Role of Community-based ICT in Indonesia

Role of ICT in rural development in Indonesia will be described. It will focused on two (2) main ICT technologies, namely, community radio and Internet. Due to limitation in electrical power, people’s level of education, economic scale, not all Indonesian rural areas is suitable for advanced ICT technology and, thus, simpler / appropriate ICT should be adopted.

Experiences in bottom up community based approaches through self-finance empowerment and technical knowledge spreading will be described. In an unfriendly regulatory environment commonly found in developing countries, such as, Indonesia, a community-based distributed infrastructure may survive the evolution processes easily rather than rely on a centralized commercial services commonly found in the west. The approach is very much bias on the Author’s 12+ years experience in deploying a movement of community based WiFi infrastructure in Indonesia. It results in an alternate strategy to deploy ICT infrastructure that rely heavily on community ability to provide such service suited for developing countries.

Community education and empowerment processes would be the key in the whole process. It takes 12+ years through books, articles, newspaper, magazine, seminars, demo, workshop and roadshows to convince a lot a people, all done without financial support from the government. Ability to connect schools to the Internet funded by the communities would be the key of success.

Today, we witness about 600 dedicated community broadcasting radios out of 1000-2000 community radios. Many of these radios are in remote Indonesia. Futhermore, we witness 20-25.000 Wireless Internet nodes with an increasing 2000-3000 new Wireless Internet nodes per month. Many of these nodes are now spreading towards remote Indonesia. Starting the beginning of 2006, a community based Internete Telephony VoIP Rakyat at http://www.voiprakyat.or.id is the dawn of Indonesian People’s Telco. In 2007, more than 60.000 VoIP Rakyat subscriber is registered.

Some of the formal facts that are download-able from the Indonesian statistical bureau at http://www.bps.go.id. A glimpse of these formal facts are:

  • About 100+ million Indonesians are living without proper electricity.
  • About 105.8 million Indonesian of the age of 15+ years are in the work force. More than 95 million are working, the rest are still looking for work.
  • On average, Indonesian stays about 7.4 years in school. On average, about 91% can read.
  • About 56% of Indonesian population received a maximum of primary school education out of which 9% never received any education.

Some of the facts in ICT sector are:

  • 64Kbps 24 hour Internet connection via Telco infrastructure would cost US$400 / month.
  • After 10+ years of struggle, WiFi 2.4GHz band is unlicensed in January 2005.
  • WiFi band 5.8GHz is still licensed, taxed at approximately US$2200/year/node.
  • In 1993, there were not many ICT books in local Indonesian language.
  • In 1993, there were few Indonesian Internet users.

Some encouraging facts:

  • As of 2007, there are 15+ million Indonesians on the Internet.
  • There are a total of 215.200+ schools all over the country in which 46.5+ million students are studied. At high school and university level, we are looking at 17.5 million students in 45.800+ high school & universities.

Deploying a community-based ICT infrastructure in an unfriendly environment is an art. It is nearly impossible to initially run a professional and commercial based ICT infrastructure as known in developed countries. Low cost community based approach through community empowerment may provide self-finance ICT infrastructure in Indonesian remote areas.

Basically, the strategy used in the last 12+ years of struggle is a creating a movement within the communities to build community based infrastructure invested by community own funding. Through self-finance capacity building and community empowerment is the community based ICT development. It is an art in itself to be able to create a countrywide community based self-finance self-motivated ICT movement with minimal support from the government and no loan from World Bank & IMF. Such movement can only be created as community believe in its benefit. It is an art to build such believe within the community.

Onno W. Purbo has been writing hundreds if not thousand of IT articles published in various seminars, workshop, national as well as international conferences. More than 10 Internet related books have been published at Elexmedia Komputindo (Gramedia group). One of its best seller is “Teknologi Warung Internet” (Internet Cafe Technology) – which leads to become one of the main provocator of Indonesian Internet Cafe Association (AWARI).

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