Sarawak student and tech entrepreneur develops COVID-19 tracking app

From a civil engineering degree to establishing a technology company and developing a COVID-19 tracking app with fellow alumni, Lim Jim Hong shares his Swinburne story with us.

Tell us what you studied at Swinburne and your journey to becoming a tech entrepreneur.

I studied a Bachelor of Civil Engineering at Swinburne’s Sarawak campus in Malaysia. I wanted to study a degree in computer programming, but my parents convinced me to go into civil engineering because they believed it would offer me more opportunities. We agreed that I could do something else after finishing my engineering degree. After my bachelor’s degree, I traveled to the United States under the country’s travel and work program. While there, I met some entrepreneurs and programmers who shared their start-up experiences with me, and that’s where my passion for Information and Communications Technology (ICT) grew. So I founded a company called ARx Media.

What does your company do and what were some of the challenges you faced?

ARx Media was created in 2018 and is specialized in software development, Internet of Things (IoT), smart city solutions, augmented reality, virtual reality, web/mobile application development, website development and technology consulting. I am the Director of Business Development and Public Relations. All four partners in the company are also Swinburne Sarawak graduates.

When we started, we didn’t hire anyone right away, so the workload was pretty heavy. Today, the majority of our staff are Swinburne Sarawak graduates. We now have 13 employees, and more than half are Swinburne alumni.

Another challenge we had to face in the early days was gaining the trust of our customers as we were very new to the market.

Lim Jim Hong with a group of his employees from ARx Media.

Can you tell us more about the app you developed?

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March 2020, the Malaysian government implemented a strict control measure across the country to reduce the movement of people in an effort to curb the spread of the virus.

After this, the Kuching South City Council (MBKS), where I live, approached my company and another organization to develop a location tracking app, which led us to develop the community tracking app Its purpose was to track the movement of people within the community, and the information obtained would be crucial for contact tracing. The app shortens the time it takes to identify people who might be exposed to positive COVID-19 cases, and the Sarawak government uses the data specifically for this purpose.

Initially, the application was intended only for use in markets under the jurisdiction of MBKS (there are two city halls in Kuching). However, as the app developed further, shopping malls, supermarkets, food stores, and cafes started using it so that it became part of the standard operating procedure to combat COVID-19. Eventually the community The app was rolled out throughout Sarawak, Malaysia.

Image supplied by Daily Darawak.

What were the challenges of developing the app?

The app was urgently needed at the time, so getting it up and running was critical. Fortunately, we were able to get the system up and running in less than a month. Of course we had to work day and night and sacrifice our weekends!

Public trust was another challenge. Fortunately, government support for the app combined with the establishment of a privacy policy, including an educational campaign on the benefits of the app, helped gain public acceptance and trust.

How was your experience at Swinburne?

Memorable and surprising. College prepared me well for my career and beyond. For that, I have to thank my professors and fellow students, some of whom are my business partners today. Aside from academia, college opened my eyes to many aspects of life. I am confident that I can advance further in my career and beyond thanks to my education at Swinburne.

What advice do you have for students interested in a career in civil engineering or ICT?

The job and business opportunities in these industries are enormous. You can’t go wrong with either one. Right now, opportunities abound in Malaysia, especially with the Sarawak government’s aspiration to digitize its economy and its goal of becoming a developed country by 2030.

For graduates looking to start a business, what’s your advice?

Find a mentor. The right mentor will go a long way towards your business mindset and success. And, whatever your business, keep trying until you find something that fits and/or works for you. For example, since we started the company, we have changed our focus from Augmented Reality/Virtual Reality to System Personalization and now Facial Recognition.

How has your involvement with Swinburne impacted your business?

We recently formalized a partnership with our alma mater to collaborate on engineering research activities and community projects involving the use of technologies such as IoT, Augmented Reality, and Virtual Reality. In addition to this, we also provide internship opportunities, give career talks and organize seminars and workshops with Swinburne Sarawak and public universities.

How do you give back to the community?

We participate in the “Start-up Weekend”, an event where developers, designers, marketers, product managers and start-up enthusiasts meet to share ideas, form teams, build products and launch start-ups. The International Junior Chamber of Malaysia is an organization that we are also very involved with.

Visit our website for more information on Swinburne Engineering.

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