Webinar on “Digital Disruptions: How Digital Technology is Changing Social and Cultural Life in Indonesia”

This Webinar Conference explores the impacts of digital technology and how it has transformed the social as well as cultural aspects in Indonesia. 


Wednesday to Friday, 11 – 13 August 2021 – The Webinar Conference on “Digital Disruptions: How Digital Technology is Changing Social and Cultural Life in Indonesia”, jointly organised by ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute and Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI), was held virtually for three days from 11 August 2021 to 13 August 2021. A total of 834 participants have attended the three-day webinar conference.

The webinar conference broadly covered five main themes, (1) Social Impacts and Disruption of Digital Economy, (2) The Internet Mediation of Religious Norms and Practices, (3) Contentious Relationship Between State and Society in Digital Ecosystem, (4) The Implementation of Digital Governance, and (5) The Online Expression of Art & Culture. These themes were engagingly discussed among 26 speakers and 5 moderators.

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Download programme and speakers bios.

Mr Choi Shing Kwok, Director and Chief Executive Officer of ISEAS and Dr Tri Nuke Pujiastuti, Deputy for Social Sciences at LIPI opened the conference with Welcome Remarks.

Mr Choi Shing Kwok (Director and Chief Executive Officer of ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute) began the webinar conference by elaborating on how the rise in technology had both helped and disrupted many aspects of Indonesian lives, especially with the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic which had spurred ahead the acceleration of the technology use in daily lives. He also elaborated, in detail, the 5 upcoming panels that were to be conducted over the next three days and how each speaker would bring about valuable insights on the evolution of the technological landscape in Indonesia over the course of the pandemic. Mr Choi also expressed his gratitude to Prof Tri Nuke and Prof Najib Burhani for the great partnership over the years with ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute.

Prof Dr Tri Nuke Pujiastuti (Deputy for Social Sciences, Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI)) proceeded to welcome the audience and thanked them for attending the webinar conference from various parts of the world. She began her welcoming remarks by drawing attention to the current technological landscape in Indonesia and how it has been influencing lives in Indonesia. She drew upon key examples such as Tokopedia and Grab and elaborated on how these two major tech companies in Indonesia had contributed to the acceleration of certain processes in Indonesia, be it initiating new business models or introducing new tech-related behaviour among the general population. Prof Nuke also concluded her remarks by expressing sincere thanks to ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute for the wonderful partnership over the years and welcome all participants to take part fruitfully in this webinar conference over the next three days.

Panel I: Social Impacts and Disruption of Digital Economy

Panel I consisted of Moderator Dr Siwage Dharma Negara and panellists, Dr Amalinda Savirani and Mr Warih Aji Pamungkas; Mr Manggi Habir; Dr Zamroni Salim; Mr Anggi Afriansyah, and Dr Andy Ahmad Zaelany. (Credit: ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute)

The first panel of the conference started off with the presentation from Dr Amalinda Savirani and Mr Warih Aji Pamungkas (Universitas Gadjah Mada). They discussed the case of Gojek and the way digital algorithm technology affects working conditions among the ride-hailing motorcycle drivers and how the drivers respond to it. They argued that, firstly, the social impact of technology is caused by the way technology operates, and secondly, the pandemic had impacted female Gojek drivers greatly, mainly by the way the algorithm operates which tends to disadvantage female drivers.

Mr Manggi Taruna Habir (ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute) began the second presentation by introducing the growth of e-commerce and fintech during the pandemic, elaborating on how fintech lenders in the form of bank and fintech loans have been growing. This, he argued, had brought about certain issues, mainly in the form of illegal lenders. Despite that, Mr Manggi believed that there is huge potential for Fintech to grow as a future market for Indonesia, especially when the industry had shown an upward trend since 2018.

Dr Zamroni Salim (LIPI) began the third presentation by elaborating on market access and competition in Indonesia. He argued that having market access had become a gateway for online producers and sellers which can either disrupt or destroy the large retail companies. Dr Zamroni also illustrated how the pandemic had become an e-commerce accelerator that brought about a rise in E-commerce support industries such as digital payment platforms. This has thus brought about changes in consumers’ behaviours where online payment had become a preferred mode during the pandemic.

Mr Anggi Afriansyah and Dr Andy A. Zaelany (LIPI) presented their co-authored paper on the reorganisation problems of Technical and Vocational Education Training (TVET) in Indonesia. They found a shifting of TVET governance and an increasing trend of commodification of education. While this move has shown promising trends where the uptake rate of these online training programmes has increased significantly during the pandemic, Dr Andy and Mr Anggi argued that the impact of this change is still unevenly distributed, with the skilled workers and higher income group benefiting more from this shift as compared to other social groups. It could generate further social issues such as marginalisation of lower income groups and barriers to employment due to the digital divide.

The panel then proceeded to a discussion moderated by Dr Siwage Dharma Negara (ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute). A wide range of topics were discussed such as ways to improve the welfare support and reduce discrimination for Gojek female drivers, the influences of Chinese fintech lenders in Indonesia, the possibility of a credit boom due to fintech lenders, the impacts of fintech lenders to the informal sector, the rise of digital wallet and digital market, the government’s strategies to support the e-commerce industry and the contribution of the technology sector toward the growth of Indonesia.

Panel 2: The Mediation of Religious Norms and Practices

Panel II includes Moderator Dr Norshahril Saat and speakers Dr James Hoesterey, Mr Muhammad Nur Prabowo Setyabudi, Dr Hans A. Harmakaputra and Dr Evi Lina Sutrisno. (Credit: ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute)

The second panel started off with the presentation by Dr James Hoesterey (Emory University) who looked at the new trends of popular preaching in Indonesia. Looking at the trajectories of popular preachers in the country, such as Aa’ Gym, Gus Baha, and other Islamic preachers, Dr Hoesterey illustrated how they have used various social media platforms to go online. He argued that the Islamic traditional preachers were also struggling to go online as content was perceived as more precious than the packaging.

Mr Muhammad Nur Prabowo Setyabudi (LIPI) continued with the second presentation on the expression of Political Islam in social media and everyday life. He explored how Islamic civil groups in Padang, Tasikmalaya, Yogyakarta, and Makassar define, interpret, conceptualise, and practice their political orientations in their daily life, including social media platforms such as YouTube, Instagram and Facebook. Mr Prabowo and his team argued that the divergence of Islamic expression, from peaceful to violent expression, shows a multi-faceted phenomenon of political Islam in Indonesia.

The third presentation in the panel by Dr Hans Harmakaputra (Hartfort Seminary) discussed how online religion has become an emerging form of communication and how they are incorporated into religious communities. Accessible theological learning has become more open to the public during the pandemic, mainly through the rise of YouTube channels like Theovlogy Channel which has at least 37 videos on theological teaching. This has aided in widening the outreach of these teachings to a bigger audience, both locally and globally. Online platforms have thus become an extension of the traditional ways used to practice their religion, bringing about new impacts to the community.

Last but not least, Dr Evi Lina Sutrisno (Universitas Gadjah Mada) explored the emergence of online practice of Confucianism rituals in Indonesia. As a sixth officially acknowledged religion in Indonesia whose believers are at 0,05% of the population, Confucianism’s standardised weekly rituals have also moved into online rituals during the pandemic. She argued that these virtual worship services were made possible due to several factors, including the replicability of service structure and imagination of sacred places, the role of MATAKIN to strengthen the ties between the central authorities and the communities, and the active participation of urban and middle-class Confucian communities during the pandemic.

Moderated by Dr Norshahril Saat (Senior Fellow and Coordinator of Regional Social and Cultural Studies, ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute), the panel discussion proceeded after the paper presentation where a wide range of questions were discussed. The wide range of topics discussed during the session includes the presence of traditional preachers in social media, the impacts of social media on the activities of Islamist groups, the difference between the current online theology teaching with pre-pandemic time, how online platforms could influence the spread of preaching as well as the collective effervescence (including efficacy and solemnity) of the online rituals.

Panel 3: Contentious Relationships between State and Society in Digital Ecosystem

Panel III consisted of Moderator Ms Lee Sue-Ann and speakers Dr Nina Widyawati, Dr Thung Ju Lan, Mr Detta Rahmawan, Dr Ikbal Maulana and Ms Daisy Indira Yasmine. (Credit: ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute)

Starting the second day of the conference, Dr Nina Widyawati (LIPI) discussed the politicisation of identity on online platforms, especially social media. Her research mainly investigated tweets that were produced during the 2019 presidential elections where tweets containing words related to the ideology of Islam had shown predominance over other thematic words observed. Apart from that, most of the users are seasonal accounts that were created with the intention to campaign for their supported political groups or to attack their opponents. Dr Nina and her team, therefore, believed that social media will become an increasingly used platform to promote political agenda among the general population for future elections.

Mr Detta Rahmawan (Universitas Padjajaran) presented his analysis of the transformation of President Joko Widodo’s digital power from 2012 to the present day, with an aim of building up a practical framework for the sustainability of democratic digital space in Indonesia. He argued that there was a setback in Indonesia’s public sphere, as evidenced by the rising trend of colonisation of influencers, structured machinery and the emphasis of gaslighting more than promoting healthy political conversations. Additionally, Mr Detta and his team suggested having more criticism and debates outside the political arena would aid in creating a healthier political discourse in Indonesia.

Dr Ikbal Maulana (LIPI) discussed the importance of freedom of speech, emphasising the role of the press in dealing with hate speech. By examining the collocation and concordance of cause, freedom, and critics in the news provided by different media outlets that emerged in both conventional era and digital era, his research suggested that criticism was also included in the category of hate speech. The unclear definition of what hate speech entailed had thus generated confusion among public perception which blurred the lines of what freedom of speech encompassed. As such, Dr Ikbal and his team believed that there is still a need to balance between the two notions of preventing hate speech and supporting freedom of speech in the public discourse. 

Dr Thung Ju Lan (LIPI) touched upon the issue of digital democracy, particularly looking at the conflicting issues, existing conditions, and digitalisation in different areas in Indonesia. The research focused on micro-level democratic communication, covering Konawe at Central Sulawesi, Cirebon at West Java, Brebes at Central Java, Bali, and Banda Neira at Maluku. Her research suggested that digitalisation has amplified the voice of aspiration and improved the quality of democracy at the local level. However, actors need to further skill themselves with the ability to push forth these local level aspirations into action. This, in turn, would enable the growth of democracy in Indonesia in the near future.

Understanding youth civic culture on the internet, Ms Daisy Indira Yasmine studied the ways digitalisation affects youth lives and beliefs. Their findings suggested that passive youth activism was mostly conducted online, with online discussion being their main mode of digital activism on social issues. This also took on the form of giving likes and reforwarding the issues on social media platforms. Their research also identified that youths are actually actively developing their digital activism, but the majority are still more engaged in social solidarity activism as compared to civic activism. This could contribute to the general gaps between youths and political issues in Indonesia.

The panel discussion began after the paper presentations, with Ms Lee Su-Ann (ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute) as the moderator for the session. A wide range of topics were discussed which included the realisation of khilafah discourse in among Muslims, the monitoring and demystification of influencers in political context, the decreasing influence of public opinions due to the transition to digital democracy, the changes in youth activism with the introduction of social media, the effects of youth activism to induce changes in political issues as well as the impact of political figures or activist figures toward youth activism in Indonesia.

Panel 4: The Implementation of Digital Governance

Panel IV included Moderator Mr Ibnu Nadzir and speakers Dr Novi Kurnia, Dr Yanuar Nugroho, Dr Laely Nurhidayah, Dr Galuh Syahbana Indraprahasta and Dr Lilis Mulyani. (Credit: ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute)

Dr Novi Kurnia (Universitas Gadjah Mada) began the panel by explaining the current situation with misinformation in Indonesia. Through their research, they have found out that it is nearly impossible to control disinfodemic in this current era, which only means that there should be more collaborations between various stakeholders such as tech companies and law enforcement to manage misinformation. However, existing challenges such as the subjectivity of content being labelled as misinformation and vagueness of ‘fake news’ definition may present as obstacles to this management. As such, the team suggested that having more human moderators on social media platforms would be a good way to counter the spread of misinformation in the digital world.

Dr Yanuar Nugroho (ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute) and Dr Sujarwoto (Brawijaya University) provided a critical view of digitalisation strategy under President Joko Widodo. In assessing the government’s digital initiatives, such as e-LAPOR and One Data Indonesia, they argued that the use of digital technology could advance the quality of service delivery, lead to reform of the bureaucracy and lift the levels of engagement by citizens. However, the end-users of these digitalised services are still unevenly distributed and more needs to be done to ensure that everyone can access these e-services effectively.

Dr Laely Nurhidayah (LIPI) explored the challenges and opportunities of the use of Information, Communication and Technologies (ICTs) and disruptive technology for disaster mitigation on forest fires in Indonesia, particularly at the local level of Riau Province in Sumatra and Kalimantan. Comparing the use of ICTs among Fire Care Communities (Masyarakat Peduli Api, MPA) in both areas, Dr Laely and her team argued that the lack of digital infrastructure at the village level is one of the fundamental issues that hampered the increased use of ICT to mitigate the effects of forest fires. As such, MPA also experienced difficulties in reaching out to the villagers due to low internet connectivity. They, therefore, suggested that while social media can be a good source of information, there is a need to ensure that both environmental governance and digital infrastructure are presented first at the village level before ICT can be used by all stakeholders in managing forest fires at the ground level.

Dr Galuh Syahbana Indraprahasta (LIPI) explained the role of citizens in smart city building in Indonesia. His team examined a comparative study of bottom-up urban development initiatives in Semarang and inclusive policy initiatives by the local government in Banyuwangi. He argued that the digital technology embedded in the smart city agenda was a tool to encourage smart citizens through the help of local government, local citizens and the interplay between them. While that is the case, Dr Galuh also argued that Indonesia’s smart city path seems to focus on improving the efficacy of public service delivery and that may lead to limited improvement in citizen’s quality of life.

Dr Lilis Mulyani (LIPI) and her team examined the establishment of virtual police as a practice of digital policing and freedom of expression in Indonesia, whether it provides a secure digital space or triggers people’s insecurity to express their opinion freely. She argued that there is inconsistency and bias in the actual practice of virtual policing whereby cases that were actually taken up by digital policing and were brought up to courts were usually for government or public officials. Individual protection is dependent on the individual’s initiative and would have to rely on how extensive the individual would take the case to court. As such, there are still many issues that need to be addressed for virtual policing so that it will not jeopardize freedom of expression in the virtual private space and offences against public order can still be effectively managed.

Moderated by Mr Ibnu Nadzir (LIPI), the panel discussion was conducted with 6 representative speakers from the panel. A wide range of topics were discussed during the session such as the effects of ICT practices among government services in increasing disparity among citizens, the verification of disinformation from the Indonesian government, public sentiments toward virtual policing, the lack of digital literacy among villagers in using ICT for forest fires management, the effectiveness of virtual policing in identifying radicalism and terrorism as well as whether Indonesia can fasten its pace in improving its digital infrastructure.

Panel 5: The Online Expression of Art & Culture

The 5th and final panel included Moderator Ms Ranny Rastati and speakers Ms Sentiela Ocktaviana, Mr Andrian Wikayanto, Mr Michael HB Raditya, Mr Irwansyah Harahap and Ms Rithaony Hutajulu. (Credit: ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute)

Ms Sentiela Ocktaviana and Mr Andrian Wikayanto (LIPI) gave a graphic presentation on the Nussa animated-series, which was marketed as animation for Islamic families in Indonesia. They argued that while the controversy surrounding Nussa proves that this animated-series has the power to influence its audience’s perspective, much of the argued controversies were identified to have some form of inaccuracy in its analysis. In fact, Dr Sentela and Mr Andrian believed that Nussa can be used as an effective medium for spreading the values of tolerance and diversity as these elements were evidently observed through the animated-series. However, the exclusivity of this animation for Muslim community may reduce the diversity aspects of the animation, hence there is a need to make the animation more inclusive with more discourses on diversity discussed within the animation.

Mr Michael HB Raditya (Dangdut Studies Center) discussed the manifestation of digital technology in Dangdut Koplo, a genre of Indonesian dance and folk music that originated in Java island. He explained that technology has influenced the development of Dangdut Koplo at its beginning in the late 1990s and later on in 2015/2016 when the internet and digital technology emerged. In fact, the rise of digital technology has generated a wider outreach where there is an uptake of new listeners in the new era. He believed that technology is a tool that has helped to increase accessibility to this genre as well as enabling greater promotion of this medium to the wider audience.

Ms Rithaony Hutajulu and Mr Irwansyah Harahap (University of North Sumatra) discussed the influence of technology on the teaching methods of ethnomusicology classes, in particular, looking at the experience of teaching staff for this subject at University of North Sumatra in Medan, Indonesia. They found that indirect class presentation and digital media interaction had become the main teaching approach during the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the technical challenges, the digital platforms could become the future learning method in ethnomusicology.

In this last panel of the conference, all paper authors joined the moderator, Ms Ranny Rastati (LIPI) in the discussion session. Questions from the audience involve a wide range of topics, including the spirit and ideology of radicalism among actors behind the creation of animated series, digitalisation of Dangdut Koplo and the consumers’ experiences, material culture in the teaching of ethnomusicology post-COVID-19 pandemic and how the pandemic had influenced the teaching of ethnomusicology among the student population (be it in terms of grading or teacher-student interaction).

Closing Remarks

Prof Dr Ahmad Najib Burhani and Dr Hui Yew-Foong delivered the Closing Remarks. (Credit: ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute)

The three-days webinar conference ended off with some closing remarks shared by both Dr Ahmad Najib Burhani (Head of Research Centre for Society and Culture, LIPI) and Dr Hui Yew-Foong (Visiting Senior Fellow of the Indonesia Studies Programme, ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute). Dr Najib expressed his greatest thanks to all parties who have played their part tirelessly throughout the organisation of this event and showed his appreciation to ISEAS for the opportunity given to conduct this collaboration. He also brought up the possibility of organising more conferences with ISEAS, looking particularly at the topic of discussing the Spice Route being submitted to UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 2024. Dr Hui followed up by expressing his gratitude to all organising parties for their hard work in bringing this event together. He also highlighted how the conference was organised with a celebratory intention as it was held between both country’s independence days – which fall on 9 August and 17 August respectively as well as demonstrated the strong friendship between Indonesia and Singapore over the past few decades. Dr Hui proceeded to express his appreciation for the great partnership with LIPI and will look forward to more collaborations in the near future.