Assoc Prof Dr Tariq Zaman, head of the Advanced Centre for Sustainable Socio-Economic and Technological Department at its School of Computing and Creative Media, is working closely with the Bawang Assan community in Sibu to establish this network.
“This includes a combination of training of the community to better understand and plan for digital infrastructure such as how and where it should be placed,” he said at the Sarawak Development Institute (SDI) Brown Bag Talk on ‘Digital Inclusion Policies in Sarawak - Are We Missing Something?’ conducted via Zoom yesterday.
A Community Network is a computer-based system intended to support and provide access to communities in under-served areas with infrastructure built, managed and used by the local communities.
Tariq said UTS has a partnership with the Association for Progressive Communications (APC), which is one of the promoters of Community Networks all over the world.
“There are many Community Networks around the world such as Kenya and Nigeria where even the Community Network will have access and be able to apply for Universal Services Fund (USF).
“We want to establish this network with the support of local communities and international partners. and once it’s established, how do we sustain it in the long term which includes setting up a Community Cooperative to run and operate the Community Network,” he explained.
During the talk Tariq also touched on what Sarawak was missing in terms of digital inclusion policies. He commended the deployment of local techs under the National Digital Connectivity Plan (Jendela) and Sarawak Linking Urban, Rural and Nation - Sarawak Rural Broadband Network (SaluranMySRBN) to help reach and provide Sarawak’s rural and remote areas with connectivity.
“But the challenge after this would be how to sustain these networks. The communities need some basic and fundamental knowledge of Internet connectivity so that tomorrow,
if the Internet is not working due to any reasons, they can handle the small challenges.
“So quality of human resources as well as skill and knowledge of the community in rural areas are very important as well,” he stressed.
Local communities, he said, need to be trained to provide policy input whenever there is a policy forum on such matters.
“The Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) usually calls for public enquiries on what the consumer enquired and what challenges they are facing.
“They are open for policy input but the local communities or associations don’t have the capacity to provide this input and this is the other component where we need to train the local community members or cooperatives to provide such input and public enquiries,” he pointed out.