Holding his breath, Jeno Laing who is in his 60s, gingerly pressed several keys on the laptop before him.

Like the other bewildered villagers around him, Laing was worried that he might execute too much force to the extent of damaging the laptop that appeared to him like a fragile contraption.

But, with much cajoling from the facilitator, Laing went ahead and pressed the keys and to his amazement the screen started depicting images and emitting sounds.

It was a whole new experience to this Orang Ulu farmer who has been toiling in his paddy field and fruit orchard much of his life.

And Laing was amazed when told that the same contraption with only a mere click could help him communicate with friends or relatives anywhere apart from keeping track of the happenings all over the world.

The scene was a part of the three-day basic computer and Internet course held at the Sungai Asap Resettlement Scheme, near the Bakun Hydro Dam project, near here recently.

Telecommunication services provider Maxis organised the course and Laing was among the 400 participants of the course, mostly school children.

The course was held at Uma Belor, one of the 15 Orang Ulu longhouses there.

BETTER IDEA OF THE INTERNET

Maxis is aiming to train 250,000 people nationwide on how to utilise information technology (IT) for their benefit.

In Sarawak alone, Maxis plans to train 30,000 people to be Internet-savvy, according to the Deputy Energy, Water and Communications Minister Datuk Joseph Salang.

“Of course we hope Maxis can train more people. We certainly want more people to have a better idea of what the Internet is all about”.

Salang noted that the Maxis’ initiative was a noble community effort to get rural folks to move forward alongside their more advanced urban counterparts.

According to Norlidasari Abu Osman her company, Osra Management and Services Sdn. Bhd., based in Selangor has been enlisted by Maxis to provide desktops, note books and a VSAT transmitter.

“The company wanted us to conduct the training as well. We need to train at least 84,000 people nation-wide before the year ends,” she told Bernama.

250,000 E-MAIL ADDRESSES

Maxis’ objective is for all the participants to be able to create their own e-mail addresses.

“We are talking about some 250,000 e-mail addresses subject to the availability of the Internet link,” said the managing director.

She said in Sungai Asap, the first site for the project in Sarawak, her company brought in 52 laptops, a VSAT set and four facilitators.

“Sungai Asap is easily accessible from Bintulu town. It has two schools and 15 longhouses. Another crucial factor is that it has round-the-clock power supply,” Norlidasari added.

She said from Sungai Asap, her team then proceeded to teach about 400 people each in Julau, Kanowit and Bau.

Norlidasari’s facilitators also journeyed to Pakan town and remote locations in Sabah as well.

Meanwhile, one of the facilitators Mohd Firdaus Bohari when asked of his exprience at Sungai Asap said: “People are eager to learn. Most of them learnt about computers from their school-going children.

“The children despite their exposure, have only limited knowledge but at least 70 per cent of them know how to surf the Internet,” he said.

INDISPENSIBLE FOR JOB SEEKERS

Mohd Firdaus felt that children of teachers were far better off because their parents have at least a laptop which they could use.

He called on the state government to employ more graduates to conduct more of such computer literacy and internet-savvy courses.

Johanese Dian, 60, a retired Petronas senior manager said being IT literate is the norm for job seekers nowadays.

He noted that those IT illiterate would feel inadequate or out of place, adding that: “It is a blessing that we are now able to expose our young to the ICT world”.

PAYING BILLS ON-LINE

“Even in our remote area here, we cannot escape from technological advancement,” said Dian.

According to Dian, to effectively promote the IT studies among children, the parents should also get involved.

He said the parents with some working knowledge on IT could inspire their children and should be prepared to buy a laptop or a desktop computer.

Dian’s brother-in-law Danny Bungan who helped to organise the course hoped that Maxis could provide the Sungai Asap folks with a VSAT set for them to link up with the Internet.

He said when the people have learnt how to use the Internet, they would be able to go online and pay their utility bills or advertise their products at their own convenience.

GIANT STEP FORWARD

“This will be much more cheaper. Here the transportation costs to and back from Bintulu town and other expenses can be three times more,” Bungan said.

One of the course participants, Penghulu Saging Bit said people living in the interiors were often left out from the latest technological happenings.

“We are very grateful to Maxis for providing this golden opportunity. Some of us have sons or daughters working in faraway lands and we could soon communicate with them.

“This will be cheaper compared to using the handphone or the fixed line telephone,” he said.

Some of the young men from Penghulu Saging’s longhouse are working as far as in Sakhalin, Russia, a few in European countries and Papua New Guinea.

Penghulu Saging said although they had learnt only the rudimentary portions of the ICT during the course, the course participants should seek to learn more advanced applications whenever they could.

He also described the course as another giant step forward for the longhouse folks as well as the students.

— BERNAMA