Minggu, 31 Agustus 2014

Int’l schools : A student’s perspective

Int’l schools : A student’s perspective

Yasmine Deswandhy  ;   The writer was a student at the British International School from 2003 to 2012 and is now in 11th grade at Deerfield Academy, Massachusetts, USA
JAKARTA POST, 30 Agustus 2014


International schools have recently been a controversial topic in our community. The initial purpose of establishing international schools in Indonesia was to provide an international standard of education for the children of diplomats, expatriates and other foreign workers.

However, these international schools soon invited Indonesian children, in a limited number, to attend. I was one of the few Indonesian kids to join an international school in 2003.

Recently, international schools have been judged on whether or not they are appropriate for young Indonesian children to attend.

What I intend to do is not to be biased toward the defense of international schools, their teachers, education styles and students, but to share my personal experiences and contribute insight on how being educated at an international school has affected me.

When I first moved to an international school I was only 5 years old. After previously attending a local kindergarten, I was only aware of local customs and behaviors.

I only understood that Indonesians are forgiving, as long as one acknowledges one’s mistakes and promises not to repeat one’s actions.

On my first day at school, I forgot to bring my hat for recess. Hoping to be excused just for this one day, I was shocked that my British teacher asked me to stay indoors even when I said that I would bring my hat the following day.

Confused, I stepped back into my air-conditioned classroom, away from the sun. When I got home that night I even went to tell my father about the events that happened at school. I was still both disappointed and perplexed.

After I told my father of the events that occurred that day, he simply responded that from now on I would never forget to bring a hat to school. I was not only in an international school to learn a new language, but also to understand a new culture.

This event was my first glimpse of another culture’s customs. I started to understand both Indonesian as well as British customs, which allowed me to understand different people better.

I spoke English at school and spoke Indonesian at home with my parents. The ability to differentiate between varying cultures is an advantage that attending an international school provides.

In addition, when I was 10, I voluntarily taught in a remote village in West Sumatra for a few days. As I was proud of what I had done, I told my teacher about it. Approvingly, my teacher praised and appreciated my initiative to do community service.

I wrote for the school magazine about my experiences and was also asked to share my newfound involvement in community service and my teaching in West Sumatra with the school.

The main purpose was to inspire others to do the same. This is another value of international schools: They value encouraging students to help disadvantaged kids.

If one would want to study further in the United States or in Europe, from my experience it would be much more difficult coming from a local school than an international school.

It is not impossible because achieving a global perspective is definitely attainable.

Even going through an international school did not allow immediate adaptation for me, but instead led to steady modification.

After nine years in an international school, I moved to a boarding school in the US for which my initial reaction was shock. I had always told myself that I would be very well prepared because of my numerous years of education at an international school.

However, upon starting school ,the boarding school proved to be more difficult than it seemed, both socially and academically.

International schools allow early exposure to different cultures, which made it easier for me to form relationships with my peers at the boarding school.

Since I joined my international school at a time where there were few Indonesians in it, I was forced to befriend people who were either foreign or half-Indonesian.

This situation made me adapt to many different cultures quickly, especially British culture. My ability to familiarize myself with foreigners at a young age proved to help me in the following years.

There was no language barrier, which meant that I not only understood the language, but also that I had the ability to have flowing conversations with my peers.

At my boarding school, classes were relatively small, usually consisting of only 12 students, which pushed students to discuss and be vocal about their opinions at all times. To give a brief example, in English class we would have to independently read 20 pages of new material for class the following day.

Upon arriving in class, we would discuss what we thought about the text with the majority of the class, pitching ideas and arguing against the opinions of others. In total, our teacher would probably only allocate himself- or herself 10 minutes to discuss the writing. These discussions were dominated by the

The reason that I bring this up is that from my understanding, international schools do not work like this and neither do local schools. However, my classes at my international school still pushed me to talk more in class and taught me to work independently, helping me get a head start in unfamiliar conditions.

From what I know, classes at local schools are much bigger than at international schools, which would give fewer opportunities for students to speak up.

Thus, this offers another advantage for adapting to the new environment of an American boarding school.

Being a student at an international school has, as my international school put it, truly provided a bridge to the world..

An Asian observation on the use of English in lessons

An Asian observation on the use of English in lessons

Pramod Kanakath  ;   An English language teacher living in Jakarta
JAKARTA POST, 30 Agustus 2014


While invigilating an end-of-term examination in Indonesia recently, I noticed a student grappling with a question in his science paper. The question was this: “Suggest the advantages of having mass spawning occurring only at certain times of the year and not all year around”. The word “spawning” perplexed the student.

In another science exam, another student had difficulty with the term “permeable” from the phrase “partially permeable membranes”.

Both students (of different ability levels) were forced to make a May Day call to the invigilator, but to little avail. They might have been able to answer the question but for the English vocabulary!

As an English teacher (Cambridge curriculum), I assumed that the more common word in science lessons might have been “breeding”. There must be even more technical jargon in subjects such as science, math, humanities and other non-language subjects, and it must give students nightmares.

I have come across this predicament in at least three Asian countries where I have taught. The common factor is that even the most intelligent student at times finds her or himself hooked by a villainous word.

The subsequent problem that this generates is subject teachers passing the ball to English language teachers. Often, during exam performance analyses, fingers are pointed at the English department for students’ lack of language skills. How far can this contention be justified? Wouldn’t it be more productive for the subject teachers to join hands with the English teachers to tackle the “English problem”?

Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) became vibrant in the curricula of non-English-speaking countries as early as the 1990s, although the concept was probably there from the Babylonian period. One of its objectives was to boost students’ language skills and thereby pave the way for a more effective communicative approach to the teaching-learning process.

David Marsh, who invented the acronym, talked about CLIL’s dual purposes: language development and subject learning. In such a program, every teacher becomes an English teacher in one way or the other. Words related to particular subjects are spoken and listened to, read and written only during those lessons.

Subject teachers have a much bigger task than teaching mathematical sums and historical records. English words need to be articulated clearly and concisely in classrooms so that there is a healthy interaction without resorting to language employing fragmentary phrases and one-word responses.

Many teachers even use the CLIL method without realizing it. However, many need to be more competent in using English themselves. This would drive us toward bilingualism, which has been found to be useful in terms of brain imaging and skills such as multi-tasking.

Angela Rogers from the UK, a CLIL trainer and an experienced English teacher based in Indonesia, also speaks about the advantages of bilingualism in her essay on CLIL and multilingual teaching in schools (Multilingualism in education: the role of first language, Indonesian Journal of Applied Linguistics, 2014). Taking refuge in the first language does not adhere to the principles set by these experts. Bilingualism becomes a forced option and does not facilitate a healthy interaction from which students can benefit linguistically. It creates a lackadaisical lesson rather than facilitating constructive bilingual learning. This might even result in the loss of both the first and the foreign language.

One of the primary and mandatory solutions to the problem is maximizing the reach of CLIL training for teachers who may be using CLIL teaching for a number of years without exposure to expertise. Asian countries are in need of more CLIL experts who may be capable of making vast changes to the way lessons are delivered in classrooms.

The training should take place periodically, focusing on the requirements of different subjects. The teachers should give a clear idea to the trainer of the difficulties their students face in understanding the language. This will produce very fruitful sessions.

Another solution would be purely internal to schools. It would be a good idea for subject teachers to closely collaborate with English teachers within schools to discuss terminology, expressions and sentence structures that students find difficult to cope with while learning subjects.

This can be mutually beneficial; the English teachers may create worksheets based on the language used in science and history lessons.

At the same time, students may get an opportunity to take another look at their subjects while boosting their language skills.

Finally, the onus rests on individual schools to hire experts and treat CLIL with greater enthusiasm if they wish to see their students master a foreign language and create new paths for smoother learning. The issue needs to be discussed at managerial and academic levels to find out the real classroom needs when subjects are being taught in a foreign language.

What schools need to keep in mind is that most students do suffer from a lack of comprehension when learning subjects in a foreign language; English in the case of most Asian countries.

Left with a few ideas in the first language and a few in a foreign language, the average student may find her or himself in limbo.

English being the global language and considered to be the passport to good jobs in countries like Indonesia, there needs to be a better effort to create more viable learning support.

People-oriented approach to a walkable and bikeable Jakarta

People-oriented approach

to a walkable and bikeable Jakarta

Arlene Nathania Chrissila  ;   The writer is an architect, urban planner and researcher. She is pursuing a PhD at HafenCity Universität (HCU) in Hamburg, Germany
JAKARTA POST, 30 Agustus 2014


Fighting against Jakarta’s traffic during peak hours burns us out, and burns our money — for nothing. At some point, driving a car starts to be a symbol of immobility rather than mobility.

There have been different approaches introduced to deal with Jakarta’s widespread urban congestion, namely the Transjakarta busway, mass rapid transit (MRT) and monorail systems, electronic road pricing (ERP), free-of-charge double-decker public buses, the elimination of fuel subsidies or the increase of commercial parking rates. And, most recently, there has been the highly debated plan to build six inner-city toll roads to mathematically lower Jakarta’s road density.

Jakarta always comes up with typical engineering approaches that fall short of their vision when implemented collectively in the city’s urban context.

Most of the approaches are foreign-based best practice, but still seem to fragmentarily follow an old-fashioned auto-oriented paradigm, which aggravates our existing urban structures because they prioritize concrete-based infrastructure.

Jakarta is estimated to lose US$3 billion per year due to traffic congestion, which is closely related to the rapid growth in private vehicle ownership of 9-11 percent per year, while the existing public transportation systems and road facilities fail to function in accommodating citizens’ mobility (Rukmana, 2014).

According to Rukmana, traffic congestion in Jakarta is worsening in the aftermath of an induced demand phenomenon.

Neither newly built roads nor widening existing roads will offer a viable solution to traffic congestion in the long term.

In cities, traffic infrastructure is still predominantly designed and financed to support auto-oriented systems (Sarmiento and Priego, 2014). By building more roads, auto-oriented cities always sprawl and are dispersed, unequivocally impelling inhabitants to depend on private vehicles as the only commuting option. Cars and motorbikes have become a common standard of comfort for all social classes, despite the many hours of traffic jams.

Applying legal-economic instruments to cope with congested commercial zones, such as a three-in-one vehicle restriction or the ERP scheme, will not be fully effective due to the lack of a reliable public transport system and car-pool facilities.

This approach tends to shift traffic flow to the fringes of restricted zones, thus creating more traffic bottlenecks and gridlock in the city as a whole during peak hours. How to define the restricted areas is also questionable, since most congested commercial zones in Jakarta are greatly decentralized.

Solving traffic congestion does not merely require mathematical tactics to create a higher ratio of required road space compared to the city’s physical area, or to temporarily restrict motor-vehicle flows in particular zones. Urban traffic is a set of interlaced networks, a delicate integrated system in which millions of vehicles of different types, all necessitating certain social behavior, drive together and possess equal levels of priority.

A car is an efficient piece of urban transportation only if it exists within the context of a transit-oriented neighborhood that is supported by MRT systems and active transit options such as walking and cycling (Sarmiento and Priego, 2014). Technologies like MRT or bus rapid transit (BRT) will be unattractive to Jakartans without adequate pedestrian and cycling infrastructure to and from stations.

Therefore, we should start thinking in an integrated way about moving people rather than moving cars, thus creating a people-oriented city instead of an auto-oriented city (Sarmiento and Roe, 2014).

There are several underestimated but crucial planning principles in a people-oriented traffic approach that should be taken into account when we are trying to unlock traffic congestion puzzles.

First, untangle all road junctions. Gridlock is a situation where we experience zero frequency of vehicles passing through a particular point on a road.

If one or more junction gets stuck during peak hours, the whole traffic system within a city will be paralyzed soon afterwards in a chain reaction. Adding more roads or toll roads will simply create more bottlenecks at exits and entry points.

Thus, we must develop a traffic intersection model that untangles the traffic knots throughout the city. Under a non-spatial intervention, we could restructure the traffic flow system to reduce crossing-conflict points. At minimum intervention level, there is the yellow-box junction model, where queuing vehicles may not enter the marked area unless the exit from each junction is clear.

At a more sophisticated level is the protected-intersection model that seeks to retrofit an intersection with design elements that create a safe, clear experience for all people using the road (Falbo, 2014).

According to Falbo, this people-oriented traffic model delicately defines the positioning of crossings and conflict points between all kinds of transportation modes with clear movement-control signals as well as providing refuge islands as protected spaces for pedestrians and cyclists.

Second, we must develop active transportation systems and minimize travel interruptions. There are too many mixed-up activities and crisscrossing events, both formal and informal, that clog up our roads.

In addition to the omnipresent illegal roadside traders, illegal parallel parking activities and incidental taxi or bus pick-ups, all land and building premises along the roadway create their own entries, exits and parallel parking spaces adjacent to the public road.

Given the plan to have a transit-oriented development concept in the future, if every road has the same motor-vehicle accessibility with no walking or cycling infrastructure, then no one would walk or cycle to reach any public transit stations (Sarmiento and Roe, 2014).

There should be a hierarchy of traffic accessibility that is sensitive to urban land-use patterns, existing built environments and urban activity needs.

There would be specific dedicated zones for cars and motorbikes. But where short-distance travel trips were most frequent, accessibility for pedestrians and cyclists would be prioritized, while roadways must be designed to make driving uncomfortable.

A spatial approach is badly needed to design convenient pedestrian zones and plazas, protected sidewalks and bike lanes, accessibility for people with disabilities or parents with strollers, bike-sharing facilities, as well as more green and blue infrastructure that motivates and facilitates people to walk instead of driving.

The idea of people-oriented planning is to remodel a useful road traffic control system that transforms Jakartans into a more active commuting population. The key to success is another level of integrated approach between spatial, legal, economic and cutting-edge traffic-monitoring technology instruments to ensure compliance with the expected behavior.

A people-oriented approach would contribute social and environmental improvements to Jakarta’s traffic culture that would be passed on to the next generations. Walking and cycling would benefit the city and its people, relieve traffic congestion, reduce air pollution, improve traffic safety, increase physical activity and create a more environmentally friendly city (Sarmiento and Roe, 2014).

Perhaps today the idea seems naïve, but I assume that the city government would actually be capable of addressing traffic irregularities, as I believe Jakartans would embrace the culture in their own city, not only elsewhere when they are abroad.

Islamic identity between D-cups and fascism

Islamic identity between D-cups and fascism

Bonni Rambatan  ;   A critical theorist and cultural researcher; His latest book Cyborg Subjects talks about new potentials of political subjectivity brought forth by digital technology
JAKARTA POST, 29 Agustus 2014


Taking a brief look at the struggle for an Islamic identity in Indonesia in these past couple of months, two things — polemics, if you will — undoubtedly stand out. The first, of course, is the Islamic State (IS), formerly ISIL, a worryingly hyper-violent ideology bent on destroying all in its wake in order to achieve the ultimate Islamic caliphate to end all caliphates.

The second has less to do with bombs and more to do with busts — more specifically, the female bust. Even more specifically, debates on how to cover it appropriately, which have somehow come to be dubbed the “jilboobs” polemic.

No matter how you look at it, it comes across as a strange phenomena, especially with this stupid question: Why now? Why now, of all times, when, as Julia Suryakusuma and others have noted, we’ve been seeing large-breasted women in this country for more than 10 years and maybe even longer?

Why are we suddenly noticing busts in the middle of bombs? Because we just realized they can both be kept beneath the clothes of suspicious Muslims and can destroy us in their own malicious ways?

What is it that makes us, as a society, suddenly grow more and more obsessed about policing women’s fashion and even coming up with an obscene name for it?

Why these two faces of Islam and what might they have to do with each other? At first glance, this seems silly: one is a threat to your life, and another to your... what, exactly? Morality? Why think about breasts when your next door mosque could be hosting the next big ISIL gathering?

Actually, there is a perfect name for such a mental mechanism: fascism. Walter Benjamin, one of the most influential 20th century thinkers, defined fascism as “the aesthetization of politics”.

Fascism reduces politics to a play of symbols, where the space to voice one’s opinions is replaced by strict codes and symbols with predetermined meanings. Instead of the usual pickets of concrete social and economic demands, fascist uprisings rely on abstract symbols and ultra-fanatic iconography.

But what about the jilboob moral panic? Although the case is undeniably far more innocent than ISIL, there is no denying that what is truly at stake in the polemic is a question of aesthetics.

More specifically: as a Muslim woman, how are you supposed to understand the relationship between beauty and the body?

This question may seem simple on the surface, but it opens a whole other can of worms: “What is the true teaching regarding a woman’s position?” “Did God really say that, or is it just Arabic tradition?” “If God did say that, are you sure he meant it for every person at any given time, not just to the society at that time?” And so on and so on. Who knew that so much debate can be crystallized in a D-cup?

This matters, then, because, as Julia succintly put it: instead of criminalizing women who dress a certain way (yet again), why not make boob-ogling haram? And this stupidly obvious question is precisely where Benjamin’s theory of fascism can once again shed some insight: making boob-ogling haram addresses basic rights (of women to feel free and safe to express themselves), but making jilboobs haram will instead serve an aesthetic purpose, creating yet another code of symbols, another marker of difference that people can rally around in fundamentalist glory.

Clearly, we are still bent on upholding more male-centric codes and less basic gender equality.

Here is another thing about codes and symbols: history, especially the history of symbols and iconography, is full of instances of appropriation. Symbols and customs become enmeshed as they adapt to each other, maturing in their search for new identities and discovery of new rights. Nothing is set in stone — customs evolve, cultures grow, wars turn to peace.

This is how we must read the jilboob: not as some form of hypocrisy on the part of Muslim women who can’t decide whether they want to be sexy or pious, but a search for a middle ground, a belief that women can — that women should be able to — be both sexy and pious at the same time.

I mean, let’s be honest here: do women who wear jilbab (Islamic garb) and tight clothing really wear them so that men would feast their eyes on their curves? Or is it more of a statement of identity: I’m a Muslim, but also a moderate who believes that women have the right to be fashionable in their own way?

Maybe I think I would look terrible in very loose clothing and I sure as hell cannot afford to buy all those fashionable Jakartan designer hijabs that are the latest trending items.

Maybe I wear the jilbab by choice, not because I have to — and I don’t want people telling me what to wear because I have agency. Or maybe, just maybe, I simply have large breasts and, please, my face is up here, duh.

And if you think gigantic black burqas aren’t sexualized in any way, think again: recall those infamous “sex slave” pamphlets circulating in the State Islamic University (UIN) a while back. They were supposedly a call by ISIL for Muslim women to join the cause as sex slaves of the mujahidin, featuring a row of burqa-clad women showing off their bare legs up to their thighs through an opening in the burqa.

Regardless of whether the pamphlet was real or a hoax, the fact remains: such fantasies exist and pretty strongly at that.

Here, sex takes on a different form: as some kind of private property reward for supposedly pious men. The tales of “72 virgins in heaven” testifies to this fantasy. And isn’t it more a lot more violent, more hypocritical this way when sexual objectification is masked as some kind of heroic feat?

Sexualization of women is everywhere, regardless of what you wear. Because, here is a little secret for you, it’s all in the eyes of the men!

Here is the question we must ask ourselves: which road do we want to follow? Do we, as the country with the largest Muslim population, go down the proto-fascist route of patriarchal fashion fetish and police all we can police about how women should dress, continuing this obsession with uniforms and codes and symbols and deploy forceful maintenance, through fatwa (religious edicts), verbal violence and otherwise, in the name of some abstract, codified semblance of glory that ultimately does nothing but justify the male gaze?

Or do we, as the country with the largest Muslim population, step up to the plate and show the rest of the world what a moderate, peaceful Islam might look like as an alternative to the violence-saturated image it has now, by embracing these new progressive codes of conduct in feminine fashion and tackle the real issues instead: the right of women to feel safe in whatever clothing they choose, the right to dress without being judged, the right to search and think for themselves about what their lives might mean to the larger society without being told what to do because they are just sex objects?

Remember this the next time you see a tight-clothed jilbab-wearing Mbak-mbak on the streets: our fate, the role we will play as a largely Muslim nation in the world and how it will perceive Islam, rests on how we perceive those curves.

If you are unsure, here is a hint: respect might be a good place to start. 

How far did money affect the election?

How far did money affect the election?

Pandu Rachmatika  ;   The writer, a political analyst, graduated from Chulalongkorn University in Thailand and the Graduate School of International Studies, Seoul National University, South Korea. He is a scholar at Sogang University, South Korea
JAKARTA POST, 29 Agustus 2014


The world third-largest democracy has chosen Joko “Jokowi” Widodo and Jusuf Kalla (JK) as its new leaders for the next five years. A slim 6 percent margin gave them just enough legitimacy over rivals Prabowo Subianto and Hatta Rajasa.

Some are now debating how presidential ticket number two, Jokowi-JK, finally won the fiercely contested battle. On July 19, when both tickets reported their campaign budgets to the General Elections Commission (KPU), it was made public that Jokowi-JK had a far bigger budget than Prabowo-Hatta.

The amount was almost double, reaching Rp 311 billion (US$26.6 million) compared to Prabowo-Hatta’s Rp 166 billion. Some speculated that the Jokowi side played a dirtier money game than its rival. This is quite plausible, but facts and supporting studies on political campaigns suggest otherwise.

Among the first studies on the impact of money on democracy was by Gary C. Jacobson in 1978. He took samples from American congressional election cases prior to 1978 and concluded that “money has more substantial impacts to the challengers rather than to incumbents”. It is because the challenger — being a rookie — needs more money to introduce himself to voters.

However, newer findings by political scientists like Don Green (1988), Alan Gerber (1998) and Andrew Therriault (2011) argue that money also holds important roles in an incumbent’s campaign. Particularly when the challenger has tremendous popularity, the incumbent is forced to spend more to ensure victory through various methods.

But it is still hard to conclude that cash guaranteed the outcome of our 2014 presidential election. It is because both candidate pairs were actually neither challengers nor incumbents — either formally or psychologically.

Prabowo could be best defined as a challenger, but in people’s minds he was a “virtual incumbent”, having run as a candidate in 2009 and being well-known since the early 1990s during his military career.

Besides, the two previous direct presidential elections in 2004 and 2009 showed that the winners always spent much less money regardless of their status. In 2004 as challengers, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono-JK spent only Rp 71 billion while incumbents Megawati Soekarnoputri-Hasyim Muzadi spent Rp 104 billion. And in 2009 but as the incumbent, Yudhoyono’s landslide victory cost Rp 230 billion, much more than when he was challenger, but still lower than the spending of Megawati-Prabowo at Rp 260 billion.

Another problem of concluding that the highest spending determined the presidential election outcome is that the Prabowo camp reported only Rp 166 billion in spending, which appeared rather low compared to the intensity and magnitude of its campaign — which started straight after his defeat when he paired up with Megawati for the 2009 election.

 Second, the Prabowo’s spending was 38 percent less than in 2009 when he ran as vice president even though this time he was supported by richer business magnates — besides his brother Hashim Djojohadikusumo, there was Hatta himself, media tycoon Hary Tanoesoedibjo and, more importantly, Aburizal Bakrie and his wealthy Golkar Party colleagues.

Third, the slim amount stated in Prabowo’s campaign report did not disclose detailed sources of the funds. This low data reliability makes it even harder to be really certain of the impact money had on the results of the presidential election.

To reduce the uncertainties, let us assume that campaign budget reports filed with the KPU were all true and correct, and that the winning candidates indeed had more money. But as Therriault of Vanderbilt University argues, just like voters, “donors and sponsors are attracted to not just high-quality but also to winning candidates.”

Looking at the approval ratings of both candidates since September 2013 until July 2014, according to several pollsters, Jokowi-JK ratings were indeed decreasing but were at no time surpassed by Prabowo-Hatta, meaning they were ahead during the whole campaign period.

So it is only natural that donors were more attracted to splurging on the Jokowi camp. However, that is not to say that the pair needed all that money to win.

While further research is needed on the matter, for now it is probably wiser to say that money appears to be somewhat useful in political campaigns but has wide variation regarding its effectiveness. In some cases it helps a lot, in some cases it helps very little and sometimes it is counterproductive to a candidate’s efforts.

There must be also other major aspects besides the big war chest that could determine the final outcome of an election. Such aspects are given political situations and especially a candidate’s personal qualities.

In the future, the KPU needs to formulate stricter rules regarding campaign budget reports to ensure that the data submitted are all accurate, so the public can clearly examine to what extent money affects the democratic process.

Nevertheless, former US senator Mark Hanna long ago reminded us that “there are only two things that are important in politics. The first is money and I cannot remember the second.”

Democracy and participation in Indonesia

Democracy and participation in Indonesia

Wirya Adiwena  ;   An open government enthusiast; An alumni of the Center of the Study of Social and Global Justice, University of Nottingham, UK
JAKARTA POST, 28 Agustus 2014


It is a good time to be young in Indonesia. Indonesian youths have good reasons to be optimistic about facing the coming years, despite challenges that we still need to face — from adapting to the imminent ASEAN Economic Community to rising inequalities within the country. However, Indonesian youths are starting to be better equipped to tackle such issues in a democratic manner.

More and more of us are becoming well educated and qualified, as well as — perhaps more importantly — willing to actively participate in our democracy. One important indication is the increasing use of IT by Indonesian youths to navigate Indonesia’s politics. There were at least two interesting developments regarding the use of IT in the past two elections.

First, the legislative election showed the rise of an online repository of candidates’ track records. Some even had rudimentary scoring systems to help voters decide which politicians to vote for.

Second was the rise of kawalpemilu.org, which can be inconveniently described as an online election watchdog and activist site dedicated to monitoring vote counting, to deter possible tampering with the result. An estimate showed hundreds of volunteers participated from across Indonesia. While the catalogue of candidates itself was impressive, the information about the candidates’ experiences and qualifications was not as complete as it could have been. The problem lies in the quality of data about candidates that is readily accessible.

Indeed, comprehensive information about the candidates is very hard to find, so that not only is thorough information about new legislative hopefuls difficult to come by, data about the incumbents and all of their successes and failures is also incomplete. Therefore, votes resulting from online deliberations remain a combination of hits and misses.

However, the second development is quite a success in terms of achieving its desired outcome: Ensuring that the final data announced by the General Elections Commission (KPU) matched that collected at local voting booths. Some observers have correctly pointed out that this was made possible because of the number of people willing to sacrifice their time to do the grueling work of monitoring the number of votes.

However, let us not forget that if the KPU decided not to upload the data in the first place, such voluntarism would not have occurred. Again, this shows the importance of having reliable and accessible data.

Online activism might be the answer for better interaction between the government or the legislature and the people. To this end, it is important to facilitate this development by encouraging greater and better participation.

Both the government and the legislature should therefore open up more relevant data. Imagine if the number of meetings attended by our lawmakers was published. The public could know which meetings and which issues were considered important by which representatives. We could also know which candidates were free riders so that we could mercilessly bully them on Twitter. (Or, to be more politically appropriate, stop them from being re-elected.)

Also, imagine if data on the legislation supported by each representative and political party was available. We would actually know the policies that they stood for or against.

The burden of making this data available to public should not rest only on the shoulders of activists. Since the source of the data is not from them — with the notable exception of WikiLeaks — they should only make data presentable and able to be read by the layperson.

It is the duty of the government and the legislature to make relevant data publicly accessible. The data should also be able to be collected easily to ensure an efficient transfer of information. This means that the uploaded data should not simply be multiple scans of paper copies, but ones that can be digitally and quickly collected — for ease of access by activists.

Finally, although such use of IT in our political lives is truly a welcome development, it is not a cure for all of the problems within our democracy. It is a tool that could pave the way for the public to have a more meaningful engagement with the political elites. Who knows, it might even be a door for a government that can deliver tangible answers to even the strongest critique.