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Teenager creates an app with a difference

PETALING JAYA: Tong Jing Yen is not your average 17-year-old.

While many others his age would be more occupied with playing sports, immersing themselves in video games or scrolling through social media feeds, the Form 6 student at SMJK Katholik (Catholic High School) here has been busy creating mobile applications.

He developed his knack for creating apps after he picked up programming at the age of 12.

Although he has created three apps, the teenager’s latest one may be his most useful yet.

He spent two months coming up with Bersamamu, a free app launched earlier this month, which allows Malaysians to give and receive donations such as food, clothes and books.

The app also allows users to conveniently filter searches by location and category to find items listed for donation or that which is requested by the community.

Speaking to FMT, Tong said the idea for the app came to him in June after reading numerous reports about the hardships that many Malaysians are facing due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Some of them had bad luck and lost their jobs because of the MCO (movement control order). I remember one story about a viral video of a man looking for food in a garbage bin,” he said.

“It was crazy, and to me, it showed the inequality in society. I found the story particularly inspiring and I felt I had to do something.

“I was also inspired to create the app when I was going around my neighbourhood and saw foodbanks set up in grocery shops and gas stations, but I felt it was better if there was a platform for people to receive other kinds of help, not just food,” he said.

Tong also hoped the app would help reduce wastage by allowing people to donate items they don’t need.

Programming languages

The teenager said he first learnt about programming through one of his father’s books on Basic, an older generation programming language.

It became the impetus for him to dive into learning other programming languages such as Java, C++, Python, HTML on YouTube and other platforms on the internet.

Thanking his IT consultant father for providing him technical advice and encouragement, Tong said he was also moved by the encouragement and support that his family and friends have provided.

“They’ve helped me to spread the word about the (Bersamamu) app, and they’re very proud ,” he said.

Tong, who hopes to become an electrical engineer, said he has created two other apps, one for card game Black Jack and the other a notepad, which he admits is not up to his own high standards yet.

He said that while Bersamamu has racked up around 270 downloads on the Google Play Store as of yesterday, he hopes it will soon catch on with more Malaysians.

“It’s actually quite positive when I think of it. However, there are less than 200 active users, so that may be just 20 people per state at most – and that’s not a lot,” he pointed out.

“I really hope a lot more users will sign up so communities will be able to help themselves out.

“I think in times of hardship, it’s not only important to take care of yourself but, if you have the capability, to make sure others are living well too.”

Android users can download the app here or via the Google PlayStore on their phones.

SOURCE: Free Malaysia Today

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