Indonesia Study Group

12:30 pm - 2:00 pm
June 29, 2016
Seminar Room B (Arndt Room), HC Coombs Building #9, Fellows Road, ANU

Bridging the 'digital divide' in Indonesia

Onno Purbo (STKIP Surya, Indonesia)

Seminar abstract

Indonesia's internet penetration is only around 20%, far below other countries in Southeast Asia including Malaysia (68%), Vietnam (52%) and the Philippines (44%). This presentation will review the predicament Indonesia faces, which is poor Internet access to rural areas and villages. For many years, the Indonesian government has tried to rectify this problem. In this presentation I will examine 'top-down' government approaches, as well as 'bottom up' community-based self-financing approaches. I argue that 'top-down' government approaches have largely failed. For example, in 2012 the government started to build Internet infrastructure in Indonesian villages and districts through its 'cyber cafe' and 'mobile cyber cafe' programs. These programs were deployed with very limited field surveys on the needs of citizens, and not much training for human resources that will handle the system. By 2016, it was widely reported by the Indonesian media as having failed.

On the other hand, various communities have run ICT training activities at colleges and schools through local self-financed initiatives. This has resulted in the growth of community neighbourhood networks in many rural areas. As of June 2016, 3,374 villages are running neighbourhood networks to provide internet access in rural areas. My experience in the field have shown that ‘top-down’ approaches with limited attention to the user needs tends to fail, while the slower, self-finance ‘bottom-up’ approach with heavy community empowerment tends to be successful. However, the legal telecommunication framework clearly states that only licensed operators may deploy network infrastructure. This presents a problem for some unlicensed 'bottom-up' initiatives.

I will argue that the simplest option to increase internet penetration in Indonesia is to improve the empowerment processes of citizens, and conduct larger surveys before infrastructure deployment is implemented by the government. This is essential to ensure that future 'top-down' policies do not follow the path of their predecessors.

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