Thursday, January 6, 2011

Quest for Modern Technology

In our drive to become a high income nation, the introduction and adoption of modern technology is a sine-quo-non.
Malaysia has made an astounding progress in this regard, especially in the field of communication and transport. We now have our own satellite and GPS system and our automotive industry. Even agriculture has introduced the use of some of the latest high-tech machines and equipment such as the multifucntional and walking tractor.

But most of the high-tech machines and eqipment we use are imported with car production as an exception. After a brief period of borrowing japanese technology, our automotive industry is now striving out on its own to produce cars for local consumption and export. In the IT department some of our own home-grown products are now in the market

Unfortunately, most of the modern tenological equipment and gadgetaries that we use in Malaysia are still imported. Aside from the mini radios, tvs, cameras etc. many of the high-technology equipment used in farming and manufacturing are huge and very costly. In agriculture the walking tractor seems to be the smallest equipment available. Even the grass mowers and kubota tractors are too big and expensive for personal and individual use. They are all imported.

Only in the production of light agricultural equipment such as machines related to the gathering and processing of oil palm and the processing and packaging of food products have we been able to produce our own. The recent MAHA show had displayed many of these. The Malaysian Technology Development Corporation appears to be more interested in the import of the big equipment and machines rather than promoting research, development and production of light equipment and instrumentsfor our daily use.

We just don't seem to able to traslate our technological ideas into mechanical innovation. I rememer years ago when Tun Mahathir as Prime Minister suggested that a special tractor which can float on the slimy mud of the ricefield be invented since tne ordinary tractor will sink too deep into the rice fields. Until today no such machine has been developed and put into commercial use. Many of the ricefields have been abandoned until recently when a new initiative had started to replant rice on a commercial basis using some very heavy ploughing and harvesting equipment. How successful is this endeavor remains to be seen.

I myself have been trying to get a ride-on mower that is small and affordable for mowing the grass and clearing the garden and the larger housing compound in rural homes. Not the big one as in the picture.

It should also be able to vacuum the rubbish not cleaned up by the local authorities. It will also be most helpful if such a machine can pull a little plow used for gardening. I suggested this idea to a graduate electrical engineering student and she said that that would make a good study at PhD level. Many people expressed a need for such a machine since mowing the garden and housing compound of a hector or less can be a very expensive affair nowadays. An average citizen with a love for tending the garden and keeping the compound around his home clean, would now need an arsenal of gardening equipment to do the work himself ( See pic for my own version of his need). Get the 'have-mower-will travel -men' to do the job and you have to cough out a few hundred ringgit a month to keep a well-trimmed lawn.

There're actually many things that Malaysians can invent for their own use or adapt for household use. The sling-mower for example uses a machine that can be adapted for other uses like for moving a buggy and perhaps act as the propellant for a boat. You find such long-stem propellent being used by the Thais on their river. The coconut scraper uses the same machine with some adaptation. The push-mower with clever adaptation can become a self driving machine and the blower can be used for separating the good rice from the husks. MTDC should be looking into these areas of technogical development so that simple machines with advanced technology can be produced by Malaysians for everyday use. It is all these simple. cheap yet hightech tools and equipment procuced locally and made available to everyone that would make our society more modern and sophisticated.


Al-Manar said...

I think in parallel with you. What saddens me most is the great waste of money, time and manpower that we have allowed our educational establishments to compete in size, in the number of courses with fancifully specialised names, in the number of student population, in the number of PhD lecturers, in the number of titled lecturers, professors, in competing to claiming to be 'taraf antara bangsa'; with little regards for what graduates they are churning out, irrespective of whether or not they are jobs waiting for them.

I went to a university acclaimed for engineering. I was surprised to find myself, during my first year's workshop practice, involved in production of mechanical lab equipment ordered by universities overseas. There were other projects developed in accordance with requests from industries. One small project was developing a new type of fire extinguishers.
And the head of the mechanical department did not even have a degree. Instead he possessed M I Mech E, a professional qualification with many years of experience in large engineering establishments. One lecture was a specialist in hydraulics, and was the consultant engineer for the construction of a dam in South America. We called him by a simple 'John' knowing very well he had a string of qualifications, including PhD. And that was a small university with a handful of technical courses which produced graduates readily employable.

Universities should be a place where the real brain should show its shine, not just the name tags of Dr so and so, Dr Datuk so and so.

Do we not have a think tank somewhere? Or do we have too many empty tanks?

norzah said...

Think Tanks there are many, Akhi Pakcik Al-Manar, headed by politicians. Members include Datuk Dr. Tan Sri Prof. and other titled personnel as you mentioned
who will think of big plans, big machines and projects worth billions of ringgit.

What's lacking are professional engineers and technicians who are creative and can design/produce simple but high-tech equipment for everyday use in our country. Today when you go into the hardware shop you'll find that most of the do-it-yourself kits are imported. Yes, perhaps it's cheaper to import than do research and make them ourselves. But we might be able to produce something cheaper and better, like what the Japanese did. Even India has developed ipad and computers that are very cheap and can be afforded by anyone.

rambomadonna said...

Hmmm ... i don't quite know where to start commenting as my opinion consist of few segments.

First, our society and education system still look at paper qualification. Go to school and make sure you do well in exams. FYI, while monitoring the progress of a very controversial project, I met the consultant (a local man, a mechanical engineer) and 5 swiss skilled workers (wink wink). In comparison, i was amazed by the skilled workers knowledge of the system, their involvement in installation, testing and commissioning of the system etc.

Most of the time, our consultant just explained how the system works and watched, but i was interested in how the skilled workers tarik kabel, pasang kabel, panjat kren ... know which kabel masuk mana ... etc etc. And fyi, the system is specially customised, not the one you get over the counter.

i ended up spending the whole day, studying the hydraulics, recalling some physics law etc.I overheard them saying that their works permit them to settle down, but they do it cause it's their passion.

perhaps, other than just producing another professional engineer, we should produce a professional engineer that is passionate about their job and profession.

Secondly, local talents overseas. making other countries richer!

norzah said...

In spite of your tight schedule you throw a very relevant comment, J, Yes indeed, the engineers know well how the system but not which cable works which instrument. To find out what's wrong with your car they'll have to check (and perhaps pull out everything).
A foreman listens to your engine, knows what is wrong and fix it within minutes.

So we want more of the foreman types of engineers. But they don't want to get their hands dirty. Why such people work oversea coz the pay is great. Ask an optician in US to repair your glasses and he'll say better buy a new pair. Repair could cost more. Malaysia wants to become a high income nation but salary remains very low compared to Singapore.

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