Smartphones help drive social media boom in Indonesia

Khabar Southeast Asia

Smart phones help drive social media boom in Indonesia

More and more Indonesian citizens choose smartphones as a tool to access social media [Elisabeth Oktofani/Khabar].

Internet usage, including social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, is expanding from desktops and laptops to web-ready mobile phones. The implications for social movements and democracy could be significant.

With ever-growing numbers of people using service such as Facebook and Twitter, social media are changing the way Indonesians communicate. And the rise of the smart phone means they do not necessarily need to own a computer in order to join in the trend.

According to a report by Indonesia Finance Today, smart phone penetration has reached 67% of all Indonesian consumers as of mid 2012. Meanwhile, the country has the third largest pool of Facebook users worldwide (43 million), behind only the United States (155.7 million) and India (43.5 million), according to Social Bakers, a website that tracks the daily global usage of different social media sites.

Although initially based in urban areas, the internet craze has increasingly spread to rural areas, with more and more customers demanding web-ready mobile phones that enable them to access social networking sites, according to a report published last year by The Jakarta Globe.

“This trend is also spurred by the growing number of Facebook and Twitter users in the country,” The Globe quoted Izak Jenie, a director at the cellphone company Nexian, as saying.

Enda Nasution, a social media activist, told Khabar Southeast Asia that the pattern of Internet usage has changed since the technology was first introduced to Indonesia in the mid-1990s. The process, he said, began with home computers, moving to cheap laptops, Internet-capable headphones and now smartphones.

“With the country’s rising economic growth, many Indonesians have more money to spend on their secondary needs such as smartphones, which serve as communication and information tools and can be accessed anytime, anywhere,” he said.

The trend, many say, has profound implications for the democracy, activism, civic participation and the free flow of information.

Linking people with shared interests and concerns

“Social media is often used to influence policy makers and also as a tool to ensure government accountability,” Enda told Khabar.

Dian Paramita is one of Indonesia’s “Twitter celebrities”. Active since 2009, she has more than 13,100 Twitter followers. In turn, she follows numerous activists, politicians, journalists, lawyers, and artists in order to keep herself updated about the issues she cares about – including politics, society, justice, economics and animal rights.

“One thing that I love about Twitter is that we can get information quickly; we can share our aspirations or opinions on certain or current issues, which can lead to a real movement or action by society,” she said.

Twitter helps link up people with similar concerns, fostering discussion and action, she told Khabar.

“When Mount Merapi [a central Java volcano] exploded in 2010, I shared my idea to help the victims with #PeduliMerapi on Twitter. I got so many positive responses from my followers,” she said.

Trend still in its infancy?

According to Arya Fernandez, a political analyst at the Charta Politika research institute, social media have started to change the nature of the relationship between Indonesia’s political leaders and the citizens they represent.

“Social media have given a chance for politicians and constituents to have direct two-way communication. Whereas before it was only one-way interaction via traditional media, such as television and also radio,” he told Khabar.

However, he cautioned, the phenomenon is still at an early stage and obstacles remain.

“Unlike in Egypt, the power of social media in Indonesia is still at the level of mobilising an issue to create public opinion rather than mobilising a societal movement,” he said.

“There are political communities involved in social media, but unfortunately it is limited to a cyber-level discussion only.”

“It cannot be used yet to mobilise society to push the government to make changes,” he said.

Dian, the Twitter celebrity, however, argues that the impact of social media amounts to more than just sharing opinions.

“My aspirations were realised in a real action,” she said, insisting that social media “can lead to a discussion, and even better it can lead to real action or societal movement.”

“At least, we have offered our ideas,” she said. “If we do not do that, how can we make changes?” 

Indonesia: Following the money to new terror funding tactics

Khabar Southeast Asia

 Indonesia: Following the money to new terror funding tactics

Ansyaad Mbai, the chief of Indonesia’s National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT), speaks with reporters on June 20th in Jakarta. Financially strapped extremists are searching for new ways to augment funding, he said. [Elisabeth Oktofani/Khabar].


Robbery, hacking and drug sales are being used to finance terrorist activities, officials say.

Authorities in Indonesia have detected diverse fundraising strategies among terror groups, as illustrated by the recent bust of a terror financing cell in Medan, Sumatra.

“It is surprising that their assets were not only purchased with money that they got from robbery, but also from Internet-based fraud where they were able to hack some multi-level marketing company websites,” Ansyaad Mbai, chief of Indonesia’s National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT), told reporters in Jakarta on June 20th.

The government has been able to thwart fundraising efforts in Medan and in Solo, Central Java, but terrorists are working hard to find more sources of revenue, he said.

“They are now using their brains to devise new ways to raise more funding,” he added.

Ansyaad spoke after police seized suspected terror assets in Medan worth nearly 8 billion rupiah ($850,000) in the form of a shop, four houses, three cars, and seven motorbikes.

He said the cell that amassed those assets had also funded paramilitary training in conflict areas and terrorism operations, including the September 2011 church attack in Solo, in which a suicide bomber injured nearly 30 people.

The suspect who led police to the assets, Rizki Gunawan, has a background in accounting and IT and allegedly hacked into the website for Investasi Online (Investment Online), a Jakarta Post report said.

Rizki, arrested at a Jakarta train station in early May, is one of five suspects in the Solo church bombing, National Police spokesman Senior Commander Boy Rafli said. He has also been linked to militant activities in Poso, Central Sulawesi, he said.

“Preliminary investigations show that the group’s activities were supporting terrorist operations, including paramilitary training in Poso,” said Boy.

Rizki not only joined in the training, but successfully channeled 667 million rupiah ($70,770) to support it, Boy alleged. Rizki was not only skilled at hacking, but also adept at making bombs and firearms.

Extremists resort to drug trafficking to raise money

Meanwhile, Ansyaad told reporters, the mushrooming narcotics industry is providing another source of funding for terrorism. Authorities have been aware of the “narco-terrorism” connection since early 2011.

“The terrorist groups use illegal drug trafficking to raise money for funding terrorism. The intelligence has found indications that this was true in the Fadli Sadama case,” he told Khabar.

Fadli Sadama was captured in Malaysia in October 2010 and extradited to Indonesia. In September 2011, the Medan District Court sentenced him to 11 years in jail for supplying weapons to a terrorist group that robbed the Medan branch of the CIMB Niaga Bank. He is believed to have smuggled amphetamines from Malaysia to finance terrorism.

Emphasising that terrorism remains a huge threat for Indonesia, Ansyaad warned young people not to support current terrorism fundraising efforts by using or selling drugs and narcotics.

Internet fraud

According to Noor Huda Ismail, a terrorism expert and founder of the Institute for International Peace Building, Internet-based crime has long been another way for extremists to raise money.

Imam Samudrahacked customer bank accounts [via the Internet] to obtain funding for terrorism. He mentioned it in his book,” Noor Huda said on July 9th.

One of three Bali bombers put to death in 2008, Samudra published an autobiography from prison in late 2004 that included a chapter on hacking.

Evidence from his laptop computer showed he had tried to collect money for the 2002 attacks through online credit card fraud, according to police, but it was unclear whether he succeeded.

Noor Huda expressed his frustration that the legal system has not been able to connect all the dots on terrorism funding.

“One of the challenges for the Indonesian courts is to prove these circumstances. Since the 2002 Bali bombing, the court has not found any evidence, such as bank transfer receipts, to prove where the funding comes from,” he said.