E Bario Project: In Search of a Methodology to Provide Access to Information Communications Technologies for Rural Communities in Malaysia
Poline Bala (Universiti Malaysia Sarawak, Malaysia), Roger W. Harris (City University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong) and Peter Songan (Universiti Malaysia Sarawak, Malaysia)
Copyright: © 2008
This chapter highlights an initiative by a group of researchers2 from Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (UNIMAS) to connect villagers in the remote and isolated village of Bario to Information Communication Technologies (ICTs), which include computers, telephones, the Internet, and VSATs. This project has eased the information flow in and out of Bario, affecting the well-being of the people by providing a means to keep in touch with friends and relatives in urban areas. The response of the Bario community has been positive, but the objective of the e Bario project is more ambitious than to just provide access to the Internet, computers and other related technologies. The main objective is to identify opportunities for remote and rural communities in Sarawak to develop socially, culturally and economically from the deployment of the technologies. The results of the initiative are expected to demonstrate the many ways in which ICTs can be used to improve the lives of marginalized groups, specifically, here, the rural and remote communities in Malaysia. However, to ensure that the objectives will ultimately be met, the team has had to search for an appropriate methodology that will ensure the full benefits of the initiative to the community. This chapter describes and discusses the approaches adopted, emphasizing the benefits of a close association between the researchers and the community as well as the adoption of suitable participatory methods for engaging with the needs and opportunities that were discovered.