N.29 BABE - My View

Stretching the ICT Limits in LA

Journalists trying to show off their cameras in front of me

I was surfing the Internet for any news that was related to the recently completed N.29 Batang Ai By Election. There was a score of journalists in this small town with their own set of heavy duty equipment - high powered cameras and computers - some with broadband capabilities. My rather smaller digital camera and my internet enabled mobile phone is no match for those high powered zoom lenses and the internet broadband adaptors. Most of the journalists there have posted their summary or interpretation of the N.29 Batang Ai By Election (BABE) results (below):

BP's Churchill Edward's Let's Read the Voter's Message
NST John Teo's What Makes This Democracy Different
(To be updated if I come across any new ones)

My own summary will not be of the voting trend but more of my observation on the communication technology aspect at the Tally Centre during the Vote Counting and suggestions on what can be improved. After all that is Nadai Nama Nama's brand - my adventures with this wonderful thing called Information Communication Technology, embracing the boundaries of its capability and rejecting its abuse.

MCMC's Adiman in the foreground, Yusmin on the floor with their signal monitoring equipment

So as not to repeat the same situation when all telco lines (Celcom, Maxis, Digis) were jammed and congested on nomination day, the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) deployed an experienced team led by Mr. Adiman himself this time. I have to thank MCMC for being responsive. The past few days after nomination, most of the visitors experienced water supply problems and lack of electricity. Adding the problem of communication breakdown can be very nerve wrecking. But to the short term visitors, I hope you all appreciate that these are the day to day challenges of the Lubok Antu folks.

Nadai Nama was on location for the Vote Counting exercise during the By Election. The idea of blogging in real time tickled my mind. I would not hesitate if we were in the urban area with all those marvellous 3G communication access but this is Lubok Antu (LA) man. The idea of Live Blogging with pictures using Cover It Live online publishing is worth experimenting with. I only learnt how to use the mobile version while on the way to LA.

The equipment and mobile phones used to monitor the signal strength of the various Telcos (Celcom, Maxis and Digi).


The journalists on duty at the Tally Centre

An interesting contrast - the Barisan National corner sees the early counting of results from the Polling Agent's sheet using calculators

While the Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) were all armed with computer notebooks, colour printers and scanners, broadband dongles. They even had an Online Live blog covering the By Election via Lina Soo's Blog.

PKR's ICT arsenal assisting in high tech reporting

The Election Commission's ICT Unit had their own IT arsenal

The Returning Officer and Assistant Returning Officers' team also relied on a simple computer Notebook

Even on the stage - the Election Commission supplied a Computer Notebook for result announcements

Delivery Matters

With all these high tech gadgets and the capability of information technology, I suppose things could have been done better especially with the sharing and delivery of information. The Election Commission's ICT capability may have been confined to enable their officials to collate and use the information for their own record. Thus when one checks at the end of the counting process and also the announcement of official results that evening - one would not find the outcome at the EC's official website. Would this change in the upcoming elections so that the Election Commission will be the centre of focus for results announcements.

No news of the Election results on the night of 7th April 2009

Again in contrast, on the night of 7th April 2009 at 11 p.m I found out that Lina Soo's website was updated with all the info required for the Batang Air By Election.


For Nadai Nama Nama it was a lone quest also in strecthing the already thin bandwidth capability of small town Lubok Antu. Lina's PKR team was reporting from the nearby Kling Kang Inn with their Cover It Live while I was in the Tally Centre blogging with my Sony Ericsson P1i. It was thus unfortunate that to most readers that I could not activate the Chat Feature of the Cover It Live. I was informed by readers who SMSed me that they would like to chat in my website version but that would mean my handphone screen would be flushed with messages. I had put it on 'Moderated Mode' to allow uninterrupted reporting. The Ericsson P1i would have collapsed there and then. During the uploading of photos it jammed for some time. For those of you who had asked how it works, below are some screen shots of the Mobile version which I had used.

Depending on your handphone's capability - just use your web browser to register your Cover It Live account (if you do not have one already) and log into your account (if you have one already)

If you have an acccount already then all you need is just to log in to your account and set a name for your Live Event

Pick the Event name that you have chosen and log into it

Uploading picture contents are a plus feature of Cover It Live. I was not sure on how to describe the pictures and how it would appear in a real live website which was why one would discover I may have been describing the wrong photos. But pictures are worth a thousand words so there was not much complaining from those who SMSed me.
Comments publishing features ffrom your handset. You can type in your narration of the event using the small keyboard on your handphone or the touch screen (which caused all those funny typos in my posts)

Auto Refresh Capability allows you to interact with the readers. You can turn it "On" or "Off". Now if a few hundred people (my recorded almost 600 while Lina Soo had a high 16,000) reading your entries and wish to interact - imagine having to respond to 100 messages in a minute of time (if unmoderated) or approving the hundreds of comments (if moderated). Your screen will be flooded with those messages. Lina Soo's her team I believe was using a Note Book PC which was easier to read and approve the thousands of messages coming into it. She was in the Tally Centre so I believe it was the person with the nick Hostage88 whom she thanked in her blog who manned her Coveritlive.

You can also view your own Live Event on your mobile and how it appears on a Mobile Phone's web browser. The problem is that the orientation is different. When you want to described an uploaded photo in your handphone browser - it will appear as if the photo is below your text in your handphone but when it appears in your web browser PC it will appear above

Once your event has ended there is a feature to end it so that it does not appear as an ongoing 'Live' Event in the Cover It Live main page

When its ended - the Cover It Live advert will appear and you can replay it over and over if you account is still active.

Overall it was a satisfying attempt in Live Blogging especially for an important event like this with the most basic equipment. The picture uploading feature is a plus point for Cover It Live. I had wanted to use the Desmotion Blog features of the handphone earlier on. But the much more friendly feature of Cover It Live suits the event as I was able to share almost real time images with my online viewers on what was happening at the Lubok Antu Sports Complex during N.29 BABE vote counting. I am glad to know that my Sony Ericsson P1i is still relevant and has been tested to its maximum capability - though the weak point is that it lags when posting comments and uploading photos. By the time I had finished posting an event, another would have taken place and the time to switch back to camera mode from internet mode and back was quite frustrating. Though the 3.2 MP camera did not provide good picture quality, a heavy duty photo would also have required a long time to upload into Lubok Antu's GPRS two way information lane.

Thus readers can make their own conclusions here, especially on the use of ICT to enhance important event reporting. Sharing of information and resources would save time and expediete results sharing so everyone can go home early. The EC or SPR, BN and PKR had their own set of equipments which could be enhanced if information sharing is allowed and the reporters would not have to use their negotiation skills and charms to get reliable results to their Headquarters. With the advent of information technology it would have been good to allow future rural Tally Centers to be fitted with WiFi broadband features also. The capacity for improvements are huge and if one considers N.29 BABE Reporting it would have been considered the hardest to report considering Lubok Antu is in the remote part of Sarawak. Its only for me to experiment and for those who are in the powers that be to take it up. Signing off for now....the next post will be on the images I took around Lubok Antu during the Vote Counting. Its when I see all those wonderful camera equipment that I choose not to share my humble images which I took with my simple Sony 8.1 MP Cybershot camera.

A final note to those who were not so nice with your comments which I chose not to publish - do note that I am a blogger who does not side any political idealogies when I gave my views during Live Blogging on that day. I was on official duty and testing Live Blogging's capability - an experiment that was on top of my present duty - there is a difference in that my friend. Happy Good Friday Everyone!

Comments

cdason said…
well, I have to say that PKR's ICT arsenal looks way more advance than many... and the hardship during the election proves one thing...

BN should do more to develop Batang Ai now..
Hamidah Mohamad said…
With the advancement in information and communication technology your innovative attempt to blog live from this handheld mobile device had successfully been tested to involve one remote area and proved viable though surprisingly the government machinery like the EC is still not fully equipped to meet this cover it life online publishing. From my observation, probably the not so compatible feature in your SE P1i in posting and moderating comments explains the often delay in publishing readers’ comments and feedbacks in your blog. Correct me if I’m wrong here and thanks for sharing. TQ.
Hamidah Mohamad said…
Correction..please read 'cover it live'..(always fail to be a perfectionist) haha..
Uchu Keling said…
Great work done!
Pemancha II said…
Pakar ICT government are mostly lacking of skills. (Bakani sida milih candidate neh Boss?)

IF there are Cross Work Exposure Program between Govt IT staff with my current employer, I dont thing they can handle the workload and pressure, whereby there is no room for mistakes. Nadai chan sida ka ngirup kupi jam 9 or 10 serta duduk sembang sembang ha ha ha ha ha.

Uji sida ngambi aku kereja, ulih ga aku improve ICT standard or giving ideas.
Anonymous said…
This is by the most covered election Sarawak has ever had. With all the ICT advancement, this surely will not be the last.

DeeJay, good posting on this. At least people ard Malaysia and around the world know that we in Sarawak are up to date as far as ICT is concerned.
bongkersz said…
Thanks to ICT advancement especially mobile internet, you can make some 6d predictions too on Facebook! :P