Frustration. That’s what Andrew Loh felt under Barisan Nasional’s regime. This political coalition in Malaysia ruled the country for 61 years before it lost power in 2018.
“Politics was not a medium for expression or exploration,” the Ivy League graduate tells Study International. “There was one party, one regime, one government, one point of view, and everything challenging that was wrong.”
While the government and the politicians running it were woeful, Loh had good teachers. They trained him to be curious. He was encouraged to think, explore and understand different views instead of accepting them for what they are.
Today, Loh’s inquisitive and passionate spirit is seen through his latest venture: Undi Banjir.
Helping Malaysians to vote
Undi Banjir — which is Malay for “a flood of votes” was launched by a collective with experience with the previous general election. “One of the big learnings from that was that we are better together,” says Loh. “With one branding, we can accelerate and catalyse impact.”
Loh’s project is a peer-to-peer crowdfunding platform which he built with two Malaysians, Chooi Je Qin (who is a freshman at Harvard College) and Dr. Shawn Tan (an engineer based in Kuala Lumpur).
Undi Banjir‘s crowdfunding platform serves two functions. If you are a voter who needs financial assistance, you can create a profile to request sponsorship from members of the public.
If you are in the country, the website also has a carpool and ride-sharing database that will ease transportation to the polling stations.
The site also coordinates relief efforts in states with a high risk of flooding. It will include a verified list of non-profits to which members of the public can choose to donate to.
Building a peer-to-peer crowding funding platform from scratch
Since it launched, Undi Banjir has around 400 users and recorded transactions valued at 19,000 Malaysian ringgit, with a further RM10,000 pledged to be transacted (that refers to amounts that donors have pledged to donate).
The best part? The team completed this project, despite Loh having minimal tech experience and despite the time zone differences. The Malaysian cheekily admits that the team barely had any photos together due to the quick turnaround.
What mattered was harnessing the passions of individual Malaysians to help others to exercise their foremost democratic duty. In Loh’s words, it was the “perfect team.”
“I reached out to a few people. In the end, I got two people who immediately said yes. One is Je Qin from Harvard,” he explains. “He was active in using tech for social good even before college. ” On the other hand, Dr. Tan — an experienced coder — mentored the team.
GE15: An important time for Malaysia
As a graduate who studied Master of Public Administration at Harvard, it’s not surprising to see Loh heavily involved in movements that are linked to a political cause.
During GE14, the Harvard and Stanford graduate fought against voter suppression by launching an online get-out-the-vote platform named “Pulang Mengundi.” It was here where his team helped 10,000 voters to travel home and vote.
Pulang Mengundi also became the top-trending hashtag on Malaysian Twitter, which energised online mobilisation and reportedly helped drive 82% of the voter turnout.
The 15th general election is no different. With Undi18 (a Malaysian youth movement that successfully advocated for constitutional reform to lower the voting age), those 18 and above are automatically eligible to vote — something that has never happened in past elections.
“Our goal is to enshrine a culture of voting and democracy for Malaysians,” says Loh. “So, we are laser-focused on young Malaysians who may need these kinds of financial assistance because they are students, they just started their career or those who need it the most, especially our friends in Sabah and Sarawak.”
Asked for advice to voters who are voting for the first time, Loh shares: “Do not let this be your last time and don’t be discouraged. Progress is a fight. It is a marathon, not a sprint. No matter how discouraged, frustrated, or angry you are, vote. Harness that energy.”
He adds: “Still, voting is not sufficient. Voting is just one of your duties as a citizen. You need to be informed. Even better, do something. Do something and help change lives, change communities, and change the world.”