Wednesday 4 January 2023

A 2023 Story of the Past

A Happy New Year. I hope 2023 will kickstart a new chapter of the "work" I have been doing for more than three decades, in the area of human empowerment and technologies. Here is my story in 2023.

I remember having my first computer in 1983. It followed me to Hong Kong from Malaysia. It was a Sinclair-ZX81 home computer - gift from my eldest brother. To program I had to use a tape recorder for the code exchange. This  experience was my first taste of how a personal computer work!  In 1984 I bought a DiY Apple II clone computer - it was built with parts from the "Silicon Valley of HK" ( the Golden Shopping Complex in HK that still exisit today). Apple II was more functional with floppy disk as storage media. It became my word processor for my Master's thesis when I was studying in HKU. It went to become my first work computer  after graduation in 1985. 

The "hacking spirit" came to me to go beyond word processing - to use the personal computer for work automation for mental health assessment. With an addon graphic card plugged into the Apple II motherboard it was able to render Chinese characters. I befriended an engineer at a local  HK Polythenic to make an external input device that can emulate 4 level of key responses - my client can then press one of the 4 large buttons to indicate his choice response.  I learning enough to understand BASIC language  to modified codes (yes they were VISIBLE and not compiled) to insert statistical data into an application software that runs on floppy disk.When it finally work, I was able to sit my client in front of the Apple computer for automated assessment. The computer will display a total of 566 questions in sequence to my client - all he has to do was  to tap the external buttons as response. I would then go for tea and when I return a profile report with plotted graphs would be printed out from my dot-matrix printer connected to the computer. Bravo it was exciting time! 

I did not know that more possibilities were waiting for me next with new generation of home computers that was coming out into the market.

I bought my first DOS based PC in 1986. It had a modem card which allow me to dial into HKU computer centre to submit a batch job for statistical analysis by mainframe computer. It was the beginning of early days of remote working. When I left HKU a year after graduation I worked in a medical rehabilitation centre. There I met a young man who became quadraplegic after a car accident. He was a tough guy since he was an army officer. We talked about his past work and began exploring if a computer could be helpful for him in his rehabilitation. If he could not write with his paralysed hands perhaps he could type with a head pointer onto a computer keyboard. In the end he learned how to type Chinese with a PC and felt very empowered by his new skills despite being a tetraplegic. The idea that one could work from home with a computer dawn upon me from my experience with modem and telephone line at the University.

The rest is history when we experimented with Bulletin Board System (BBS) to remotely connect disabled person from home and have access to information from oversea newsgroups. Electronic Self-Help Group was born in Hong Kong and the real meaning of "Disabled but not Handicapped" became a reality when we formed the HK Computer User Group (HcUG) for People with Disabilities. Our disABLED person were in the news. RTHK made a film based on our story of how we changed the culture of medical rehabilitation to bring hope to people with disabilites. One of our highlight was the pure joy of connectivity that enable 6 people remotely chatting by text in Chinese on the computer connected by modems and telephone lines. It was the social network before internet was born.

I left HK at the peak of my career in Medical Rehabilitation in 1995 when Internet access was just starting. I returned to HK in 1997 and started a new career in the HKU Personal Development and Counselling Centre (PDCC). My clients were now young  bright studemts who have to learn with digital tools and connectivity. It was here in HKU that I coined the term Digital Leadership (DL). Nobody understood what I was doing and got into the bad books with University adminstrators when I stood firm that my DL course was not to teach word processing, spreadsheet, etc  (that is Computer Centre role) BUT to help students use exisiting digital tools and applications to lead and collaborate with others. Those were the days of ICQ, forums and  e-mails. Unfortunately, this incident was used by the Dean of Student (my boss) to discredit me -  he said complaints from students in my personal file regarding the DL matter reflect badly on me. Since I was at the mercy of a contractual job for 9 years the door closed on me in 2006.

In 2008, I  came to know about the global One Laptop Per Chid (OLPC) project. In Hong Kong I received my first Give One Get One (G1G1) XO laptop that changed my life.  I committed myself as OLPC volunteer!. What I have done for a decade is documented in the blogs here. In summary I gained insight into children development and the role of technologies for their growth. I realised the importance of low cost devices for millions of children to learn how to learn. This new challenge became my obsession for years to "Get IT Right" till today.

Having seen more than 3 decades of evolution in the world of computing, what we computers we had in the past are legacy equipments. Today I am seriously considering what tools/devices  I still have in my garage should be kept (not disposed)  and displayed to narrate a history of change in the world of computing and people empowerment. Let the force/karma be with me on this. 


Saturday 24 December 2022

Another Year and now Christmas Day 2022


It is Christmas Day 2022 and I am taking some quiet moment (no party of at least 5 days) to update this blog and to share what I have in mind. After 3 years of trying to avoid Covid, it is now "personal" and residing in my body. Covid has change the way we do things. dLEAP despite our effort to deploy XO laptops we were unable to make CONNECTIVITY via Internet a standard practice in deployments. We tried but failed. Internet before Covid time was seen as a distraction for learning and full of dangers. dLEAP was swinming against the norm of "NO" internet and laptop owernership.

Today, Covid has changed the stake with a new norm. Not providing video conferencing with laptops via the Internet is a curse to learners. The sight of 20 or more kids in a video chat/lesson as class replacement is real for those in schools with teachers and students who can afford this kind of real time remote connectivity. Still, for many millions of kids this is not possible even if it is the substitute for classroom learning.

The value of XO in our past deployments has decreased. Organisations with resources upgrade to tablets or commercial laptops since XO cannot support Zoom or Youtube. The sad reality is web services that used to work with older machines and browsers are discontinued in the name of improving services to end users. What then is the future of XO and what alternatives are available for LOW cost accessibility support and learning in the next decade? Is the current new trend in online synchronise classroom learning set the new norm?

Basecamp@Melaka2013 was an event that gave dLEAP a kickstart in Malaysia in 2013. Over the last 9 years the people who came to that meetup has continued to do the work needed for their community. OLE Nepal has continued to grow in educating Nepal children while Pakistan has deployed thousands of recycled XOs from One Australia. My salute  to Rabi Karmacharya and Kishwer Aziz who both came to Basecamp@Melaka2013 to meet, share and learn. The Schoolserver project under Adam Holt is  now growing stronger with Internet In a BOX (IIAB) 8.2 with at least monthly project meetings for a decade! I have lost contact with Tony Anderson (where are you now?) who has been to everywhere in the world to assist olpc deployments. I had great support from Walter Bender and Claudia Urea formerly of the original OLPC team for more than a decade. Without OLPC Asia and my first G1G1 Christmas 2008 XO present I woud not have the "joyful" learning and support to kickstarts deployments in Malaysia. Grateful that the volunteers coming from my old classmates have been donating and directly helping to make a little impact to lives of indigenous and deprived children in jungle and urban settings. Yong Seng,BeeLian,Siva,Kang Soon and EngTai, thank you all for dLEAP work in retirement.

The picture of the napkin with the scribble LMWL logo was created while in my first trip back after years of lockdowns.  I am suggesting a BasecampSummit@Melaka2023 in mid November 2023 with physical/online meetup with visits to places in Malaysia (or anywhere in the world) for deploying low cost tools in the wild for promoting this important idea of "Doing more with Less". Tap on existing or new devices with right education pedagogy promoted by OLPC years ago that can offer a balance of affordable educational opportunities.  Getting IT Right!

Do write to me at and I look forward to participation and  more ideas that can become a reality for learners in 2023 who otherwise will be in lockdown of no progress.

Merry Christmas 2022 and a Happy New Year for 2023.

Wednesday 10 March 2021

Another Year and now 2021

 Another year have passed since the last blog in Dec 2019. What a year in 2020 with Covid19 pandemic affecting Malaysia and worldwide. My intended trip back to Malaysia in March 2020 did not materialised - instead I am in lockdown in Melbourne since Feb 2020.  Despite that lots of have happen over the year which has been written in the dLEAP Kuala Gandah CheWong Website. The most recent entry is the introduction of a Wifi Internet Router with KancilBox for the community. 

Instead of internet access from the resource room located inside the Elephant Centre we are locating it in the comunity Centre (Balai). As we have not been back for a few months we have no direct information as to how well it is used. In 2020 we had a number of Zoom sessions with 2 young girls who have been offered a place in a community college to continue their study. Two recycled normal laptops were given to them and money was raised to support their study. Unfortunately the Pandemic has affected their study and they had to study offline instead. The value of the internet becomes apparent with Malaysia under MCO - Movement Control Order.

dLEAP had a little publicity from the local newspaper The Star. As such we were able to get some support from people who were interested in what we are doing - getting recycled laptop and some donations. 

Sustainability of dLEAP is something we have to deal with as it has been seven years. Our resources are limited and Covid has made things difficult for regular followup. We found that some publicity has positive effect if our work can get mainstream attention. With that in mind I submitted to BettAsia for an Award in mind.  I hope something good can come out from this.

When life can get back to normal we hope to see how to improve the assessibility of the resource room and Internet.  We still have some recycled XOs for more deployment and replacement of broken XOs.

I am aware that recent changes of not supporting older stuff.  Youtube or Zoom  do not support older XO's OS and browsers. Video access of youtube videos by XO is now problematic as the webpage do not show up in Browse.  I see no upgrade to the XO Fedora OS is underway despite the fact that the latest linux kernel has support  for XO 1.75. Lack of development fund and volunteers to make XO better in current time. Thus millions of XOs will be even less appealing in current reality. We are now left with legacy machines that will run legacy interactive flash based applications instead. Yet the future can still be in our hands if the heart is there to make a difference with what is left.

Happy 2021 and we keep safe.

Monday 23 December 2019

Another year and 2020 next: Update

It has been exactly a  year since my last blog entry on Dec 23, 2018. Have not updated the many things that have happen over the year.  Better later than never - time to document and reflect on the  progress made in  2019.

1. CheWong Kuala Gandah (EC) Deployment

We have come a long way with this group of children. - from piloting XO play sessions to complete XO laptop ownership over the years. Each participating children is given his/her own XO laptop in 2017 to take home. In 2019, we wanted to know if the XOs were well utilised and its physical condition after 2 years of ownership. The kids are maturing and circumstances have change our expectations. For example we  are losing contact with  the  boys in our group. Some  have to follow their parents into the jungle. Girls are our majority paticipants now. Recently, one new boy joined our group. He received a recycled XO and was able to learn how to replace its broken screen..

A highlight in 2019 was the visit by YAB Dr A XAVIER JAYAKUMAR, Minister of Water, Land and Natural Resources.  The CheWong Resource Room that we have been trying to equip became a new focus.The visit was viewed with a pilot internet connection from a  webcam installed in the room. Our  internet sponsor has  created a blog. More about the work at Elephant Centre can be read from the link:

One significant outcome of this visit led to dLEAP being nominated for the Star Golden Hearts Award 2019 (SGHA) - the  SGHA is an annual award by The Star and Yayasan Gamuda to celebrate Malaysians who demonstrate extraordinary commitment to community/social work. dLEAPproject  made it to the semi-final which is an achievement in its own right.

In October the volunteers organised an event to decorate the door of the CheWong resources room. Color palm prints by kids and volunteers created a new playful atmosphere to the room. This year a kid who have been us for 5 years (in the picture below) will be taking her leaving school certificate (SPM). Over the last month she received support and tuition from our volunteer teacher. A scholarship is lined up for her by another volunteer to pursue her future study.

While making good progress in 2019 there are new challenges in 2020.  We need to make the resource room easily accessible for learning resource as destinated.That will require some effort from all parties - kids, parents, volunteers and staff of Elephant Centre. Wish us luck.This accessibility issue when resolved can help us to get the children to learn new things - drone flying , robotic, coding  to STEAM education.

Thirdly  we need to outreach to growing kids who lives in the deep jungle with their families. Exploration of portable solar panel is underway to make the XO laptop functional. If we can continue to nurture this current group of kids to support off the grid deployment, the chance of success is higher.

2. Solid Rock Learning Centre (SLRC), Melaka

Very little has been written about his deployment in Melaka but work has been ongoing for at least 4 years now. SLRC is operated byAgapeCare, a NGO in  historical Melaka where the first basecamp2013@Melaka was held. They support children who are disadvantage with educational programs by paid and volunteer staff. Students benefiting are from diverse background - some are indigenous Malaysian, kids of poor families  to refugee kids from Mynamar. 

dLEAP with SLRC kickstarted with 10 new XO4 donated by my classmates. Today it has 20 XO4 and 20 XO-1 which makes this the current largest deployment in Malaysia after the first Malaysia SEMOA deployment in Raub in 2014.

In November 16 this year a group of volunteers attended the SLRC musical concert. This end of the year program was memorable. We saw the kids having fun,witnessed by family members, teachers, members of the SLRC board, etc.

3. New deployment in Kuching, Sarawak

In 2019 dLEAP has expanded to Kuching, Sarawak. Collaboration with Dr. Cheah from UNIMAS who now have access to twenty XO4 from OLPC Asia is bearing some fuits. A recent visit was made to support  his new deployment.University volunteers were exposed and trained to conduct deployments. We are looking forward to Sawarak as it has a large rural children population and potential to benefit from dLEAP if done right.

 2020 and Beyond

We have come a long way, we will suceed however small our impact can have on children, organisations or volunteers. Laying the seeds and getting it right progressively is crucial. Now with years of accumulated experience from various deployments, we trust things can grow organically into sustainable impact over time. From our very first deployment in 2014 we confirmed that adult champions who believes children with technology can learn by themselves or peers are invaluable for dLEAP.  Putting children first and easy to access to right tools for joyful learning is however not easy as adults have different demands on how education should be conducted.  

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Sunday 23 December 2018

10 Years Today on Christmas Eve: What's Next?

Christmas Eve 2008. I hurried down to the Oregon store in Shatin to collect my XO laptops. At the cost of HK$3,380 (the price of two XOs) I was able to own one, while donating another XO to a child somewhere in the world.  OLPC Asia  has come to town recently as a registered charity organization to raise fund with this Give 1 Get 1 (G1G1) laptop ownership program.

I remember two months earlier I made a birthday wish to own this little green laptop after discovering it on the web.  My hope was to kick a little joy back to my life with a new toy. Now I have one!
Back home, I unpacked and taught myself how to use it while instructing my mother-in-law how to operate it . She was my main donor and her first encounter with the XO was captured in video on Christmas Eve,2008.

Ten years later today, I am in a reflective mood. It has been quite a 10 years journey for me with the XO especially in my professional  life as a Clinical Psychologist, since I could breakout the 4 walls of therapy room into the world of child development and technology.

Today with the widespread availability of smartphones and tablets, the XO relevance as rugged and low powered computing for children is unique for me and children. Since our last Basecamp2013@Malacca where we discussed the XO future, there has yet to be another innovative one in all solutions as in the XO.

I recently came back from Malaysia after 2 weeks of followups on small deployments in various settings. The first generation XOs-1 that are 10+ years old are still functioning and recycled into the field.

XOs that are deployed in harsh environment like are still operating despite missing screws and broken screens. I retrieved a number of SD cards that has 2 years history usage and digital portfolio of children to study. As I demo the XO for urban parent with children,  they still see a role to counteract the mindless digital play of children growing up in the Apps world. The right screen time with the right tools matter today since there is a backlash from issues of devices common today.

 What's next? It may still follow me for another decade. The XO will still provide the dLEAP for learning in an upside down world.

If I outlived the XO, I  will reflect in a Christmas Eve 2028 blog entry. However in the present, the XO is like the King of Fruits, Durian -  either a +1 or -1 for your senses.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Sunday 8 July 2018

dLEAP in 2018

The last blog I  wrote  was in January, 2017.It has the title "dLEAP into 2017". A year and half later I am updating this blog with an entry "dLEAP in 2018". Happy to say that no news is good news - there has been progress over the year.

Volunteers and I was back in July 2017 to follow-up the CheWong kids who lives in the surrounding areas of the Elephant Sanctuary. In my last 2017 blog I reported that we replaced all the older XO in the hands of the CheWong's children to XO4. Bags were purchased and they were reminded to keep it clean. Our surprise visit confirmed that they were indeed keeping it real clean and using it regularly to our delight.

Thanks to the good public relation by a local volunteer we were offered a newly painted room in Elephant Centre (EC) as resource centre for the children. It is also an educational public space for visitors to EC. On August 12, 2017 last year we had the children of dLEAP to participate in the World Elephant Day. A simple Scratch game written by a Hong Kong 12 year old kid and downloaded to their XO4 were shown to visitors.

Kids from a surrounding school was entertained to what they could do with the XO4. These students envied what the CheWong's  children were able to do with 1:1 laptop ownership.

Yes, we hope to do another event for August 12, 2018!


To reach out to new children and even smaller children we piloted leaving a few XOs to a kindergarten to the delight of the 4-6 years old children. They were using it almost immediately and was very proficient a month later with no support. Work is in progress  that we will get each children their own laptop by the end of 2018. Hence this pre-school will become a 1:1 kindergarten and will serve both very young CheWong children and Malay village children.

We have been supporting the CheWong kids for four years now. They have grown up alot since then. A local volunteer who is a teacher recently introduced the mind-mapping activity to these children. A  kid took the opportunity to describe  CheWong tribe:  350-400 people remaining, permalu (shy) people, lives in jungle and make a living with "rotan" collection, etc. It was insightful and they also made mind-maps to describe who they are as a person!

In another front some good progress is coming out from a small pilot of XO4 with another local volunteer who is based in Sarawak. As an academic and computer scientist he is engaging development of local support resources. I was sent this link on their development and even had a video of their pilot test session.

So the progress from 2017 into 2018 has been good. It will be 5 years since Basecamp2013@Malacca was organised. We were lucky to attract participants from all over the world. Will there be a Basecamp 2018? I have sketched of what could be possible dates in August for synergy in Hong Kong or/and Malaysia. It has been a tiring 5 years but rewarding when you see children and kids getting the opportunities. For basecamp2018, this is a vapour idea more than a month away. If it happens it happens! 

 Will love to hear from any of you as comments or by e-mail (