Category: Pub: Article / Paper
Details: S. K. Gill and W. H. Ross (2007)
Keywords: , , , , , , ,

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Abstract

Information and communications technology (ICT) is fast catching up with youth throughout the globe. Once confined to the affluent of urban populace, ICT is now transcending boundaries, cultures and the economy of the masses, bridging the gap between urban and rural youth. New technology is creeping into aboriginal villages in Malaysia as a result of development intervention by the government and development agencies. This paper highlights a case study of a group of indigenous Orang Asli Jakun youth between 16 to 22 years of age in Kampung Simpai, a village in the wetlands of South-East Pahang, Malaysia who are currently documenting their traditional knowledge using ICT. The documentation is part of the village’s effort to preserve their knowledge on traditional medicine and plants deemed important for their livelihood through a community-based project. The Heritage Garden (HG) Project was an 18-month project, beginning January 2006, coordinated by the UNDP/GEF funded Peat Swamp Forest (PSF) Project with seed funding from the EC-UNDP Small Grants Programme for Operations to Promote Tropical Forests (SGP PTF), Malaysia. The core focus of this paper is on the ability of aboriginal youth of the interior to grasp technology. Their ability to learn was explored based on gender differences and socio-economic factors. The paper also investigates the impacts of new technology on indigenous (aboriginal) youth involved with the HG Project. The performance and ability of the youth was gauged through hands-on examinations and longitudinal observation of these youth in training as well as during the actual process of documentation over a period of fifteen months. Data on youth motivation and expectations were elicited via individual questionnaires given out before and after the training course. The Pebble Distribution Method (PDM) (CIFOR, 2002) was adopted to investigate youth motivation to learn, their ability/willingness to pass on skills to others in the community and the impacts of ICT on the youth. The PDM was adopted as a tool to gauge perceptions and attitudes using numerical methods (CIFOR, 2002). New technology in the context of the HG Project include basic and advanced computing skills, handling of digital and video cameras as well as editing video and still images. The outcome of the action research debunks the perception of the average Malaysian that Orang Asli youth are lazy and lack the intellect to learn, let alone, grasp new technology. A breakdown of their ICT competency and interpersonal skills is provided in the paper. The ability to grasp new technology has positively impacted the youth in raising their confidence level (as captured in the PDM). The motivation factor for learning ICT stems mainly from the need for personal development, curiosity of new technology and the desire to help their community. The introduction of new technology and increased confidence levels have resulted in a brain drain, i.e. youth wanting to leave their village to pursue advanced courses in vocational skills to eventually seek employment in the capital city, which is a setback to UNDP/GEF development efforts to retain youth in the village to contribute to local development.

Introduction

This paper attempts to highlight an initiative to document indigenous knowledge (IK) using Information and Communications Technology (ICT) by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)—Global Environment Facility (GEF) Peat Swamp Forest (PSF) Project MAL/99/G31 titled ‘Conservation and Sustainable Use of Tropical Peat Swamp Forests and Associated Wetland Ecosystems’. The focus of this paper is on ICT training of seven aboriginal youth who were engaged as interns in a project titled, ‘The Traditional Asli Jakun Medicinal Heritage Garden Project’ (The HG Project) in a small aboriginal village belonging to the Jakun sub-group, called Kampung Simpai in the state of Pahang, Malaysia. The HG Project is a recipient of the EC UNDP Small Grants Projects for Operations to Promote Tropical Forests (SGP PTF) with the UNDP/GEF funded PSF Project sponsoring in part and assisting in the overall coordination of the project.