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Let’s Explore Why Computers Are Not Reaching The B40 Students

In a 2020 survey, it was found out that there were roughly 900,000 students that did not own any devices and were unable to keep up with the new norm of education known as e-learning[1]. Other students had to attend classes, do homework, and take exams using just their mobile phones[2]. To make matters worse, most of these students needed to share one device among many family members that also needed the phone[2]. This resulted in students falling behind in their studies and many were unable to attend classes thus giving up[2].

So when the national budget 2021 promised 150, 000 laptops for B40 students in 500 schools, there was hope. This promise, made under the CERDIK initiative[3], had given hope to all that was struggling. Unfortunately, six months into the year there have been very few updates on its materialization, ultimately sparking anger amongst Malaysians.

Under public fire, Education Minister Radzi Jidin informed the press that only 21,555 of the promised total had been distributed as of 10th June 2021[4]. The minister stated that another 31,558 units will be expected to be fully delivered by June 12 and the remaining 96,823 will be delivered by the end of September[4]

Device distribution status as seen on Cerdik’s website. Source: Cerdik

While this is progress, many still question why the distribution is so slow. So let’s look into what happens behind laptop distribution to the public. 

Business to Government Process

Before the government can even think about distributing, they need to acquire the total number of laptops. For this to happen they would have to get quotations directly from the laptop companies or manufacturers, enquiring how many are readily available (in local warehouses and nearby regions) and how long it would take to obtain the rest. An order as large as this one cannot be expected to be fulfilled in just one single order. Usually, for these types of transactions to occur, they would follow the B2G approach. 

B2G (Business to Government) is a business model that involves businesses selling products, services or information to governments or government agencies[5]. Businesses, in this case, laptop manufacturers, will bid on government projects offering their proposed quotation, and timelines to fulfil the government requirements. Negotiations on laptop pricing also take time. Seeing as the budget for the 150,000 laptops is roughly RM150 million, the cost of each laptop would be roughly RM1,000 (including software and logistics)[6]. The company with the best offer will be chosen to be part of the project. 

Logistics and transportation

After the deals are made, and contracts are signed, it’s up to the manufacturers to deliver the goods. According to a distributor, large bulk orders like these are not delivered in one shipping. The company usually delivers in smaller quantities – multiple times (depending on stock and parts available). A consultant from a laptop company informed Wiki Impact that the first shipment of laptops took roughly 3 – 4 months to arrive, excluding unforeseen logistic challenges. It is important to remember that logistic problems are not just the transportation of laptops. 

Source: PPD Rompin | You Tube

There may be a supply and demand problem. Laptop manufacturers rely on multiple vendors for different parts of the laptop. A shortage with any of the parts of the laptop would delay the entire supply chain. 

For example, Taiwan, the world’s largest producer of semiconductors, is currently faced with an increase in COVID-19 cases[7]. With the country also facing vaccine deficits, a high chance of infection is expected to reach major technology companies like Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC)[7] This will lead to a global chip shortage, making laptop production extremely difficult[7]

Other challenges include the ever-changing lockdown restrictions in Malaysia. Electronic distributors and warehouses were not listed among essential services, thus cannot operate under normal circumstances[8]. With this, there is an expected delay of shipment, especially between states.  

Procedures and Protocols To Get The Laptops To The Students

As this initiative targets 500 schools throughout the nation, coordination of laptop distribution at district level would mean collaborations with local government bodies. 

For example, in May 2021, Pejabat Pendidikan Daerah Rompin, Pahang Darul Makmur, worked together with local PDRM and JAKOA in order to distribute laptops to the students of SK Kedaik[9]

Source: PPD Rompin | You Tube

The students that had been selected to receive the laptops were allocated time slots to pick up their laptops, and sign “Aku Janji Penerimaan” documents[9]. Each laptop has been tagged accordingly and the student’s information is registered[9]. The reason to this is usually to ensure that the correct student gets the laptop and minimize the risk of the laptop being resold for personal gain – as to what happened with the 1Malaysia laptops[10]

The recipients were also provided with their own sim card for ease of internet access[9], where the internet speed is tested on the spot. Another important procedure is that officers will teach the students and their parents or guardians the basics of using the laptop[9]. It is definitely more than just passing the laptop and going. 

Source: Free Malaysia Today

A Balanced Perspective

All in all, online learning is one of the many changes caused by the pandemic. Each industry has its own impacts and implications. Whilst progress to overcome these challenges are underway, it is taking time. Both government and non-government groups have their work cut out for them. 

As rakyat, we should hold the government and those in authority to their word and promise. However, to understand an issue, it is always better to dig a little deeper and hopefully with empathy and information, we can better understand the challenges faced by various stakeholders. 

Having said all the above, it is every rakyat’s hope that children in need will receive the laptops promised to them and redeem the time lost in the school year. 

Explore Our Sources

  1.  Wiki Impact. (2020). Can the Students of Malaysia Keep Up with E – Learning. Link. 
  2. UNICEF. (2021). Families on the Edge. Issue 4: Two Steps Forward, One Step Back: The New Normal For Malaysia’s urban Poor? Link.
  3. CERDIK. (n. d). Link.
  4. CERDIK. (2021). Status Agihan Peranti Sehingga 5 Jun 2021. Link.
  5. Techopedia. (n.d). Business to Government (B2G). Link.
  6. Kementrian Kewangan. (2021). Infografik Belanjawan 2021. Link.
  7. V. Sankaran. (2021). Global computer chip shortage may worsen unless Taiwan gets vaccines. Independent. Link.
  8. A. N. Idris. (2021). Government names sectors, services that are allowed to operate under total lockdown. The Edge Market. Link.
  10. MStar. (2010). SKMM Siasat Penjualan Haram Notebook 1Malaysia. Link.

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