MDeC to operate eBB platform for now, will pass on to ‘suitable party’ later
Sees National Security Council as one possible candidate to take over
MALAYSIA’S national ICT custodian Multimedia Development Corporation (MDeC) is adamant that the e-Bantuan Banjir (Flood Aid) or eBB platform it has developed will be sustainable in the long run and would not be a ‘one-hit wonder.’
“It might be an interesting project for the next three to nine months, but if there is no clear indication of where it is going to end up for somebody to operate, then we are wasting our time,” said Michael Warren, vice president of MDeC’s Shared Services and Outsourcing (SSO) cluster.
“Our goal is, we are not going to build white elephants,” he told a media briefing in Cyberjaya on Jan 14.
MDeC launched the eBB platform last week, describing it as an integrated mobile-enabled system that incorporates open data, social media, the Internet of Things (IoT) and big data analytics with crowdsourced funding and volunteer platforms for individuals and corporations to donate resources.
Towards the end of 2014, Malaysia suffered its worst floods in decades, which saw some 200,000 people being displaced.
Members of the public can access eBB via www.togetherwithu.my or via the free eBB mobile app currently available on Android, and on iOS in the “near future,” according to MDeC, which manages the Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC Malaysia) project.
MSC Malaysia, launched in the late 1990s, seeks to boost the ICT industry in the country, by – amongst other initiatives – offering incentives to technology companies, both foreign and domestic, when they become MC Malaysia-status companies.
Warren said the eBB initiative was partly driven by demand from such MSC Malaysia-status companies.
“We had many MSC companies coming to us, wanting to support the flood victims, but they didn’t know who to talk to or what channels were available,” he said.
According to Warren, MDeC managed to launch the platform within 10 days, also getting various companies, organisations and agencies to come on board.
Amongst other things, the eBB portal allows people to register themselves as volunteers, or make donations to flood victims. The volunteer subsystem is powered by www.esukarelawan.org while the donation drive is being handled by the www.pitchin.my crowdfunding platform.
Other functions on the eBB portal are powered by various industry players.
Finding a home for eBB
While MDeC’s intention is to find eBB a ‘natural home,’ the main question now is who will take it on over the long term.
Warren (pic) said that this decision has yet to be made, but for now, it has a few possible candidates.
“I think the National Security Council (NSC) would be a natural fit and the most logical choice,” he said, noting that the council is tasked with handling crises such as natural disasters, as well as managing post-crisis initiatives.
“This post-crisis system could be a fit of all sorts of technologies and ideas,” he added.
However, Warren admitted that MDeC has yet to speak to the NSC on the matter.
“The NSC knows what we are doing (on the development of eBB), but its hands are full now with the current flood situation. Once things have settled a bit, we will discuss the matter with it,” he said.
If the NSC decides not to operate the post-crisis system, MDeC has other options, according to Warren.
“We are also looking at state-owned agencies because each state could have its own ‘e-banjir’ system, so it could be parked there as well,” he said.
Scaling up eBB
MDeC also hopes to scale up eBB by collaborating with global agencies and bodies that have experience in post-disaster efforts.
“The scaling up is more with regards to the technology side, such as using the IoT, big data, social media and all that. What we are interested to understand is how we can tie up with global disaster agencies around the world, and also to look at the implementation of technology during disasters,” said Warren.
“Disasters are happening in various parts of the world, and what we don’t want to do is recreate the wheel. We want people to understand that technology can help, if used the right way,” he added.
MDeC currently has a list of over 20 global agencies that it may work with. Warren said that it needs to shortlist this to about five agencies, which it would then approach to discuss possible collaborations.
“Maybe we can pick some of their technologies that are useful, and vice versa,” he said.
One example of how technology is being used for eBB is the drones that are currently being deployed at some of the flood-hit areas to capture images and videos.
“The whole concept of drones [being used during disasters] came from Nepal, where the rugged terrain of the mountains makes it difficult to provide supplies, so drones were used to send medical supplies,” said Warren.
He stressed that MDeC didn’t want eBB drones to “just fly around taking pictures,” so images captured by the drones are being rendered into three-dimensional images or maps of flood-hit areas.
“With this information, we would be able to better understand how the water flows and what causes the floods. By having this better understanding, we will be in a better position to prevent it from happening again,” Warren declared.
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