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Archive for June, 2006

Internet Helps The Indonesians

Posted by themischord on June 4, 2006

In a recent discussion, a friend strongly put forth his view on how technology disrupts an existing order to create a new one, usually worse. His opinion is rightly backed by history, but I'm glad to have come across one example where technology trimphs.

This is the story of how the 30 year authoritarian regime of President Suharto of Indonesia was overthrow in 1998. Merlyna Lim's paper discusses a very intersting study on the role Internet in bringing together the different strata of the Indonesian civial society to strenghthen the protest against Suharto's regime. Although the penetration of Internet was just about 1% at the time of the overthrow, Internet was an important medium which helped in spreading the news of the corrupt government. This could not be achieved through the traditional media like newspaper/radio as they were highly regulated. Internet was the source for the Indonesians to know of neutral view points. The Internet cafes are said to have highly impacted the organizing of students, who circulated mails of Suharto's wealth listing. These mails soon became so popular that they were printed out and sold like newspapers, thus reaching the wider population which was not exposed to the Internet. Maybe the Indonesians were lucky that Suharto's government was not quick enough to censor the Internet!

I wondered why Bhasa Indonesia was one of the few (20 odd) world languages into which Free Software Philosophy documents have been translated. Guess I got some part of the answer!

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