Minggu, 26 Agustus 2007

To See A Knowledge Based Society in Indonesia

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To See A Knowledge Based Society in Indonesia

Onno W. Purbo


A simple vision, “to see a knowledge based society in Indonesia”, has been the base of most of my activities in the last ten (10) years. It is a challenging endeavor to be pursued.

Back in early 1990, while completing my Ph.D degree in EECS at University of Waterloo, Canada, Internet is in its infancy. Computer based discussion groups & share resources over the network were a common mode interaction in network platform. Study abroad with heavy network exposure has broadened my view on various aspect of technology as well as social, culture & life.

Being a licensed ham radio with callsign YC1DAV/VE3 has opened an opportunity to explore various alternatives in implementing a TCP/IP network over the radio based on VE3UOW the club station at University of Waterloo, Canada. Interaction with Indonesian YB colleagues was done via amateur store and forward message on 300bps network & sometimes via amateur low earth orbit satellite. Knowledge gain in VE-land is distributed back to Indonesia via the slow radio network, but it provides sufficient ingredient for my fellow YB-land ham radio to start digging the technology & working on building the network lead by Robby YB1BG, Ben YB0EBS, YB1HR, YB2SV etc.

Merging these two (2) experiences, it was clearly shown the impact of knowledge transparency run on information / digital platform towards the society empowerment. Education level & open system has significantly shown its power on society empowerment. In most cases, community based technologies may be a challenge to the inefficient incumbent operators. Transparency in technology & knowledge on IT would be the major key in building community based technology & networking to create information access infrastructure for the Indonesian people to gain knowledge & information needed to move towards the knowledge based society. These ideas & way of thinking have gradually accumulated into a clear vision, strong motivation & direction of my future life.

In 1993, after the completion of my Ph.D degree, I served as one of the young lecturer at Institute of Technology in Bandung (ITB). I worked with the students to build the TCP/IP based radio 1200bps network among schools, various institutions in Indonesia as part of the early Internet in Indonesia. No funding is received from ITB, World Bank, Indonesian Government all are self-financed. Consequently, used 286 machines, homebrew radio modem connected to handheld 144Mhz transceiver would be common configuration among us. An amateur radio KA9Q NOS software is used to serve the mail server on a 286 machine. Free access to the Internet was provided by University of Indonesia (http://www.ui.ac.id) & Ministry of Science & Technology (http://www.iptek.net.id). Knowledge distribution is the key in expanding the network, give away all documents & software (including the source code) for free is common among us. It provides significant motivation for others (close to hundred institutions & personal node) to join the bandwagon of the early Indonesian Internet. It’s free anyway.

In 1995, FreeBSD & Linux was deployed to serve as major network OS on our servers & routers. Campus MAN is build at ITB, as expected, no money from Gov’t & institution were used most of the funding was self-financed by the society as demand grows. Thus, demand created supply strategy is used rather than supply created demand as it costs much less & suits for community based development approach. As expected in some cases, we had to face the authoritarianism from the campus authority as we bypass their bureaucratic network.

Knowledge sharing & interaction among us was mostly done through various Internet mailing lists. The early major mailing list server in Indonesia was hosted at ITB run on majordomo@itb.ac.id. Currently, most of knowledge sharing & cyber community building in Indonesia are done through yahoogroups.com based mailing lists.

Experienced gain in implementing community-based network was published in many articles & papers in various Indonesian media. Knowledge was disseminated generously in various seminars & workshops. Currently, on the average of 3-5 seminars on Internet / week is organized & would be a hectic activity for those who gives talk on Internet. Most (if not all) of our papers, articles, slides since the early ’90 can be downloaded for free from various sites such as http://www.bogor.net/idkf/ & http://louis.idaman.com/idkf/. Copyleft noticed is attached to enable others who have no access to the physical meeting occasions to gain the knowledge.

In September 1996, our group leads the connection of ITB to Asia Internet Interconnection Initiatives (AI3) lead by WIDE Project in Japan. A Ku-Band ground station was installed for the first time in Indonesia to get 2 Mbps Internet access to WIDE Network as part of Asia Pacific Advanced Network (APAN) part of Asia Pacific Information Infrastructure (APII) & connected directly to StarTAP & Internet 2 in the US. Heavy Internet research activities were performed. The broadband Internet access in our research network is used to expand it to integrate various universities & schools in Indonesia. More than 20 institutions joined at their own expense with no significant funding from the Gov’t. In addition to international conference papers, most of the research results were published in popular Internet books written in Indonesian languages. Currently, close to 20 books on Internet have been published by our group (Computer Network Research Group ITB) & helps the Indonesian to under Internet technology.

In 1999, ITB asked me to lead the ITB’s main library. It is a challenging task as the average salary of their ~90 staff is only US$20-30 / month. While trying hard to increase staff income via various self-finance seminar activities, injecting network culture into the staffs & building the infrastructure – a big picture of “knowledge management” is emerged. Provide a free access to the computer facilities at the center, the students start playing with it & gradually build the ITB Digital Library at no expense from the institute. Lead by Ismail Fahmi (my ex student) of Knowledge Management Research Group ITB, Ganesha Digital Library is now connecting more than 20 other digital libraries in Indonesia & received funding approx. CAN$60.000 from IDRC Canada. It is their aim to accumulate knowledge generated in Indonesia & make the knowledge cycle more efficient as it would be one of the main ingredient toward the building of knowledge based society.

In February 2000, I resigned as a lecturer at ITB & Indonesian civil servant. I would like to dedicate my life to educate the Indonesian people not limited to few students at ITB. Since then, I work for no one & spent my time at home writing articles, active on the mailing lists & give talks. Focus is set towards the Internet access infrastructure for the Indonesian people as it would be the most strategic entry point to enable the society in gaining access to information & knowledge. High telecommunication tariff, expensive computing facilities, lack of knowledge in IT would be the major barrier for common people in accessing the Internet.

Internet sharing technology such as the one used in Internet Café would be the most ideal solution for most part of Indonesia. Several books in Internet café technology were published. More detailed information such as its simple business plan (in Excel) was distributed for free. Community is build based on Internet mailing lists, such as asosiasi-warnet@yahoogroups.com, asosiasi-warnet-broadband@yahoogroups.com, indowli@yahoogroups.com. These interactions really help raise the number of Internet café in Indonesia to ~2500 (in early 2001) from less than 100 in 1999. An investment of less than US$10.000 most of the time will be paid off in less than one (1) year. Investors, online media & dotcommers are now looking at Internet café as main alternative knowing the 60-70% internet users out side Jakarta accessing Internet through these facilities. Myohdotcom, for example, is planning to invest on ~6000 Internet café in Indonesia.

Due to expensive & low quality telco’s infrastructure, some of these Internet cafés are now using wireless broadband 2-11Mbps based on 2.4GHz. Currently, ~200-300 Indonesian Internet cafes are using the 2.4GHz 2-11Mbps infrastructure. Some even cooperate among them to buy a direct international Internet bandwidth via satellite such as via Interpacket, GlobalOne etc. Thus, no slow & expensive service from the incumbent operator is used. In early 1998, the 2.4GHz technology is developed by my students at CNRG ITB & is distributed through various media.

I understand, the effort is still in its infancy. Currently, with ~2 million Indonesian Internet users in Indonesia out of 200 million population, the task ahead of me to realize the vision is not easy. People’s education would be the primary strategy. Self-funding scheme would assure the sustainability of the movement. At least five (5) awards have been awarded thus far. I believe God will always help those who do good deeds.

I am fortunate enough to be able to life this far & share my knowledge to others with no permanent jobs (my choice of life). While living happily with my wife Lina & our five (5) children Ito, Reza, Atik, Darry & Dsaq in our tiny & simple house.

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