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Semporna Community's Gateway To The Cyber Realm

on 27 November 2010.

By Ismail Lamo

SEMPORNA, Nov 22 (Bernama) -- The community in Pulau Larapan, a fishing enclave in Semporna, is now familiar with terms like "borderless world" or "global village".

They have become acquainted with the terms not through the mass media or through the speeches of the community leaders but due to their own participation in the cyber realm.

The population here numbering almost 2,000 is mostly from the Bajau ethnicity and now have their own gateway to the cyber world - eLarapan.

The Paglatunan eLarapan (Internet centres with the eLarapan) that is at the disposal of the people here was set up recently through the efforts of Universiti Malaysia Sarawak's (Unimas)Centre of Excellence for Rural Information (CoERI).

The Paglatunan eLarapan's reach goes beyond the island to the surrounding areas and is set to bring the winds of change for the locals especially in their routines.

AVAILABLE 24/7

The Internet Centre powered by solar energy has six computers, Internet line, a printer and LCD projector and is open 24/7.

The centre was officiated by the Unimas' Deputy Vice Chancellor (Research and Innovation) Prof Dr Peter Songan and Japan's Consul General in Kota Kinabalu Kazuyoshi Yamaguchi.

Paglatunan eLarapan is an information communication technology project implemented by CoERI following the success of eBario and eLamai in Miri, Sarawak and eBuayan in Penampang, Sabah.

These projects have been jointly financed by the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation and the Government of Japan.

Now, the community in Pulau Larapan can communicate with their family members and friends in diaspora at ease without worrying of the cost involved.

The Paglatunan eLarapan also helps to keep the community abreast with the happenings in their surroundings while inculcating the culture of knowledge among the locals.

The Internet centre will not only change the way the locals communicate with the outside world but also improve their socio-economic standing by promoting their place and products.

FOLLOW-UP PROJECT

Unimas's CoERI Director Asociate Prof Dr Alvin Yeo Wee noted the success is due to the close cooperation between CoERI researchers and the community in Pulau Larapan since July, 2009.

"During the monthly visits to the centre by CoERI's reseachers, the views and feedback from the community on the centre is taken note. CoERI's commitment in helping the Bajau community in Pulau Larapan is not limited to the Internet centre only," he said.

He said follow up actions like providing training for computer use and Internet use is being held with the cooperation of Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS).

"Currently several locals are undergoing training. This trained villagers will then train their fellow villagers," he said.

Through this approach, the people of Pulau Larapan regardless of their age, sex and education level enjoy the opportunity on how to use the computer and the Internet.

Other than that, CoERI is also cooperating with UMS with regards to environmental sustainability around Pulau Larapan especially in terms of waste disposal that can pollute this beautiful island.

"A proper waste management is needed not only to make Pulau Larapan a clean and healthy settlement but also to prepare the island to join the tourism bandwagon," he said.

TOURISM

Dr Alvin noted that Semporna has already earned its reputation in tourism due to many of its beautiful islands and it is only wise that the people of Pulau Larapan also ensure that their island is not left out from the tourism industry.

He pointed out Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) and CoERI would join hands in maintaining Pulau Larapan's beauty, its people's culture and way of life serve as an attraction.

"Pulau Larapan could also serve as a stopover for island hopping tourists in Semporna," he said.

Therefore, he said, the Internet centre in Pulau Larapan could serve as an important nexus in tourism activities as the cyber gateway could help market Pulau Larapan all over the world.

Currently, he said, 10 of the houses there have been earmarked for the Inap Desa (homestay) programme with several daily activities of the Bajau like "mengarang" (looking for marine food resources) that could attract visitors.

In Bario, Sarawak, the Internet centre there is seen as the catalyst in the development of the tourism industry that promises good returns for the homestay operators, tourist guides, food outlet operators and handicraft makers.

"There are also Kelabit art entrepreneurs in Sarawak who market their works through the Internet to customers all over the world. The same vision could be realized in Pulau Larapan," noted Dr Alvin.

Extracted from BERNAMA.

Arkib Berita

Universiti Malaysia Sarawak, 94300 Kota Samarahan, Sarawak, Malaysia Telephone: +60 82581000/+60 82581388, Fax: +60 82 665 088, Email: corporate@unimas.my
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