Indonesia goes for digital people power

By Reuters Staff
November 3, 2009

By Sunanda Creagh

 Some Jakartans protest the traditional way to save the anti-corruption agency

Just over a decade ago, Indonesians took to the streets to protest. Now they can make themselves heard without even leaving home.

A Facebook group supporting two senior officials from the anti-corruption agency, who many people think have been framed, has attracted almost half a million members in just four days.

This digital people power may well be one reason why on Monday, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono launched a probe into the case.

It’s the second time Facebook has played such an important role in a public debate in Indonesia. Earlier this year, thousands “rallied” online in support of a woman who had been charged with defamation for complaining about her treatment in hospital.

Indonesia is the world’s seventh-biggest user of the social networking site, according to Inside Facebook, and 8.23 million of its 8.52 million Facebook addicts joined up in the last year. The new information minister, Tifatul Sembiring, is a daily user of microblogging site Twitter, and says he wants to use it to seek policy ideas.

After decades of authoritarian rule, Indonesia is now a flourishing democracy yet many individuals still feel frustration that their voices and opinions are seldom heeded by politicians. So will online social networking sites contribute to Indonesia’s political future or is this just a passing fad?

PHOTO CREDIT/REUTERS/Beawiharta

4 comments

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Looks like facebook hit the bigtime there last year. I wonder what proportion of people regularly access the internet though? I guess there’s still a lot of people without the ability to exercise their digital people power.

Posted by Tim R | Report as abusive

This will also be influenced by growing access to digital and online resources. 8 million is only a small fraction of the total population, but I expect that access and interest is growing for the general population. Is this true? Are there specific government policies or market forces focusing on this?

Posted by Meera | Report as abusive

I think social networking sites are becoming even more important in creating public opinion. But it won’t have an impact without a concrete action in real public space..real social movements are still established on the streets

Posted by Fajri | Report as abusive

Social networking is, like global social mobility, a consequence of globalisation that the original free-market proponents of globalisation did not intend. Globalisation was meant to be a one-way street – the mobilisation of global consumer appetites for first-world goods and services, at first-world levels of profitability to first-world shareholders. How great, and how inevitable, that Indonesians have taken advantage of emergent technology not only to refashion the Indonesian domestic political process, but also to become powerful participants in global discourse – as global consumers, global citizens, and global political and environmental activists. Wong cilik no more?

Posted by setiwono | Report as abusive