Wednesday, 30 September 2020

SAY NO! TO TECHNO-FASCISM

Definitive results such as that of the recently concluded Sabah state elections, of the winner of the U.S. presidential election in November 2016 and many more have often defied the results of scores of public opinion surveys which show the opposite.

We have been forced to go online through a web browser on our PCs, through an app on our smartphones or receive softcopoies via email to check our telephone bills, utility bills, bank and credit card statements, make appointments to visit government departments' public service centres, apply online for permission to enter Sarawak, use MySejahtera, Selankah and other contact tracing apps on our smartphones to register our visits to a mall, supermarket and the outlets within, pay local authority parking charges and so forth.

However, whilst Many Malaysians as well as foreign nationals in Malaysia are expert at using their smartphones for messaging services such as WhatsApp, WeChat, TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other social media apps, I often have wondered how many can use their computers and smartphones for more serious and productive uses.

Well, the statement by the Statistics Department reported in The Star of 27 September 2020 reveals that only about 10 per cent of Malaysians had completed the online e-Census, which provides a definitive answer to my question.



Statistics Dept: About one in ten Malaysians have completed online census so far

Sunday, 27 Sep 2020
7:34 PM MYT

By REMAR NORDIN

JOHOR BARU: The Statistics Department says about one in 10 Malaysians have completed the Census 2020 online.

Chief statistician and Census 2020 commissioner Datuk Seri Dr Mohd Uzir Mahidin said to date, about 10% have filled their information through the e-Census form in the first phase of Census 2020, which ends on Sept 30.

He also expressed confidence the department would reach its target of 10 million – or 30% of the total Malaysian population of 32 million – participating in the census online.

"There are still a few days left before the first phase ends and we hope that those who have not filled in their information to do so to avoid congestion on the e-Census website.

"The first phase is being implemented through the e-Census, while the second phase, via face-to-face interview, will be from Oct 7 to Oct 24 where we hope to be able to achieve 100% completion," he said when met by reporters at the e-Census clinic at Johor police headquarters here on Sunday (Sept 27).

The e-Census clinic was also attended by Johor police chief Comm Datuk Ayob Khan Mydin Pitchay.

He added that more than 1,000 e-Census clinics have been set up across the country that operate every day to help with data gathering, which is conducted every 10 years by the government to determine the number of people living in the country, including foreigners.

"Our investigations revealed that the public awareness of the Census 2020 is very high, it is just that we have the habit of doing things at the last minute," he said, adding that he is confident the number would continue to grow in the coming days.

The e-census website is accessible at ecensus.mycensus.gov.my/landing.


I completed my e-Census form online and found it to be a challenging ordeal not for the faint-hearted. 

And now the Statistics Department is chasing people to pre-register before the end of today (30 September 2020) to received the invitation to complete the e-Census form online.

What happens if you don't complete the e-Census 2020?

Wednesday, 30 Sep 2020
3:00 PM MYT

By Angelin Yeoh

Today is the last day for members of the public to pre-register to receive their Invitation Code (IC) for the e-Census 2020.

To do so, visit the e-Census website, click on First Time user or go here for the pre-registration page.

The public are advised to check their Spam or Junk folder to see if the e-Census email may have ended up there.

After receiving the 11-digit IC which is meant to represent their household, Malaysians can then use it to login on the e-Census website to fill in the questionnaire.

Then, they have until Oct 6 to complete and submit the questionnaire.

According to an FAQ, the Statistics Department encourages more people to participate in the Census 2020 online as a way of maintaining physical distancing during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The FAQ stated for those who missed the e-Census questionnaire online submission period, a surveyor will visit their homes for a face-to-face interview using a tablet, smartphone or questionnaire from Oct 7 onwards.

Chief statistician and Census 2020 commissioner Datuk Seri Dr Mohd Uzir Mahidin in a Sept 27 report said only about one in 10 Malaysians had completed the e-Census 2020.

"The first phase is being implemented through the e-Census, while the second phase, via face-to-face interview, will be from Oct 7 to Oct 24 where we hope to be able to achieve 100% completion," he said.

The Census Act 1960, Section 9(2) makes it mandatory for members of the public to answer all questions in the census form and Section 17(1) states that failure to comply may result in a fine of no more than RM100 or prison term of no more than six months or both.

In other news, users also have until 11:59pm tonight (Sept 30) to utilise the ePenjana credit in their eWallets before it expires. Any unused balance will be removed from the eWallet.

Users may still be able to spend or use some of the additional incentives introduced by eWallet providers beyond the Sept 30 ePenjana deadline. They just need to reload enough cash into the eWallet and check the campaign announcements in the app for more information.


Thankfully, for those who have not filled in the e-Census online, the Statistics Department will be sending out their enumerators to interview households face-to-face for Census 2020.

I hope they will reveal how many people answered the e-Census online.

I don't expect that that many more have answered the e-Census 2020 online since 27 September 2020 and this should be an indication to app developers, banks, insurance companies, financial institutions, telephone and utility companies, federal and state governments, local authorities and so forth not to be TECHNO-FASCISTS by forcing people to resort to using apps and go online to check their bills, make applications, make payments and so forth.

NO! TO TECHNO-FASCISM. 

Yours truly

IT.Scheiss

Saturday, 22 August 2020

I'M SO HONOURED

I can't believe this but the academic paper site Academia.edu has informed me via e-mail that IT Scheiss has been mentioned in two academic papers.

Boy! I didn't realise that my rantings and ravings about the ICT scene would be taken so seriously. However, it's good to know that there are people who consider my critique of the ICT scene valuable enough.
 


However, to obtain further details about these mentions of "IT Scheiss", I will have to upgrade my account for a fee. Well for now, I'm not interested.

Yours trully

IT Scheiss





Tuesday, 18 August 2020

DID MORE USEFUL CHANGES IN MY HOME

 Hello folks,

Continuing with my Doing Something Useful series, I recently made some further useful changes in my home. There's no rocket science involved here but just my desire for convenience and some tidiness.

For a long time, I used to have the extension power bar powering my main desktop computer, monitor and printers resting on my desk. The power bar took up desk space and moreover, most of the cable used to rest on the floor, which required to be lifted up whenever I do any sweeping, vacuum cleaning or mopping. Also, I believe ants on the floor used to walk up the cable onto my desk.

Now some brands and models of these extension power bars, such as the ones shown here have holes for screws to pass through.

I then disconnected the power bar from the mains (please unplug the power bar before to avoid the risk of electric shock or electrocution if you decide to do similar work).

Found screws of the right length and thickness from my collection - i.e. it should protrude about 3 cm beyond the back of the power bar. In my case I used 2 inches (about 5.1 cm) long screws and 3cm long plastic wall plugs.

I then marked the screw holes to be drilled in the wall. A simple way to do this is to place the power bar where you intend to fix it on the wall, insert the screws in until they touch the wall and knock them gently with a hammer to mark the wall with indentations.

I then found a masonry drill of similar thickness as the wall plug, fitted it to me trusty electric drill, which I powered from another power plug through another extension (not the one I am going to fix to the wall) noted the part of the drill bit which was 3 cm in from the drill head, then drilled two holes of about 3 cm deep at the points I had marked earlier.

I then pushed plastic wall plugs into the two holes I had drilled and they went all the way in smoothly, with a nice fit.

I then inserted the two screws through the holes in the power bar and guided then to fit into the holes in the wall plugs already in the wall and using a phillips (cross-head) screwdriver of the right size, I screwed the power bar firmly to the wall, as you can see in the picture below, where you can see the two black screws.
 
And, below is the power bar with the plugs for my table lamp, computer monitor, computer and additional extension mini power bar for round a flat pin plugs, as and when needed.

I also manage the business e-mail and correspondence of a friend and neighbour with a small business and have dedicated another desktop computer for that purpose and likewise the power bar used to rest on the computer table which took up space.

So out came my electric drill, drill bit, screws and wall plugs and in similar fashion, I mounted a 5-socket version of the 4-socket power bar above on the wall and mounted it to the wall as shown below and also secured the bar's cable to the wall with plastic cable clips as shown. In this case, I used 8 mm cable clips which I have but 10 mm would have been a better fit. I'll make it a point to get box of 10 mm cable clips the next time I'm in a hardware shop or a DIY shop. Whilst I did not show it in the picture of the power bar above for my main computer, however I did fix the cable to the wall in similar manner as shown below.

In this case the leftmost plug powers a fluorescent lamp (not shown) which I can use as and when needed, then plugs for the monochrome inkjet printer, the colour all-in-one (AIO) inkjet printer, scanner and copier, the computer monitor and the computer.

The whole set up of the second PC and printers is shown below. At least I got more space on the computer table.
 Now you may be wondering how the PC above connects to the Internet. Well what is not shown in the picture above is a WiFi-USB adaptor (a dongle) plugged into a USB port at the back of the computer as in the picture below, which enables the computer to connect to my home WiFi router without messy LAN (local area network) cabling running all over my home.

This is not an advertisements for Tenda but below is the box of the same model or WiFi-USB adaptor, which I bought for RM30 from Sri Computer in Low Yat Plaza, Kuala Lumpur. This model has a high-gain antenna which has a longer range to the WiFi router.
Of course, there are many other brands and models of WiFi-USB adaptors you can choose from in the computer stores. Below are a few options, including a Tenda high-gain model I picked up from Sri Computer for RM28 instead of RM30.

And below is another is a Level One high-gain model
My mother bought me an electric drill after I completed Form 5, like way back in 1971 and I kind of taught myself to be a handyman of sorts around the house.

Once again, don't waste your life behind a computer or smartphone screen accessing social media and endlessly chatting about useless politics for hours. Instead, do something useful with your life.

Yours Truly

IT.Scheiss

Sunday, 26 July 2020

DID SOMETHING USEFUL LAST NIGHT

Hello folks,

Instead of sitting on my backside behind the computer screen or wasting three hours talking rubbish (mostly about shitty local politics) in a 24-hour eateries or on social media, I instead did something useful last night.

We've had this drinks stand in the family since the 1970s, if I remember right, and I have to lift it and carry it if I want to move it.



So I bought four casters from Ace Hardware, took out my electric drill, fitted it with a 10mm drill bit - the nearest above the 3/8 inch (9.5mm) drill bit size recommended for these casters, drilled four holes for the caster holders in the bottom of the drinks stand and snapped the castors into place - a job which took about 15 to 20 minutes. 



I normally don't use this as a drinks stand but as a stand to place items, such as books, a fan, computer printer or other things on, so I took out the middle shelf and placed it on top and turned it into a stand for other items, which I can wheel around. 


Don't waste your life behind a computer or smartphone screen. Do something useful with your life.

Yours Truly

IT.Scheiss

Saturday, 27 June 2020

RELYING ON WAZE, NOT ONE'S BRAIN.

This Malay Mail of 26 June 2020 about a motorist who claimed that he ended up driving in the motorcycle lane beside the Federal Highway because he had followed the guidance of his Waze navigation app which was set to Motorcycle mode.


I too use Waze for guidance, especially in unfamiliar areas, but I would not have followed its guidance and driven into a motorcycle lane, and if I inadvertently did, I would have immediately stopped, turned on my hazard lights and tried to back out. Looking at that picture above, that 4x4 off-road vehicle could have easily been driven out of the motorcycle lane across that narrow grass verge back onto the main road.

If this is true, it only goes to show how our reliance on information and communications technology (ICT) tools to guide our actions has resulted in us becoming like robots which will jump off a cliff to their destruction if programmed to do so. For instance, cruise missiles are robots which will seek to destroy the enemy along with themselves in kamikaze-fashion. They just do what they are programmed to do, whatever the consequences to them.

About 10 or so years ago, I used to do product reviews of dedicated GPS navigation devices which necessitated me doing practical field trials of these devices in my car and in one instance it directed me to turn left and drive across an open monsoon drain, which would have resulted in my car getting stuck in the monsoon drain or worse plunging down onto the road on the left which was below the level where I was. In another instance it directed me to turn right, which would have resulted in me having to drive across a road divider, but I used my brain and ignored the guidance which would have otherwise led to disaster.

Hmmm! I wonder what would have happened to me if I was riding in a self-driving car.

Welcome to the information and services society where people use their brains less and less until they become like robots doing what they are programmed to do, with any decision making - i.e. artificial intelligence, however seemingly "independent" or "autonomous", in reality is being limited to decide within the scope defined by the human programmer - i.e. no thinking outside of the box and then our Ministry of Education and education professionals will wonder why Malaysian students don't think outside the box and education CON-sultants will propose courses to teach our students to think outside the box, only for them to be constrained by scripts and flowcharts which constrain them to think within boxes in real life after they leave school.

This reminds me of a direct sales agent telling me about one of her fellow direct sales agents who sold herbal slimming tablets (basically a herbal laxative) to her customers who indeed lost weight but felt weak and went back to the seller who told the customer to buy vitamin and mineral tablets to make up for the loss of vitamins and minerals which were being purged out by the laxative. So spend money on herbal laxative tablets only to spend more money on herbal supplement tablets. 

ICT is making us dumber and dumber, and after "Baby Boomer", "Generation X", "Generation Y", "Generation Z", "Millennials", "Generation Whatever", we'll have Generation I (Generation Idiot).

BTW. I don't believe these age group classifications have the same characteristics worldwide but differ subject to the different material (objective) and subjective circumstances at different places and at different times. For instance, the objective and subjective circumstances in Malaysia back in the 1960s and early 1970s did not give rise to a countercultural movement in Malaysia, such as the hippies in the west which back then was at the height of its post World War II long economic boom, even though many youth of my generation ("Baby Boomer") in Malaysia emulated the outward manifestations of our youth counterparts in the west such as their taste in music, casual dress and hairstyles (usually long) - i.e. uniformity in non-conformity, but that is where the similarity ends. Also, let's not forget that behind such seeming "cultural revolution" are commercial interests out to promote sales of all the accessories, products and merchandise involved, including the narcotics. It's BIG BUSINESS after all ma-h-an!

I see similar robotic behaviour of strictly following an if-then-else script in call centre agents who cold call me to try to convince me to accept their proposed personal loan, which I don't need. and end up enriching the bank with my payments of the interest in addition to my reimbursing the loan amount. After all, banks get rich by milking people like us for the interest - this is the nature of finance capitalism which Vladimir Lenin and others spoke and wrote about - i.e. finance capitalism is parasitic and is based upon getting people, companies and countries into debt and then milk them on the interest.

I often end up losing my cool and screaming at the call centre agent who cannot accept my polite "no", "not interested" reply and instead twist and turn as if according to script to try and get around my polite refusal. Then one day I remember my former colleague Bernard Yeoh's advice and just put my phone face-down on the table and carried on doing what I was doing. Apparently, that call to my phone was active for a long time, as my phone's battery was a;most flat, which must have cost that call centre much money. Thanks, Bernard. Good advice to deal with these pesky sales calls without losing my cool. 

When I see so many of our younger generation going around with their faces buried in their smartphones' screens, I see a bleak future for them, when already there are so many fresh university graduates in Malaysia and in the advanced countries having no choice but to accept gig-economy and zero-hour information and services jobs - i.e. check smartphone app for food delivery assignment (the information part) and deliver the food ordered to the customer (the services part) and get paid per delivery with no job security or medical benefits if they are involved in an accident on the job.

For instance celebrity progressive, left-wing, U.S. Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez graduated cum laude from Boston University College of Arts and Sciences with a BA in 2011, majoring in international relations and economics.  Earlier in high school Ocassio-Cortez came in second in the Microbiology category of the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair with a microbiology research project on the effect of antioxidants on the lifespan of the nematode C. elegans, and in recognition of her efforts, the MIT Lincoln Laboratory named a small asteroid after her: 23238 Ocasio-Cortez.

After college, Ocasio-Cortez moved back to the Bronx and took a job as a bartender and waitress to help her mother—a house cleaner and school bus driver—fight foreclosure of their home.

So she is a smart cookie but and whilst it's noble of her to help her mother, however why would such a well qualified person have to work as a bartender and waitress? Not that these are demeaning jobs but they are services jobs well below what she is qualified for and there are many well qualified and well experienced people in the U.S., in Europe and in Malaysia who have no choice but to accept jobs well below their qualifications, whilst public and private universities and colleges (graduate factories) crank out graduates lumbered with having to pay back their student loans plus the interest. The education business today are money-making concerns for educational institutions and the banks.

Congresswoman is a services job too, albeit very well paid, and any idiot can become a Congressman, Congresswoman, President, Member of Parliament, Cabinet Minister, Prime Minister, Premier, State Assemblywoman, State Assemblyman, Chief Minister, all of which don't require any academic, trade or professional qualifications - not even a Failed Pre-School qualification, when even bartenders in the U.S. have trade certifications. Perhaps I should send my resume to the Human Resources Manager at Parliament, applying for a position as Member of Parliament.

Anyone read or heard about John Naisbitt, Alvin Toffler, Don Tapscott or Nicholas Negroponte in the media especially after the financial crisis of 2008 ??

In the 1980s, 90s and early 2000s, management CON-sultants, seminar speakers, business CON-sultants, corporate heads and government ministers (mostly reading speeches prepared for them which they most probably did not understand) were dropping the names of these futurist authors like confetti at seminars, conferences, press conferences and so forth but especially after 2008, hardly anybody mentions their names or books anymore. I suppose "Information and Services Society/Economy" has become a dirty term, especially when the adverse effects of the U.S. and western economies, with their manufacturing base hollowed out impact upon the majority of working class citizens.

Fortunately, now semi-retired, I'm spared the torment of having to cover such seminars and conferences. After all, the seminar and conference business is about filling as many seats as possible with backsides willing to pay the substantial fee to hear the "words of wisdom" of these speakers who are touted as "prophets" having descended from the mountain with tablets bearing the sacred words in hand. I suppose bullshit sells in the Information and Services Society/Economy, especially after productive, real wealth-creating work - i.e. "sunset industries" leave our shores for lower wage countries which are experiencing a sunrise as a result of the influx of these "sunset industries".

Anyway, The Malay Mail article follows below.

Malaysian motorist ends up in bike lane – after claiming to have mistakenly set Waze on motorcycle mode (VIDEO)

Friday, 26 Jun 2020 05:05 PM MYT

BY TAN MEI ZI

PETALING JAYA, June 26 — A driver ended up cruising through the Federal Highway's bike lane – after he claimed he had mistakenly selected the motorcycle mode on his Waze app.

A Facebook video of the incident taken by a motorcyclist shows the driver in a black sports utility vehicle (SUV) driving down the bike lane heading towards Subang, with his vehicle almost occupying the entire width of the road.

Some motorcyclists overtook the driver to block his path and direct him towards an exit near a bus stop.

One of the motorcyclists can be heard asking if the driver was under the influence.

The Star reported that a police report was lodged against the 53-year-old after the video went viral on Wednesday and he was called in for questioning by the police at 5pm on the same day.

He is now under investigation for violating Section 79 of the Road Transport Act 1988 for neglecting traffic directions and signs.

According to Petaling Jaya OCPD Asst Comm Nik Ezanee Mohd Faisal, the driver wound up in the motorcycle lane because he had failed to select the correct setting on his traffic navigation app.

"He was using Waze to get to his destination but because it was set to motorcycle mode, he ended up on the motorcycle lane," said Nik Ezanee.

He also confirmed that the driver has undergone the necessary tests and was not intoxicated at the time of the incident.

The case has been handed over to the deputy public prosecutor for further investigation and the driver faces a fine of no less than RM300 or up to RM2,000 if found guilty.


Yours truly

IT.Scheiss

Sunday, 21 June 2020

HASAN MINHAJ ON THE DESTRUCTION OF THE NEWS INDUSTRY IN THE U.S.

I started my IT Scheiss blog to refute claims by certain self-styled "new media consultants" that online and digital news media is the "future" of media publishing.

I just came across this Netflix video by Hasan Minhaj about how the news industry in the U.S. is being destroyed.

The News Industry Is Being Destroyed | Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj | Netflix


Yours Truly

IT.SCHEISS

Wednesday, 27 May 2020

TEACHER's UNION FORESEES POORER STUDENTS WILL BE DISADVANTAGED WHEN IT COMES TO ONLINE LEARNING

I was at used PC and PC rental company last week and its business owner told me that most demand during this COVID-19 period has been for notebook PC purchases and rentals by parents for their children to study online due to school closures during the movement control order (MCO).

This leaves school students with having to attend class online but as evidence has emerged not only in Malaysia but also in other countries, online education has its shortcomings in the real world of school education, especially at this time when a study by Khazanah Research Institute's (KRI) on how school closures since mid-March had disrupted formal learning for an estimated 4.9 million students in pre, primary and secondary schools nationwide.

Back in the late 1990s when Malaysia's Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC Malaysia) initiative to transform Malaysia, into an "information-rich, knowledge-based economy, high-income economy" by the year 2020 - i.e. this year, and proponents of computers in education in academia, computer and online learning system suppliers and various educational institutions were  touting notions that computers in education and online distance learning would "free students from common, standardised classroom curriculum designed for the industrial age" and enable them to study a choice of subjects suited to their interests and at their own pace, which is "more suited to the information age". 

That's the kind of befuddling gobbledegook spewed out by ICT industry CEOs, ICT industry marketing types, government officials, government ministers, even prime ministers, seminar speakers, new media CON-sultants, management CON-sultants, starry-eyed or opportunistic ICT and Internet futurists at ICT industry conferences, seminars, media conferences and so forth that I had to endure and faithfully regurgitate in my articles, till the point that well over 20 years later today, it gives me as a technical man - psychological trauma when attending such events, especially when I'm not one of those ICT journalists who drinks the ICT industry's Kool Aid or eats the industry's dog food.

Now The Star of 23 May 2020 reports National Union of the Teaching Profession Secretary-General Harry Tan says that disabled and students from underprivileged families will lose out due to insufficient access to online lessons during this MCO and CMCO period and that the government to galvanise aid from various parties across the nation to upgrade and provide Internet connectivity between students and teachers as soon as possible. In reponse to the KRI report, Tan also called for teachers to be retrained to master techniques of distance and online learning.

KRI noted that the closure of schools and shortfalls in teaching and learning activities during this health crisis had affected schoolchildren unevenly. Besides increasing broadband penetration, KRI report called upon the government to ensure all children have access to the needed devices, including making devices more affordable and accessible. It also called upon the government to urgently develop high-quality digital content, perhaps even translating appropriate foreign materials, and to equip teachers with the skills to more effectively use e-learning technologies.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Education is in the midst of digitising educational material for schools and whilst noting that, former deputy education minister Datuk P. Kamalanathan said tha Ministry must find a way to expand the process to encapsulate learning from home, and that the issue of devices and connectivity has to be studied thoroughly and a comprehensive long-term solution has to be developed, and that a portion of the education budget must be allocated towards this and that private-public partnerships was a good way to boost online learning, the former Deputy-Minister said, adding that the uneven learning environment would translate to a wider gap between privileged and underprivileged (urban and rural) students if changes were not done now.

Melaka Action Group for Parents in Education (Magpie) chairman Mak Chee Kin called upon the government to upgrade Internet connectivity and raise awareness among parents to brush up on their children's digital skills, and that those in need should be identified and subsidised for devices and Internet access. Mak also called upon the government to launch an e-awareness campaign on learning and education that highlights this priority and how it can break the vicious cycle of poverty, and that the Ministry of Education should get teachers who were digital natives (i.e. ICT-savvy) to train their colleagues who are not yet digitally literate.

Ladies and Gentlemen, fine words indeed, the likes of which I have heard hundreds if not a thousand times before during my close to 26 years of writing about the ICT industry and government ICT initiatives in Malaysia.

With all due respect to persons and institutions mentioned above, I'm pretty sure that most of the well-intentioned recommendations and suggestions above will be forgotten once this COVID-19 crisis has reduced to a low enough level for physical schools to reopen, or as the Malay expression goes - it will all be hangat, hangat tahi ayam (as hot as chicken shit) and anyone who has been around chickens knows that chicken shit cools very fast after it hits the ground.

Also, those of us who use PCs, smartphones and tablet devices only know too well how these devices, the operating system and software they run by design of the ICT industry soon become "obsolete" and too slow or no longer unable to run the latest software, forcing especially the less ICT savvy amongst us, which is most users of such devices, to spend our hard-earned money to buy new devices which will serve us a few years until they too become "obsolete" and we have to replace them again. Also notice how users cannot easily replace the battery of their smartphone when it runs out, so have to either send it to an authorised repair centre or a third-party phone technician to have the battery replaced at a  pretty hefty cost, so most of us tend to just chuck the phone out and buy a new one. The ICT industry keeps us running like hamsters on a treadmill.


So OK! Let's say the government and the Ministry of Education does implement all of the above recommendations and manages to close the digital divide between rural and urban areas, between the underprivileged and the privileged, between the ICT unsavvy and the ICT savvy.

However, for how long will this last before all the devices become "obsolete" and will the government be able to afford to run like a hamster on a treadmill repeatedly upgrading all the equipment or repeatedly buying new equipment to replace "obsolete" or broken down equipment, and how many parents of underprivileged children can afford to keep coming out with the money to repeatedly buy new PCs, smartphones and tablets with the latest operating system and software or when their batteries wear out and need to be replaced ???

Please think about my question above.

The Star's article referred to follows below:- 

NUTP: School dropout rate will rise

Saturday, 23 May 2020

By LEE CHONGHUI

PETALING JAYA: The school dropout rate is likely to rise post-movement control order (MCO) due to an unequal learning environment caused by the disruption in formal classroom learning in light of Covid-19, says the National Union of the Teaching Profession (NUTP).

Its secretary-general Harry Tan (pic) said underprivileged and disabled students who did not have sufficient access to online lessons throughout the MCO were most likely to give up on education.

"Lack of facilities could cause them to be left behind in the syllabus and eventually grow disinterested when they can't cope with the workload even when they try to.

"This will make them feel inferior and reinforce the notion that since they are poor, they will always be frowned upon, " he said.

The socio-economic gap will ultimately widen in the long run when education is only accessible to the higher strata of society, he added.

To prevent this, Tan urged the government to galvanise aid from various parties across the nation to upgrade and provide Internet connectivity between students and teachers as soon as possible.

"Teachers should be retrained to master techniques of distance and online learning, " he said in response to Khazanah Research Institute's (KRI) report on how school closures since mid-March had disrupted formal learning for an estimated 4.9 million students in pre, primary and secondary schools nationwide.

KRI noted that closure of schools and gaps in teaching and learning activities during the health crisis had affected children unevenly.

The looming economic downturn following the lockdown will hit those from disadvantaged backgrounds especially harder with longer term consequences.

"Apart from strengthening broadband penetration, more needs to be done to ensure all children have access to the needed devices, including making devices more affordable and accessible.

"It is especially urgent to develop high-quality digital content, perhaps even translating appropriate foreign materials, and to equip teachers with the skills to more effectively use e-learning technologies, " the report added.

Noting that the Education Ministry was in the midst of digitalising education at the school level, former deputy education minister Datuk P. Kamalanathan said it must find a way to expand the process to encapsulate learning from home.

"The issue of devices and connectivity has to be studied thoroughly and a comprehensive long-term solution has to be developed.

"A portion of the budget should be allocated for this purpose. It's not going to be easy financially but the pandemic has demonstrated that now is the best time to enhance and expedite long-term solutions, " said Kamanlanathan, who is also MIC education bureau chairman.

Private-public partnerships was a good way to boost online learning, he said, adding that the uneven learning atmosphere would translate to a wider gap between privileged and underprivileged (urban and rural) students if changes were not done now.

Melaka Action Group for Parents in Education (Magpie) chairman Mak Chee Kin said unequal education opportunities could create a sense of urgency for the ministry to perform upgrades to Internet connectivity and raise awareness among parents to brush up on their children's digital skills.

"Those in need should be identified and subsidised for devices and Internet access. The ministry could also embark on an e-awareness campaign on learning and education that highlights this priority and how it can break the vicious cycle of poverty, " he said.

He added that teachers who were digital natives should be recognised by the ministry to encourage and train other teachers who were not yet digitally literate.


Take care and stay safe during this COVID-19 health crisis.

Yours truly

IT.Scheiss









Wednesday, 22 April 2020

DIGITAL DIVIDE IN "AFFLUENT" AND "SOPHISTICATED" HONG KONG

In my last IT. Scheiss post, I commented on Perai State Assemblyman (ADUN) and Deputy Chief Minister II of Penang, Y.B. Tuan P. Ramasamy's statement highlighting the issue of a digital divide, especially with regards to computer, tablet and smartphone-based online learning.


Well today, The Star of 22 April 2020 carries a South China Morning Post article about a digital divide in "affluent", urban and "sophisticated" Hong Kong, between school pupils from wealth families who can afford to provide their children with a device each to use exclusively for online learning on and on the one hand pupils from lower income families who have no choice but to take turns to share devices used for online learning from home when schools are closed due to COVID-19.

Below is an excerpt from the article which cites results of a study which found that students mainly used their devices, whether exclusively or shared, for communication with family and friends and for leisure purposes - i.e. for messaging, engagement in social media, surfing the web, watching videos and so forth. Well, that's also what I had observed about how most people young and old use their devices - i.e. mostly for messaging, social media, for entertainment and some to access information such as news and websites.

However,  when it comes to online learning, the Kong Kong University professor who headed that research project believes that students who do not have exclusive use of a device for online learning will be at a disadvantage to students who do have exclusive access.

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Nancy Law Luk Wai-ying, a professor at HKU's Faculty of Education who spearheaded the research, said when the data was collected last year, students were mainly using electronic devices for communication with family and friends and leisure purposes.

While a complete lack of digital access represented a clear disadvantage, an analysis of student performances showed there was a relatively small difference between those who had to share a device and those who had their own.

"Having access or no access, it makes a real difference. But having to share, when it wasn't the main means of learning, where one needs to t didn't hurt the students' digital competence," Law said.

But that was last year.

While data for the past few months was unavailable – a batch of data covering the 2020/21 academic year will come later – Law believed the sudden emphasis on digital learning would likely have an adverse impact.

"When you have to be online a lot of time when you are learning, if you don't have your own device and have to share, will it affect [one's performance]? It probably would," Law said, adding she had recently heard of a family of four sharing one or two devices between them.
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This is one of the concerns a friend who had a daughter in one of the 1Bestarinet "Champion Schools" - i.e. if a family with five school going children were to have to share the one PC in their home for online learning, doing and submitting their homework and so forth using the Frog Virtual Learning Environment (Frog VLE), how much time each day would each student within such a family have to study and do their homework online.

Also, as I had pointed out in my earlier post, if school pupils are accustomed to use such devices for messaging, social media and for entertainment, how well would they adapt to use such devices for concentrated learning without falling for the temptations to engage in more frivolous and fun activities on these devices?

As it turned out, use of the Frog Virtual Learning Environment for learning, doing and submitting homework online was found to have been minimal and I don't expect that the use of Google Classroom today will turn out to be very different, especially with school children.

The article in full follows below:-
Wednesday, 22 Apr 2020
1:05 PM MYT

By Chan Ho-him

Researchers from the University of Hong Kong (HKU) have warned of a "tsunami-scale" divide in digital learning after a months-long class suspension that about 10% of Hong Kong students could be weathering without any electronic devices at home.

The university study's findings, released on Tuesday, also found about 40% of more than 2,000 primary and secondary pupils polled said they needed to share electronic devices with their family members, according to data collected during the 2018/19 school year.

About 900,000 kindergartens, primary and secondary school pupils have been out of class since February due to the Covid-19 epidemic, and with most switching to online learning, children from low-income families have faced an entirely new set of challenges.

Nancy Law Luk Wai-ying, a professor at HKU's Faculty of Education who spearheaded the research, said when the data was collected last year, students were mainly using electronic devices for communication with family and friends and leisure purposes.

While a complete lack of digital access represented a clear disadvantage, an analysis of student performances showed there was a relatively small difference between those who had to share a device and those who had their own.

"Having access or no access, it makes a real difference. But having to share, when it wasn't the main means of learning, it didn't hurt the students' digital competence," Law said.

But that was last year.

While data for the past few months was unavailable – a batch of data covering the 2020/21 academic year will come later – Law believed the sudden emphasis on digital learning would likely have an adverse impact.

"When you have to be online a lot of time when you are learning, if you don't have your own device and have to share, will it affect [one's performance]? It probably would," Law said, adding she had recently heard of a family of four sharing one or two devices between them.

Elizabeth Loh Ka-yee, assistant professor at HKU's Faculty of Education, said many teachers had found it challenging to help children lacking online infrastructure such as electronic devices or Wi-fi.

"There is not much teachers can do in terms of students' lack of devices. Some teachers have even worried about a 'tsunami-scale' digital divide [between students with and without digital access] when face-to-face classes eventually resume," Loh said.

Over the past few months, some schools have lent electronic devices to families in need, while principals and non-governmental organisations have provided children with internet services, including giving out pocket WiFi routers and SIM cards.

Law suggested primary and secondary schools should both expand their scope of e-learning and trace students' progress during the online learning period, so different aspects could be improved.

She also encouraged the government, schools and community to work together to provide better infrastructure for disadvantaged students, including donating devices and assisting them with Wi-fi access.

Stanley Kam Wai-ming, principal of SKH Bishop Hall Secondary School, added that schools should be spending more effort in promoting students' digital literacy and competency, something that should go beyond traditional computer or IT classes.

"Parents' input is also particularly important," he said. "During the pandemic, kids will make better use of [time] if parents spend time with them during online learning." – South China Morning Post


The above article is further proof that online learning cannot replace classroom learning, especially for school students and that industrial age "chalk and talk" learning still rules the day.

Take care and keep safe during this COVID-19 crisis.

Yours truly

IT.Scheiss


Monday, 20 April 2020

WELL SAID - Y.B TUAN P. RAMASAMY!

Firstly, I hope you all are well and keeping safe during this COVID-19 scourge which is afflicting us at time and greatly threatening our economy, and livelihoods. 

Thus, right now I am on a self-imposed moratorium on commenting about domestic Malaysian party politics during this COVID-19 crisis which afflicts Malaysia and the rest of the world, as we struggle and sacrifice together as Malaysians to contain and hopefully eliminate the scourge of this disease from our midst.

Let us hope and pray for the souls of those most unfortunately departed due to the virus, may their souls rest in peace; that more of those already infected will recover; and that the number of new COVID-19 cases will decline to zero; and that we all can return to some semblance of normalcy, even whilst continuing to take all precautions possible to avoid the disease and to avoid infecting others.

OK. That said, let me commend Y.B. Tuan P. Ramasamy, Perai State Assemblyman (ADUN) and Deputy Chief Minister II of Penang state for highlighting the issue of the digital divide, especially with regards to computer, tablet and smartphone-based online learning in the Malaysiakini article following below.

I started writing about the ICT industry in Malaysia from as far back as when I started writing for what was then called In.Tech, the weekly ICT pullout of The Star on 22 September 1994, or about 25 years and six months ago.

Especially during the latter half of the 1990s, I wrote several feature articles about online distance learning based upon inputs from online learning advocates in academia, private schools and companies providing online learning courses and ICT companies providing the equipment and systems for online learning.

e-Education was part of Malaysia's Multimedia Super Corridor's (MSC Malaysia's) Smart Schools "flagship applications", along with e-Government, MyKad, Telehealth, R&D Clusters, Electronic Business and Technpreneur Development "flagships" - i.e. seven "flagship applications" in all.

3. Smart School – to National Education Philosophy, terms to teach and learn for the information-based society.

Whilst some of those "flagship applications" such as e-Government, MyKad (Malaysia's smartcard-based national identity card), electronic business (online shopping, online banking, interbank electronic funds transfers and so forth) and to an extent technology entrepreneur (startup business) development have becomesignificant realities in Malaysia today, however much of the "great realities" and "superiority" of online education and distance claimed by its advocates and proponents have either not materialised at all or have fallen far short of their claims.

Whilst most of the newsprint on which my articles were printed must have ended up as fish, nasi lemak or some wrapper for something else, or has long been recycled into toilet paper and so forth, a fairly recent instance of the failure of online learning is the case of 1Bestarinet, and I covered Frog Asia's and YTL Communications' media event in November 2012 to announce their winning the contract from the Ministry of Education to implement and deploy the first phase of 1Bestarinet.

However, about three years when schools were closed due to heavy haze from Indonesia and students were told to learn from home through 1Bestarinet, the teachers' union, the National Union of the Teaching Profession (NUTP) issued a statement saying that 1Bestarinet was useless for learning from home.

I won't burden you with the details here but you can read about it in my IT Scheiss blog post below:-

Teachers' union says 1BestariNet useless for online learning from home


In his article below, P. Ramasamy believes that poor children understand the value of computers and of learning through them but they cannot due to issues of affordability.

"It is not that poor children do not know or understand the value of computers or learning through these devices but it is primarily the question of affordability."

Well, he's partly true, especially with regards issues of affordability but from my direct experience of several urban, middle class people who have no problem affording devices such as computers and especially of tablets and smartphones and the high-speed broadband connectivity, including fibre and 4G LTE - is that whilst many of them know how to access social media such as WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, Telegram, You Tube, Instagram  and so forth backwards, however they are lost when it comes to performing more useful functions on their devices such as to serach for information, check their bank account and perform online banking, check their fibre broadband and cellular service provider's bills, check and respond to their e-mail, perform an e-commerce transaction, file their income tax returns and so forth online on their PCs or through their tablets or smartphones, and this is what can be called a tech-savviness divide.

Also, give a child a PC, tablet, smartphone and Internet connectivity and what do you think he or she would prefer to do on it rather than to use it for study?

We've all been children before, since long before we had computers, tablets and smartphones and we all would remember that between sitting down to study, we'd much prefer to go out and play or hang out with friends, unless we had our parents or teachers standing over us with a cane.

There are many more distractions available to both children and adults on computers, tablets and smartphones than there are in realspace amongst our siblings and friends and parents today tend to be more indulgent and allow their children to do what they like both in cyberspace and in realspace.

Also after about 30 or so years of the promotion and advocacy of online and distance learning being "superior" to "industrial-style" classroom learning "in the informationa age", more recent studies have found no clear evidence that online learning yields better results than classroom learning.

It's unfortunate that the need for social distancing to curb the spread of COVID-19 rules out classroom learning, especially as long as the MCO lasts, but at the same time, online learning does not look like it will be a viable alternative, especially for school-age children, whatever their financial background, whether rural or urban.

On the other hand, mature students, including adults could benefit, just as they did from snail-mail based correspondence courses or attendance at further education courses ("night school") back in the 1960s, 1950s and even earlier, where many obtained certificates and diplomas in accountancy, secretarial qualifications, vocational training and so forth.

Y.B. Tuan P. Ramasamy's article follows below:- 
 
ADUN SPEAKS | Digitalisation bridges or reinforces inequality?

P Ramasamy

Published 10:47 am Modified 11:23 am

ADUN SPEAKS | Under the conditions of the present pandemic with the movement control order (MCO) in place, the country is almost in a state of shut down except for essential services.

While it is a great relief to students and parents that some examinations are cancelled or postponed, the real question in their minds is whether there will be continuous education beyond the classroom.

The imperative of digital transformation to meet the challenges of the 4.0 Industrial Revolution has been much talked about and there have been some serious efforts to bridge the digital divide.

The importance of e-learning or learning through the internet might not have reached its present urgency or demand without the MCO.

The MCO has laid bare our unpreparedness or inability to ensure children have access to learning through the computer, having access to the internet and availability of information.

The Education Ministry was forced to admit that online education might not be effective. It is not because online education is different from straightforward classroom teaching, but simply because of the digital divide between those children who have access to computers and internet services and those who do not.

Children in rural or remote areas don't even own computers and forget about whether these areas are connected with internet services.

It is just not a regional divide, but a class divide between those from the lower and higher socio-economic backgrounds.

Thus, regional and class divide reinforce one another to the extent that school children in rural areas are denied the benefit of online education.

Over the years, the government has spent billions in bringing about development in rural areas, but whether such a move addressed the issue of the gap between the rich and poor remains unclear.

The repeated reference in bridging the digital divide was more at the level of propaganda than anything else.

Long before the Coronavirus pandemic, our system of education was not prepared or did not lay the foundation for online education.

Not that there were no efforts at all, but the initiatives might not have benefitted all children equally.

Even in areas that are wired with services, poor children cannot afford to buy necessities such as computers or mobile phones for access.

It is not that poor children do not know or understand the value of computers or learning through these devices but it is primarily the question of affordability.

Putting food on the table under the MCO seems more of a priority for poor families.

However, children in urban areas, especially those from the middle and upper-class families might not experience the same misfortune.

This is why it is often said that bridging the digital divide might not be as simple as it seems as it might invariably bring about inequality among the people.

P RAMASAMY is the state assemblyperson for Perai. He is also deputy chief minister (II) of Penang.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.


Way back when Dato' Seri Najib Tun Razak was Education Minister, I asked him on the sidelines of a media event in Cyberjaya whether Smart Schools would create a generation of idiots by the Year 2020 - i.e. now and he replied "No". Well I leave you to figure out the answer to my question.

What we know today is that according to figures by the Ministry of Higher Education, 50% of our university and college graduates are unemployed, whilst graduate unemployment amongst ICT graduates is higher at 60%, and some of these graduates may have delivered your lunch or dinner by motorcycle for a living. 

Welcome to the Information and Services Economy!

Take care and stay safe.

Yours truly

IT Scheiss

Yours most