Click. Click. Click. That’s the sound of typing (or at least, attempting to) on the keyboard by the young 7-year-old who had his first schooling experience through the virtual platform on Google Classrooms set up by his school due to the pandemic that took the world by storm last year. The young boy has been having a hard time maneuvering a digital learning space and his parents too were not digitally literate. The Covid-19 pandemic threw the world into a sudden wave of change and digital transformation took over. Technological alternatives instantly replaced the pace of everyday life when everyone in Malaysia, among other countries, were put in quarantine as a response to stop the spread of the disease. Working from home, online schooling and even online grocery shopping soon became a norm (BBC, n.d.).
During the transition from offline to online, some of us struggled, some didn’t. As the saying goes, “we are all in the same storm, but not the same boat.” Even those with high-speed internet connectivity , fancy laptops or PCs of the latest models struggle with the use of the Internet given the copious amount of features and functionalities the virtual space has, what more the less fortunate students (Siew Imm, 2021). Young kids from all backgrounds throughout the nation have had to adapt to this transition and quickly equip themselves with basic digital literacy skills just so they can go to school. This definitely proved to be a challenge - especially for those from impoverished backgrounds. A team of young, passionate students from Taylor’s University understood this concern and took it upon themselves to curate a solution that can help bridge the digital literacy gap within the B40 community in Malaysia. Hence, DuckiePi was brought to life! The DuckiePi is a low-cost e-learning device that functions exactly like your average laptop. A fervent group of youngsters within the Taylor’s community successfully penetrated the world of technological development with DuckiePi by challenging the stigma of expensive electronic devices, which are often inaccessible to the underprivileged.
In December 2020, Taylor’s Me.reka Makerspace joined forces with Taylor’s students from Taylor’s Makers Club, Robotics Club and Agents of Tech and embarked on the journey to create an affordable e-learning platform, now known as DuckiePi. This initiative is part of the ‘Duckie Campaign’ hosted by Taylor’s University Malaysia. The enthusiastic group started with nothing but a blank space, an idea and a driven passion to help the community. With hours of work, research and discussion, the team came up with the first version of DuckiePi in January 2021.
The beneficiary of this first DuckiePi is an eight-year-old girl named Zulaikha from Program Perumahan Rakyat or People’s Housing Project of Seri Cempaka, Kuala Lumpur. Zulaikha and her family had an overall positive experience and seemed fond of the device. It was great that using DuckiePi was not a steep learning curve for the young girl as she learned how to efficiently use the device very quickly. This was a great first success since this device served its main purpose - to assist children who lack digital literacy with online learning. She was quickly taught on how to switch the device on and off and how to access Google , the predominant platform that educators use as a teaching medium. Zulaikha found herself to be very familiar with the device soon enough! This first version, however, was originally named ‘Duckie pad’ and was structured like a tablet, instead of it’s current PC-like outlook. Based on insightful feedback from Zulaikha to include a camera and improve user-interface, the team listened and went back to the drawing board.
After some brainstorming and lots of experimentation, the Taylor’s team came up with Duckie Desk, the second version of DuckiePi, within a month and finalized the design. It was not an easy feat as the group had to source individual components of DuckiePi at a low price to maintain its affordability. They contacted sellers both via online platforms like Facebook Marketplace, Lazada and Shopee as well as scouted brick and mortar stores around Klang Valley to gather the perfect group of suppliers for the project. By the end of March 2021, the upgraded version of DuckiePi was produced and the device was ready for an official launch. With helpful donations from the public, 50 DuckiePi devices are now ready and prepared for distribution to the B40 community. Taylor’s Me.reka Makerspace assists this communication between the students/creators of DuckiePi with PPR residents around the area. As of today, 50 DuckiePi devices have been delivered to the young children of PPR Lembah Subang to assist with their online learning. Given the incredible response from the community, the Taylor’s Duckie initiative is extending their funding goal to RM100,000 in order to reach more children who require a learning tool. With the goal achieved, about 250 Duckie Pi’s can be created and distributed. This equates to 250 or more children in Malaysia who will gain access to the online world that creates doors of opportunities for them to start unraveling and discovering potential talents.
Keen on helping out the DuckiePi team? Check out the Taylor’s Duckie website to learn more and drop a kind donation to sustain this initiative!
Siew Imm, N. (2021, April 4). More support needed for B40 families in online learning. NST Online. https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/columnists/2021/04/679641/more-support-needed-b40-families-online-learning
British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). (n.d.). Coronavirus: How the world of work may change forever. BBC Worklife. https://www.bbc.com/worklife/article/20201023-coronavirus-how-will-the-pandemic-change-the-way-we-wor