Researchers find Indonesia needs more digital literacy education

Families should be more involved in digital literacy education as parents are the ones who introduce digital media to their children. Shutterstock.com

Indonesia had 132.7 million internet users in 2016, but many fail to be critical in analysing the veracity of contents circulating on the web. These are among the findings of 56 researchers who mapped efforts to improve digital literacy in nine Indonesian cities.

Digital literacy is the ability to access resources and critically evaluate and create information through digital technology. The spread of hoaxes and hate speech, rampant cyberbullying, radical and terrorist groups using social media to attract recruits, and high dependence or addiction to the internet are markers of the state of Indonesia’s digital literacy.

The researchers found that activities to improve digital literacy in communities, such as lectures and training, do exist. But these are insufficient in the face of mounting problems in Indonesia’s digital sphere.

Mapping nine cities

The collaborative mapping project began with a meeting of 10 mass communication scholars from Yogyakarta, Bandung, and Jakarta in January 2017. The collaboration was forged to ensure comprehensive mapping. We recorded digital literacy activities carried out by universities and communities in our respective cities.

We wanted to find answers to a number of basic questions: who is organising digital literacy education? Who is participating and who is supporting the efforts? We also recorded the type of activities to inform the design of future digital literacy activities.

During the research, the collaboration transformed into a new network called Indonesian Digital Literacy Advocates Network (Japelidi) in April 2017.

Japelidi so far has 56 researchers from 26 universities in nine Indonesian cities (Yogyakarta, Salatiga, Semarang, Surakarta, Malang, Bandung, Banjarmasin, Bali and Jakarta). Japelidi’s research was voluntary and financed by the researchers themselves.

The findings

Japelidi managed to list 342 digital literacy activities from 2010 to 2017 in the nine cities. The number is not representative of all activities in Indonesia, but at least gives us insight into what’s going on in the field of digital literacy.

The mapping found that digital literacy activities are mostly organised by universities (5.14%). In several universities digital literacy is even an important part of the curriculum.

Among the various types of activities, lectures are the most popular. These are considered the most effective approach to reach a wide and diverse public. Other activities include training, discussion and setting up a task force to counter hoaxes.

Teens or students topped the participants’ list at 29.55%. The young people are considered the most vulnerable to hoaxes. On the other hand, they are seen as the largest group of potential digital literacy agents.

Schools are the most active partners in organising digital literacy activities (32.07%), followed by the government and community.

Voluntary, incidental, sporadic

Based on our findings, digital literacy movements in Indonesia tend to be voluntary, incidental and sporadic. Unfortunately, we did not find long-lasting partnerships between organisers of digital literacy education.

We recommend activities and delivery methods that are more suitable for the targeted participants. For example, using snake and ladder games could make digital literacy more fun.

We also encourage digital literacy advocates to expand their target participants while adding more partners among government institutions, media and corporations. This way, the goal could be achieved more effectively. To reach a wider audience, we need more advocates outside universities.

It starts from the family

Japelidi data show families haven’t been involved as partners in literacy activities. Only 12.23% of activities targeted parents as participants. We believe the role of parents in digital literacy is crucial because most children get introduced to digital media by parents.

Japelidi recommends that digital literacy education start with the family, followed by schools and communities.

Parents should become role models and ensure they guide and involve children in formulating an agreement on how the family accesses digital media.

Indonesia needs to encourage education institutions to integrate their curriculum with a goal to increase digital literacy among students. For example, universities might have a specific class on digital literacy, in which students are encouraged to offer ideas on various digital literacy activities serving various participants. In that way both teachers/lecturers and students have hands-on experience in digital literacy so they can become agents who would have an impact in their communities.

More collaboration on digital literacy must be established with various communities. Communities could organise activities in partnership with the media, universities, or business. One good example is displayed by a community of Islamic boarding school students who held digital literacy workshops in partnership with the government and universities.

Our recommendation for the government is to maintain democratic values in the digital information system. The government should make regulations upholding the human right of access to digital media. The government should also encourage more digital literacy advocates to achieve better digital literacy while promoting democracy in Indonesia.

Our network of digital advocates has continued to grow. We now have researchers from outside the campus community.

Japelidi is also in partnership with Indonesia’s national movement for digital literacy called SiBerkreasi. In SiBerkreasi, Japelidi assumes the role as a network of human resources and a database for digital literacy researches in Indonesia.

Our findings led us to this conclusion: Indonesia has to wake up and fight digital illiteracy. And Indonesia has to do it quickly.

This article was originally published in Indonesian