Women and Young Indonesian: Foundation of Cultural Change

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Onno W. Purbo

Independent ICT Writer


In this paper, will be focus on Indonesian experiences on community based ICT for Development. Started close to 20 years ago, we focus on physical infrastructure relying on community's resources. Some of the innovation results are the neighborhood network using outdoor WiFi equipments, Tin Canntenna, Wajanbolic (a.k.a. Wokbolic) etc. At advanced level, Internet Telephony would be the main platform for Community based Telco. The piloting of People's Telco is currently supported by ISIF.

To create a fundamental cultural change in the Indonesian society, it seems we need to focus our empowerment activities on woman and young Indonesians. As we lift the weakest point in the society, the whole society will be lifted. An early attempts, started in 1998, was done in a dozen Indonesian cities aiming for women empowerment as well as shift in ICT curriculum at schools. The activities are supported by State Ministry of Research and Technology, Ministry of Information and Communication, State Ministry for Women Empowerment and HIVOS.

Empowerment and information / knowledge sharing seems to be the key in creating community movement that rely on own resources. Education, including informal education, would be the key.

The downside of the approach would be takes years, more than 10 years to see the results. It requires dedication of committed informal community leaders.

Early Attempt In Seeking Low Cost Internet Infrastructure

One of the favourite ICT4D story in Indonesia would be the liberation of 2.4GHz band. It is a more than 12 years of process in empowering the communities through workshops, seminars, books, articles. However, the most important / key aspect would be the International acknowledgement and media coverage. As soon as, it gets internationally recognized it creates a huge pressure for pro-poor and pro-people policy within the country to change the regulation as it actually happened on 5 January 2005. For this, I would like to thank International Development Research Centre (IDRC) for their 'support' in getting international acknowledgement in World Summit on Information Society (WSIS) as well as many international workshops. [1]

Today, in 2010, the liberation of 2.4GHz has created large demand for low cost wireless equipments. It triggers the development of many local industries, including, antenna, access point, tower. As well as many local innovation, such as, the Wajanbolic (a.k.a. Wokbolic) [2]. Wajanbolic is a simple WiFi client using Wok to increase the WiFi signal reception gain. It enables one to access the Internet by using a US$35 equipment.

Interestingly, in early 2009, the Indonesian government has declared a class licensed for 5.8 GHz. Thus, anyone may freely use 5.8GHz without license in Indonesia. [3]

In 2008, the open source activists and the Indonesian Ministry of Research and Technology write e-books on ICT for Indonesian high school ICT curriculum. We hope to see more Indonesians to use open source software. In early 2009, with support from Ministry Research and Technology, we managed to run workshop on more than 12 cities in Indonesia and cover more than 6000 teachers.

In addition, several Linux Distro for education based on Ubuntu is written and freely downloadable, namely, Distro SchoolOnffLine [8], SekolahNux [9], IPTEKNux [10], GoonDo. SchoolOnffLine is equipped with Moodle, MediaWiki, Wordpress enable schools to deliver Internet course without having to connect to the Internet. SekolahNux is equipped with education software similar to EduBuntu. IPTEKNux equipped with sciences software aimed for senior high school science major. While GoonDo is another alternative operating system for school.

In terms of infrastructure, the logical next stage would be the development of low cost Next Generation Network, a.k.a. Internet Telephony. Lead by Anton Raharja, the Indonesian has run the largest VoIP softswitch at http://www.voiprakyat.or.id. Supported by Internet Society Innovation Fund (ISIF), the softswitch is currently increased in capacity to Xeon 8 Core and run the ENUM Server to map +62 and any country code to VoIP numbers. Those who wish to build their own softswitch may download the CDROM iso file from http://www.briker.org. In addition, e-book on Next Generation Network telecommunication Infrastructure in English and Indonesian is scheduled to complete and published in early 2010. It is hoped to enable People's Telco infrastructure in the region in upcoming years.

Subtle Strategies In Triggering a Societal Movement

Personally, I admire the power of universal access, economic and social services, openness, human development and innovation. I believe in it. I witness its power when unleashed. It surely will be the key enablers to transform the society into knowledge based society.

Unfortunately, in practice at grass root level, it is not about the concept of “universal access”, “openness”, and “innovation”. It is more about how to create a self-movement within the society / community to get the universal access, to embed openness in their culture, to flourish innovation within the 240 million Indonesians. Unfortunately, Indonesians may not heavily rely on the government for various reasons. It is an art in itself, to create a self-finance, a sustainable, self-propelled movement within such large number of people with minimal support from the government.

Being an activist with no funding, I am very much bias in most of my activities. All of the strategic actions would aim for maximizing the bang for the buck. Trying the provide benefit to as much people / communities at lowest possible overhead cost (no cost if possible) and facilitate the transformation of 240 million Indonesians into information / knowledge producers as the stepping stone towards knowledge based society. Thus, the strategic keywords would be,

Self-finance, Sustainable
Empowerment, Education

In short, keeping in mind that all activities should be community based and self-finance, some of the main strategies would be around “education” / awareness process, such as,

  • Conventional and Electronic Media will buy “good” and “inspiring” stories. It helps in disseminating and convincing many Indonesian to join in. It is key for snowball effect needed to create the mass or the “economic scale” if you like.
  • Encourage students / people to become knowledge / information producers – the simplest act would encourage the students to be books writer or blogger or even help in answering questions in forum / mailing lists. Availability of abundant knowledge in local language would be the fundamental key to be able to lift the society off.
  • As more people wants to gain more knowledge, self-finance education / awareness process funded by the communities themselves. Self-finance is key in sustaining the process for long term movement.
  • Self-finance movement. As community / people believe in it, they will voluntarily, with no external pressure, invest their time and money into the movement. Thus, a self-finance sustainable movement will be guaranteed.

Enda Nasution, the Father of Indonesian Blogger, has estimated more than one million Indonesian blogger in 2009 [4].

In addition, supported by Ministry of Reseach and Technology, in 2008-2009, e-book on ICT education for high schools has been released and can be freely downloaded from http://bse.telkomspeedy.com/. Within which, it described how to write articles on the Blog and Wiki. It is our hope to see the 46.5 million young Indonesian students in 240.000 schools to become information and knowledge producers.

The Foundation for Societal Cultural Change

As the fundamental infrastructure and supporting systems, such as, book writer, blogger and media, are gradually built and settled, our next step would be putting the foundation to shift the society into knowledge based society.

Early attempt, started more than seven (7) years ago, has been promoted by ICT Watch lead by Donny B.U. through their Internet Wise (Internet Sehat) movement [5]. Today, Wise Internet (Internet Sehat) has becoming an accepted jargon for accessing Internet wisely to prevent young Indonesian in accessing inappropriate content. The e-book on Wise Internet is freely distributed via the Web [6].

It seems the foundation of society cultural change in Indonesian would be on the hand of women and young Indonesian.

The philosophical foundation of women's IT Literacy is expressed by dr. H. Basyir Ahmad, the mayor of Pekalongan City in Central Java Province, Indonesia. He mentioned that “As we lift the weakest point in the society, the whole society will be lifted”. Women is considered the weakest point in the society. Today, Pekalongan City is one of the most active city in Indonesia to provide Internet access to the communities as well as women empowerment for ICT knowledge.

IT literacy for Women (Perempuan Melek IT) has been promoted by One Destination Center (ODC), lead by Nurlina Purbo, who has been volunteering for close to two (2) years now. She carries several laptops visiting urban neighbourhoods and running three (3) days free demo for mother / women. Today, she provides free woman IT literacy training at home every saturday morning.

The responds is unbelievable, lots of demand for such simple activities as mother becoming the key for children education. They need the ICT / PC skill to teach their children as the kids received it in their school. Women needs account skill & IT for saving and loans activities in their neighbourhood, accounting for their small shop at home and some of them even goes to more advanced activities, such as, buy and sell via Facebook, or electronic forum, such as, http://www.kaskus.us.

The approach is captured and published by MetroTV on e-livestyle talkshows, DaAi TV on Volunteering program and many written media / newspaper and creating more snowball effects. At MetroTV e-livestyle the IT literacy for woman talkshow hit the highest rating ever for their program. It significantly shows that the need for such activities is very high.

The early IT literacy for woman is supported by HIVOS (http://www.hivos.nl/english) in the Netherland and managed to educate close to 100 woman in Jakarta's urban areas. The e-book for women's IT Literacy program has been freely published on the Web [7]. To cover more ground in Indonesia, the State Ministry of Women's Empowerment (http://www.menegpp.go.id/) is currently supporting women's IT Literacy activities. With MENEGPP support more than 5 cities has been covered. We hope to see more cities covered in the upcoming years.


Low cost Internet access and open source software has gain siginificant acceptance within the Indonesians. Next Generation Telecommunication Network would be the next task to set People's based Telco infrastructure and low cost if possible free Telco services to the people.

“As we lift the weakest point in the society, the whole society will be lifted” says the mayor of Pekalongan City, dr. H. Basyir Ahmad. Women and Young Indonesian students would be the foundation for societal cultural change. It is currently in its early stage. It is our hope to see Indonesian knowledge based society in the years to come.


[1] The History of Internet in Indonesia (Sejarah Internet Indonesia), http://opensource.telkomspeedy.com/wiki/index.php/Sejarah_Internet_Indonesia [viewed 03/01/2010]
[2] Wajanbolic e-goen, http://opensource.telkomspeedy.com/wiki/index.php/Wajanbolic_e-goen [viewed 03/01/2010]
[3] Ministry Act No 7/2009 on Wireless Broadband, http://www.postel.go.id/content/ID/regulasi%5Cfrekuensi%5Ckepmen/permen%5Cpm%207.pdf [viewed 03/01/2010]
[4] “Blog is like a knife” (Blog Itu Ibarat Pisau), http://www.selular.co.id/majalah/m-life/1id367.html [viewed 04/01/2010]
[5] Donny B.U., “History of Wise Internet Movement” (Sejarah Internet Sehat), http://opensource.telkomspeedy.com/wiki/index.php/Sejarah_Internet_Sehat_oleh_ICT_Watch [viewed 04/01/2009].
[6] http://ictwatch.com/internetsehat/download-materi-internet-sehat/ [viewed 04/01/2010]
[7] http://opensource.telkomspeedy.com/speedyorari/
[8] http://sourceforge.telkomspeedy.com/projects/schoolonffline/
[9] http://sourceforge.telkomspeedy.com/projects/sekolahnux/
[10] http://sourceforge.telkomspeedy.com/projects/ipteknux/

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