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Interview Ashoka with Fellow Donny B.U.

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Donny B.U.  is creating a suite of strategies that put Indonesia’s 38 million Internet users in charge of their own freedom of expression. His Internet Sehat (Healthy Internet) project encourages responsible Internet use by engaging many thousands of teachers, parents, and students to improve their online literacy and skills through various training and workshops in partnership with schools or held openly in public places. As part of this training, citizens encounter and agree to a “virtual code of conduct” that discourages the negative excesses of online activity.

Donny B.U.

1.      You have just been elected as an Ashoka Fellow. What impact has that had on your work?

Being selected as an Ashoka Fellow is a respected award for the whole team, not just me alone. And its impact, in addition to expanding the network, can also inject us with the spirit to work harder and smarter.

2.      How did the Ashoka selection process impact you?

Incredibly.  I learned a lot of interesting ideas which were down to earth and had the potential to have a big impact on the surrounding community. In addition, panelists  on the Ashoka team who interviewed me, are the ones who really devoted themselves, their time, knowledge and experience to the community. The selection process was actually a tremendous learning process for me to develop and implement new ideas with the team.

3.      What are some of the major challenges you have faced in your work and how did you overcome them?

There are still many people who underestimate what we’re doing. At first glance it seems just like education or advocacy that wastes time and money. Actually that’s just one channel we use to touch or reach the general public. For those who want to talk about the process, we will be happy to explain the strategy of our movement. But for those who prefer instant to see the results, we ask them to be patient and just enjoy the process we’re running.

Sharing with students of Bogor Agriculture Institute on Study Visit at ICT Watch Basecamp – Pasar Minggu (January 2011)

4.      Where do you draw inspiration and strength?

There are always new things that can spark inspiration as well as strengthening the spirit of the program with each opportunity to discuss directly with relevant communities and civil society. Besides that, my parents shaped me. While still active in the military and I was a kid, my father often took me for a visit from barrack to barrack, having casual and informal dialogue with the family of low-ranking soldiers. Being persistent is a trait I obtained from my father.

Meanwhile, my mother showed me how to become sensitive to the surrounding community. My mother used to often give free English language training for children in our housing complex, including training in traditional music for soldiers’ wives and various bazaars for local people.

5.      What are some books and films which have had impact on you (if any)?

“The World is Flat”, written by Thomas Friedman and “We The Media”, written by Dan Gillmor are two books that I like best. The book essentially tells us that in the information age now, anyone who can process and produce information and can achieve what is desired.

For movies, nothing can beat the “Band of Brothers” by Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks. For me, this is not a film about the war. This is a story of loyalty, hard work ethic and cooperation among the team.

6.      Who has inspired you greatly and why?

In Indonesia, I admire the late Abdurrahman Wahid, former President of the 4th. With his simplicity and limitations, he still had a fighting spirit for humanitarianism and pluralism. For honorable person from other country, I like Mother Theresa. “If you cannot feed a hundred people, then feed just one”, is one of Mother Teresa’s wise words that  inspires me.

Donny, with his mentor, Onno Purbo (Ashoka Senior Fellow) at Internet Sehat booth at Jagongan Media Rakyat (Citizen Media Fiesta) event, Jogja National Museum – Jogja. (July, 2010)

7.      You used to be addicted to the internet. What was the turning point for you to realize your addiction, decide to break it       and how did you break the addiction? How did that experience influence your work?

I started using the Internet around 1995 while still in college. At that time my life got slowly sucked into the virtual world via IRC (Internet Relay Chat). At the worst point, I used to be an online for almost 18-20 hours a day, and only stopped to sleep for a while. I even ate in front of the monitor. Until one day the phone in my house finally got totally disconnected. This is because the bill increased tremendously. That was around 1997, when the Internet was still using dial-up. So there was no Internet at home. Internet cafes were still rare at that time and could still be quite expensive. I experienced withdrawal symptoms, searching for Internet access by all means. Like it or not I was like in a daze.  But that’s when I was slowly made aware. I was aware that the life I lived in the virtual world at that time was one form of severe addiction. Then I replaced my habits on the Internet from chatting with other useful things such as creating websites. Not long after that, I worked part time as a webmaster while continuing my undergraduate studies. Then while continuing the Masters program (postgraduate), I worked as an IT journalist. Based on my knowledge of IRC, I was doing research about the underground virtual community for my postgraduate thesis. The experience I had above later became one of the important points in preparing our Internet safety program activities with the target families, teachers, and school-age children.

8.      What have you have learnt from the internet users you work with?

Use of the Internet to search for, process and produce information correctly, will grow the tremendous potential of the community in various related fields.

9.      What have you learnt about yourself from this journey?

I’m impulsive and a risk taker. Teammates often protested, because sometimes I would conduct certain activities without any explanation beforehand. Yes that’s me. When the idea comes suddenly from nowhere, then I will just do it. Sometimes it’s because I just want to take advantage of the momentum. Or sometimes I just trust my intuition. For that, I sometimes dare to take risks. Rapid decision making is certainly not because I am reckless, but based on my previous experiences. I try to quickly analyze the opportunities and challenges that might happen and think about strategy. If a thing is worth fighting for, then I will do my best as fast and as far as I can.

10.      Which strengths and virtues of yours have been most useful during your journey? Could you give examples of how?

I try to be patient and egalitarian when undergoing the process of change. For example, the Internet Healthy program required about 7-8 years to finally be accepted and adopted widely by the public and government. I and the team often position themselves as servants of the community, when running activities for the community. Being egalitarian, in our opinion, is not positioning ourselves as a party who knows better. Together with communities, we explore the potential and local wisdom to be developed. At each event with the community, I prefer the informal atmosphere where we are casual and sit on the floor together rather than have events in a luxury building with a stage and so forth.

11.   Any plans to take your work to the English-speaking internet user world?

We are preparing and running the plan. One way is to make a video documentary about the use of social media in Indonesia. The title of the video is “linimassa” or “timeliners”. This is Indonesia’s first documentary about the use of social media to perform various actions of social movements in Indonesia. This video is subtitled in English and is 45 minutes in duration. In mid-March, the video is expected to be uploaded on YouTube. This could be an example of how to inform what we do and what happens in Indonesia to the world’s Internet users.

Our next plan is to produce more video documentaries, still about the condition of Internet in Indonesia. Through this, more English-speaking Internet users can learn and gain inspiration from our program or from the Indonesian movement.

12.   What are some suggestions you have for those who want to have deep impact on the world?

Learn by doing, keep fighting, do networking. We must be able to build networks with other parties; we must continue to fight for our beliefs and certainly do not be afraid to fail. Failures in the process will mature us. Do not have too many theories or concepts. The most important is to immediately move and share with others.

13.   Is there anything else you would like to add to help others understand and learn from your journey?

There’s no way a nation can move forward if people could only be consumers of information. The task of civil society is to make the surrounding communities capable of processing and producing useful information. We must also be able to push them become the knowledge society is able to govern itself (self-regulated) and is not totally depending on government.

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5 Comments

  1. Selamat, Mas Donny. Prestasi hebat, semoga semakin meneguhkan krida Anda yang diam-diam bergerilya selama ini, untuk meraih sukses berikutnya.

    Usul-usil : karena isi wawancara ini inspiratif, dan engga semua orang engga bisa kebetulan punya ibu yang fasih berbahasa Inggris [seperti ibu saya tak bisa bahasa Inggris, walau bapak sama-sama tentara :-)], sebaiknya wawancara menarik ini dialihbahasakan ke dalam bahasa Indonesia.

    Salah satu isi wawancara yang saya sukai adalah cerita tentang ketidaksabaran Anda ketika di kepala tiba-tiba meletus sesuatu gagasan.
    Sukses selalu. Salam dari Wonogiri.

  2. Hollister UK says:

    dapat cd versi pak becak yg sukses ama media sosialnya.. inspiratif..

    salam blogwalking

  3. keep fighting, do networking. We must be able to build networks with other parties; we must continue to fight for our beliefs and certainly do not be afraid to fail. Failures in the process will mature us. Do not have too many theories or concepts. The most important is to immediately move

  4. What a fun pattern! It’s great to hear from you and see what you’ve sent up to. All of the projects look great! You make it so simple to this. Thanks

  5. abercrombie says:

    I was extremely pleased to find this website. I wanted to thank you for the good understand I definitely enjoying every single small bit of it and We’ve you bookmarked to check out new stuff you post.

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