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Indonesia’s Digital Divide: Disconnected Amidst a Pandemic

Written by Dara Ayu Ariane, Content Writer Intern at Project Child Indonesia

Since early 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced people around the globe to be confined within the safety of their homes. With schools and offices closed under strict health protocols, children and adults have to adapt to remote working and learning arrangements. And yet, not everyone has the same privilege to keep in track with the digital world. 

Although Indonesia ranks 6th in Network Readiness Index for Southeast Asian countries (as cited in Iswara, 2020), the gap between rural and urban internet access remains a great challenge. With Information and Communications Technology indicators made by Indonesia’s Ministry of Communication and Information Technology stating the comparison of those with internet access between rural and urban areas as being consecutively 26,3% and 48,5% (as cited in Hadi, 2018), there is an apparent need to address this digital divide.

The difference in opportunity of accessing information will highly affect the region’s economic growth and social development, especially during these dire times. It was all hands on deck as the government implemented new strategic efforts in mitigating the negative impacts that has been brought upon by the pandemic. 

During the Southeast Asia Development Symposium, the Minister of Finance stated that the government has provided electricity subsidies for the bottom 40% of the population, free internet for students, teachers, and educators, as well as a 35,000km long fiber optic network (Kementrian Keuangan, 2020). And yet, without proper assistance, these government efforts would be in vain as economically vulnerable citizens prioritize getting food on the table instead of utilizing the internet access properly, on top of that, the lack of internet literacy that most middle to lower class groups often struggle with further adds onto this issue. 

But this does not mean we, as individuals, are unable to offer a helping hand. With its notion “Everyone can do good”, Project Child Indonesia successfully conducted the Online Learning Assistance program last year.

It managed a total of 21 online and offline classes in three Sekolah Sungai communities in Code river, Winongo River and Gajah Wong River. The program has helped more than 80 children, 14 volunteers, and 3 (three) interns in the span of three months starting from September until November 2020. Its weekly online learning tutorials done by volunteers for the children in the communities are one of the ways to help children with school tasks and understand their educational materials better. 

To continue helping underprivileged communities in Yogyakarta, this year Project Child Indonesia is ready to kick-start the program once again. Tutoring sessions are now focusing on environmental study material and weekly online tutoring sessions will be utilizing Zoom meetings with small groups of children in one session to ensure the program will still adhere to safety and health guidelines. 

Did you sign up for this year’s volunteer recruitment? If you missed the registration period, don’t worry because you can still make your mark!

 If you’re very much curious in this issue and want to further understand the mitigations that we can do, The Permanent Mission of the Kyrgyz Republic to the UN and the International Labor Organization will organize a virtual event with the theme of “A Call for Social Justice in the Digital Economy”. Not only to commemorate this year’s World Day of Social Justice, but also create a platform for discussions on what we can do in order to overcome the digital divide, provide decent work opportunities, and protecting labor rights in the modern era of digital technologies.

What are you waiting for? Set a reminder for February 23rd 10 am (EST) and watch the live event on the UN Web TV!

References:

Iswara, M. A. (2020, May 19). Disconnected: Digital divide may jeopardize human rights. The Jakarta Post. Retrieved from https://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2020/05/18/disconnected-digital-divide-may-jeopardize-human-rights.html

Hadi, A. (2018, July 1). Bridging Indonesia’s digital divide: Rural-urban linkages?. Jurnal Ilmu Sosial dan Ilmu Politik, 22(1), 17-33. DOI: 10.22146/jsp.31835

Kementrian Keuangan. (2020, October 22). Pemerintah berusaha mempersempit kesenjangan digital. Retrieved from https://www.kemenkeu.go.id/publikasi/berita/pemerintah-berusaha-mempersempit-kesenjangan-digital/