App-charged assistance [New Straits Time (Malaysia)]
(New Straits Time (Malaysia) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) How can we make life better for local communities Perhaps through innovative app ideas that we can share together, writes Intan Maizura Ahmad Kamal
IT'S possible to make the country a better place to live. But, it takes a collective effort. This is something that Lily Fu, the founder of SeniorsAloud, readily agrees with. She started this community blog in 2008, in response to what she saw as a need for senior citizens to share their views, experiences and concerns. Retirement, she says, can be filled with daunting challenges and major adjustments in lifestyle.
"So who best can understand seniors and help them with their problems than other seniors "
Over the years as the online community grew, there were requests for opportunities to meet up and network. So in January last year, SeniorsAloud started organising activities on a regular basis with focus on lifelong learning and active living to help the seniors prepare for their retirement.
What Fu has done is in line with DiGi Telecommunications latest Challenge for Change programme, which aims to "Bring Malaysians Together, One App At A Time". The challenge is for everyone to think of Malaysian-inspired, innovative app ideas that can help make life better for local communities.
Innovative mobile apps, believes Fu, can definitely help resolve many of the concerns plaguing our senior citizens. "As a group, senior citizens are often sidelined and attention paid to us only as an afterthought. When you no longer have earning capacity, you lose not only self-esteem but also respect from society at large. It's a challenge we face daily - how to get society to regard us as still productive and still able to contribute in terms of sharing our wealth of experience and expertise."
Senior citizens often find themselves quite lost in this fast- paced world of technology, adds Fu. Many are computer illiterate and clueless on how to use electronic gadgets such as smartphones. "To them, a tablet is a pill that you take when you are not feeling well. They know What's Up, but not WhatsApp. The only applications they're familiar with are job applications. But who's there to teach them the basics It's easier to look up zumba classes for mothers- to-be than IT classes for senior citizens!"
Apps that can help senior citizens connect with the neighbourhood community will be a tremendous aid. "Ideally this app should help senior citizens in a particular neighbourhood organise car pools, or help us find "kakis" or companions to play mahjong, or tennis; or even to join a tour. Such an app will also be great for posting announcements and sharing news."
Fu also notes that a directory type app, which provides a comprehensive listing of senior citizens' clubs, nursing homes, welfare homes, retirement homes, daycare centres for the elderly, support groups for caregivers, dialysis centres, healthcare non- governmental organisations, hospitals, community clinics and similar information, is urgently needed by her community.
Similarly, a list of companies and businesses that offer home services such as catering, housekeeping, healthcare and physiotherapy, delivery of groceries, pet grooming, haircuts, manicures, pedicures and gardening will also be useful. "Many of the elderly in their 70s and 80s are either housebound or wheelchair- bound. They need all the outside help they can get to assist them with their daily living activities."
Blog: http://seniorsaloud.blogspot.com and http:// seniorsaloudevents.blogspot.com
Hafiz, a consultant in the telecommunication industry and the co- founder of @ttdiTV shares that his Twitter group was originally founded by four friends living in Taman Tun Dr Ismail. It is a Twitter handle that serves as an online platform to connect residents of the housing area.
"Community building is a process and a state of mind," begins Hafiz. "Activities to help residents interact with each other such as gotong-royong don't happen very often in reality. However, on spaces such as Twitter, interaction can happen anytime and anywhere. With @ttdiTV, we encourage neighbours, local businesses and government agencies to interact to exchange information in real- time. A smarter neighbourhood can be created when people are exchanging facts with each other."
Their role as administrators are simple, says Hafiz. "We monitor, moderate and publish (or re-tweet). We promote national unity via information sharing. We get support from the local residents associations and we encourage businesses to connect with the residents. Even the Taman Tun's Officers-in-Charge of the Police Station is on Twitter and regularly updates the community on local security matters. As volunteers, we try to create the ultimate online Taman Tun experience."
The group does face challenges in their drive to spread the word about their community service. One is related to reliance on the infrastructure. If Twitter fails, the group's activities will be hindered. They have cultivated many local users, with 4,557 followers currently, who depend on it for critical community- related information.
"Secondly, there's an issue with data security and privacy," shares Hafiz. "Many users exchange personal data such as handphone numbers, addresses, names, vehicle registration numbers and even pictures. It's a challenge for the group as a trusted online platform to decide whether such information is suitable to be shared publicly.
Data accuracy is also a problem. "When our group exchanges information, we need to ensure that the info is accurate and up-to- date. Some of the queries could be urgent and sometimes a matter of life and death. Sharing is caring as they say, but sharing the right information is even more important. We usually use crowd sourcing to validate information, but this takes time," says Hafiz.
Even though @ttdiTV is already an engaging platform for the community, Hafiz believes that further interaction can happen if this platform can be overlaid with other community-related information.
"To create smarter neighbourhoods, we need more non-sensitive location based data or information to be shared, or published online. Good location based data can, among other things, help prevent crime. Information on crime hotspots with the date and time of occurrence can help raise security awareness and the community can react accordingly."
COMMUNICATION IS KEY
Elizabeth Lee Fuh Yen, senior executive director of Sunway Education Group and Sunway University is a trained teacher who's been in the field her whole working life. The mother-of-three describes her main challenge as "... finding enough time in a day to ensure that I have engaged in a meaningful enough way with my family, those I work with and other people around me."
Lee depends a lot on her mobile devices for communication and engagement. "I keep tabs and in touch with people and goings-on very often via the social media or other communication apps such as Kakao and WhatsApp," she shares. However, she confides that she's not an app-dependent person. "I'm more of a Blackberry user than a iPhone or an Android user. However, the apps I do find the most useful are those related to maps, communication as well photo taking and editing apps. Communication and engagement are key and as such, any popular apps that facilitate those matters are ideal."
At home, her kids use a lot of drawing and editing apps, shares Lee. "I like Dictionary and Thesaurus apps, which can also provide good and accurate translations as well as pronunciation of other languages. This I find particularly useful, especially when I need to communicate in Chinese, but cannot do pinyin (Romanised Chinese)."
Meanwhile, Lee is particularly excited that Sunway University has got a new campus app, which will be launched this month. "It will be most timely and something we're all looking forward to."
A SAFER PLACE
Safer Malaysia is a community project formed by the community for the community. The project started some time in May last year, though the research towards the project had begun much earlier. It advocates a safer place for all Malaysians to live, offers solutions and suggestions to reduce the local crime rate. It's also a platform that collates and shares the experiences of crime victims.
The group recently developed an over 200 page memorandum entitled "Visions Of Safer Malaysia" that lists suggested solutions with proposed mechanics and timelines to achieve these solutions. This memorandum was served to, among others, the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, the Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein, the Inspector General of Police Tan Sri Ismail Omar and the Bar Council. Among the proposed solutions were to increase the enforcement of the law and to set up a criminology department where the study of the criminal mind will be pursued to ensure that similar crimes are not repeated.
Safer Malaysia attempts to educate potential victims of crime on means and ways to protect themselves. However, it strongly feels that the better and correct approach should focus on potential assailants to ensure that these persons do not commit crime. It believes that people should be sufficiently educated to create an atmosphere and an environment where there's no incentive to commit crime. To date, the Bar Council has reacted warmly to the memorandum and has recently agreed to adopt the Safer Malaysia project as part of its activities.
Can mobile apps be useful in the drive towards crime prevention and reduction Safer Malaysia's co-initiator Richard Wee replies: "We explore all potential ways to help reduce crime. Mobile apps do help to alert the police about crimes and enhance personal safety. However, while these apps are highly welcomed, they're too focused on how people can avoid becoming victims; when the correct and actual focus should be on stopping potential criminals from committing a crime."
Safer Malaysia www.safermalaysia.com
DON'T GET ANGRY, GET EVEN
MARAH or Malaysians Against Rape, Assault and snatcH, touted as the country's first cyber NGO, was founded by Dave Avran. It was established on Facebook to provide a platform where information and safety tips could be shared, as well as to provide warnings on hot crime areas and a support group for victims.
"We also aim to set up a 24/7 real time crime watch portal for crime prevention and crime hotspots that will provide pattern detection to support the police and residents in affected areas," explains Avran.
On MARAH's mobile app wish list, Avran says they'd welcome a local version of India's FightBack app, which uses GPS, SMS, location maps, GPRS, email and Facebook to inform loved ones in case someone's in danger. "When the 'Panic' button is pressed, the portal alerts page gets updated with the live alert data and shows the location of the alert on Google Map," explains Avran.
"The portal also sends out SMS messages to the mobile numbers pre- set by the user. When this hyperlink is clicked, it shows the location of the user on Google Maps. The web portal also updates the user's Facebook status with the SOS message. This message will be visible to all friends and when clicked, it will take the user's friends to the web portal Alert Page, and will show the location of the mobile user when the SOS was raised, along with a time stamp."
MARAH is currently actively looking for corporate sponsors to set up a crime prevention portal. A proposed free service to Malaysians, it will offer a platform to monitor neighbourhoods; provide tip offs to the police and residents; provide assistance for emergencies and police reports; to share information about crime mapping, hot spot detection, among others.
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