THERE are 19 e-Desa centres or rural cyber cafés in Sabah since the first one was launched in 2004 by the ministry of resource development and information technology. Its aim is to bring the internet to the villages to keep farmers informed of things around them such as weather, farming practices, prices of produce and what is available in the market.
These centres have also narrowed the digital gap between villagers and town people. Now demand for them has grown greatly, according to Dr Yee Moh Chai, a Deputy Chief Minister who heads the ministry.
At an e-Desa workshop for 49 villagers on April 13, Dr Yee said e-Desa has been very successful. “It is not just the people who want it,” he said. “State assemblymen and members of parliament have been asking for them to be set up in their constituencies.”
Teaching Villagers ICT.
An E-Desa centre costs between 500,000 and 700,000 ringgit ($163,000 and $229,000), according to Dr Yee. And the Sabah government has spent about 12m ringgit on them.
This is money well spent as villagers have not only learnt how to use computers and the internet but they have basic knowledge of information and computer technology that has enriched their life.
Courses have been conducted for them to learn how to use software and internet applications.
An e-Desa development department has been setup to manage the e-Desa portal and to provide training for villagers. Broadband penetration rate has increased from 15% in 2009 to 33% although still below the national average of 60%. (Insight Sabah- Pictures by Victor Lo)