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The eBario Innovation Village: First Peoples – First Knowledge.

eBario is Malaysia’s best known telecentre, serving the remote and isolated Kelabit indigenous communities around Bario, in the Central Highlands of northern Sarawak, on the island of Borneo. Until recently, the area was only accessible by small planes, which still provide the principal form of access. Consultations between the community and researchers at Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (UNIMAS) began in 1998. Then, communication with the outside world was limited to a rudimentary short-wave radio; computers and the internet were unknown.

The telecentre was established in 2000 and it has sustained itself since then, winning awards and featuring in national and international knowledge-sharing activities. The communities of the Kelabit Highlands are isolated from grid electricity and online services, so eBario features VSAT internet access and renewable energy supplies as well as the first pay-phones. Two schools were equipped with internet-linked computer laboratories and wireless technologies are deployed to deliver access to nearby homes.

Very close engagement between the research team and the community has resulted in; i) projects that are firmly embedded in the problems, aspirations and opportunities that the community itself identify; ii) enhanced community capacity for appropriating technologies; and iii) a trainable methodology for community based research in support of telecentres, which is being used to train telecentre managers around Malaysia.

eBario is used to promote local community-based tourism, generating a rise in the number of visitors and increasing local employment as well as flights in and out of Bario. Tourism incomes contribute significantly to telecentre revenues. eBario also organises the annual Bario Slow Food Festival. The success of eBario led to the Government of Malaysia funding several more telecentres in similarly isolated and indigenous locations in the country.

In partnership with UNIMAS, eBario established the eBario Innovation Village - a living laboratory to incubate innovative grass-roots applications of ICTs and renewable sources of energy capable of stimulating development within Malaysia's isolated rural and Indigenous communities. eBario established Radio Bario, which became Malaysia’s first community radio station and caused the Government to change its policy on community broadcasting. Broadcasts are in the fast-disappearing Kelabit language, to stimulate its use among the young generation.

Another project is for low cost Aerial Photography for Community Mapping, using digital cameras attached to tethered weather balloons and radio-controlled model aeroplanes.  The telecentre will construct maps from the photographs of the farm land and surrounding forest in support of claims for Native Customary Rights.
Telecentre-based mobile technologies are being used to record traditional botanical knowledge; intending to preserve and pass it on to their young, as well as facilitating claims for intellectual property rights. This includes a cultural protocol whereby the community retain absolute rights of access to their own data which are protected by innovative approaches to intellectual property rights for the community.
The eBario Knowledge Fair, a regular bi-annual conference, held in Bario, showcases the use of ICTs for rural and indigenous peoples’ development. It is conducted with the community, bringing them together with researchers, practitioners and policy makers. This represents an innovative approach to conferencing, and it is organised using techniques that ensure equitable participation by all present. The first Fair, in 2009, incorporated a UNDP workshop on ICTs for Indigenous Peoples and generated the eBario Vision for Indigenous Peoples and ICTs, which was adopted by UNDP. The Third Knowledge Fair adopted a theme of Technological Innovation for Indigenous Peoples.
The experiences with eBario have given rise to the concept of ICTs for Indigenised Development, in which the core characteristics of community-owned ICTs, such as telecentres, lend themselves well to solutions for many of the problems that the world’s indigenous people share. By empowering them to appropriate ICTs, they are able to put them to use within development activities of their own choice, as opposed to those that are imposed harmfully from outside and which often assume absorption of minority cultures into mainstream society.


The Star Newspaper: Kelabits lead the way with eBario project

The Star Newspaper: Catching up with the highlanders

eBario Knowledge Fair Video

Radio Bario video




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