Hooi You Ching, The Star, InTech Section (October 22, 2002)
SOCIAL issues are gradually getting the kind of web presence they deserve. Not surprisingly then, the information superhighway is paving the way for greater empowerment for individuals in a civil society.
One such organisation to realise the tremendous potential of the Internet as a community service provider is Myho-me4work.net. Its earlier website, called Mothers for Mothers, started as a network of mothers involved in creating awareness and empowerment towards greater economic and social freedom.
In 2000, a proposal for the E-Homemakers project was submitted to the Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment. According to project manager Chong Sheau Ching, the former website wasn’t designed for heavy content traffic.
“We wanted to create a website that offered greater interactive ex-perience for our users. But we didn’t have the IT skills or the funds to run such an initiative,” says Chong.
Then in November 2001, the Ministry approved their application for a Demon-strator Application Grant (DAG). Under the grant, DC One Technologies became its technology partner.
The Demonstrator Application Grant Scheme (DAGS) funding project is aimed at encouraging the development of IT-based community projects in Malaysia.
With the financial hurdle out of the way, Chong got down to business in hiring her web team. Hers is a dedicated 10-member team comprising of editorial staff and a web-mistress. Together, they engage themselves in a virtual office environment, with e-mail being the most frequently-used form of communication.
For real time discussions, the team uses software like Yahoo! Messenger instant messaging which allows instant communication.
“Working as a virtual team is such an interesting concept. That one of us is based in Brisbane coordinating all the writers who contribute for our English section makes the online experience even more unique,” says S. Puvaneswary who is chief content editor of Myhome4work.net.
The Internet not only features useful information, it also feeds them directly to users. She reveals that their web infrastructure uses push technology to disseminate the electronic newsletters to subscribers.
Through this method, selected topics of an issue are automatically delivered into the user’s computer. By comparison, surfing the Internet by browsing is an example of pull technology.
To ensure a smooth workflow in content development, the web team uses Yahoo! Briefcase to store files online. This allows the web team common ac-cess to files and folders. According to Puvaneswary, the 30MB of free space is more than adequate to store over 700 pages of content.
Unlike most websites that are based on a single language of communication, Myhome4work.net has plans to include two other major languages – Bahasa Malaysia and Chinese.
According to Chong, having a cross-language website would mean a wider outreach for its web community. However, the logistics behind this muhibbah (multi-racial) concept would involve a great deal of coordination and translation work.
The Bahasa Malaysia segment is almost ready, says its BM content editor/webmaster Yusri Abdul Rah-man, who also maintains the help desk and content management.
“Also in the works is the barter board, which is scheduled for January 2003. Here, users can search for information on our site to trade and exchange items and services,” says Yusri whose job is to locate translators to translate articles into Bahasa Malaysia.
Running a website that spills into three major languages can be a daunting experience. But for petite web-mistress Reeza Abdullah, no job is too big for her. She is in charge of the development of the portal’s three language sites. Although, their partner technical consultant handles the server administration part, there is still a lot of web maintenance to be done. Content development, she admits, demands an equal amount of attention, too, through research and development.
Just as its tagline goes, the e-Homemakers project is certainly an evolving and involving website. Content-wise, it is very comprehensive in terms of coverage and relevance. It is also involving in the sense that, by creating awareness, it empowers community action. It is also a resource centre for disadvantaged groups who may gain insight from the site’s wide range of well-researched articles.