Association of Community Internet Centre(CIC) established as a nonprofit association in 2002 focusing on running Public Internet Centre (PIC) or Community Access Point (CAP) in urban towns and cities across Indonesia.
Relevance of PSOs
Internet was started mostly in urban areas of Indonesian community by the SME’s. Initially many government bodies and NGOs were averse to idea of incorporating private sector organisation(PSO) into the venture. Though PSOs by nature are nonprofit, majority of the members are profit oriented.
But in later stages, many of their projects were facilitated and recognised by government MoCI (Ministry of Communications and Information) as they realised that without the backup of PSOs, no one else would dare to venture in such projects in building Internet access/PIC for the community and citizens in Indonesia, considering the government’s limited resources and lack of foreign direct investment, barely enough to cover the cost of CAP in the rural areas.
Since then, APWKomitel, a grass root enterprise and its SME members work hand in hand, in forming PPP (public private partnership) with government institutions or projects in developing PIC or CIC or CAP focusing on urban cities and towns (bottom up approach), while government on donor projects focused in developing rural villages through USO(Universal Service Obligation) as top to down initiative by MoCI. APWKomitel has nearly 500 members operating PIC, known as ‘Warnet’, in Indonesian language or cybercafe in English, or Internet Cabin in Latin America. Majority of these ‘Warnet’ are small ones owned and operated by SME as family business so as to support income for the family or in recent times by graduated students or unemployed bank staff due to bankruptcy of many banks that occured during economic crisis (1998-2000). The ‘Warnet’ industry, has to an extent helped the government in solving the unemployement problems. It is roughly estimated that if there are 5,000 cybercafe in Indonesia, more than 20,000 IT/Internet operators, cashiers are working in the industry and unaccountable number are supporting the industry in terms of hardware(PC, Internet access), software (billing systems, OS) and training.
Role of APWKomitel
Currently APWKomitel is a part of the government team on Strategic Planning (renstra) in the ICT Sectors. It is also a consultant for joint UNDP and Bappenas (Indonesian Planning and Development Agency) projects, called SMCD(Sustainable Multipurpose Community Development) Telecentre, adopting association, vision/future model called MCI Centre, which reflected the independent business model of PIC operated by private sectors(SME).
The ideas of the private sector participation as a consultant is simple, if the private sectors can develop PIC in urban areas without government interventions, grants and subsidies, then there is absolutely no reason why many Telecentres with government backed subsidies and finance are struggling to survive and sustain in the operation afterwards. Many Telecentres are found to have ran(survived) only during the subsidy period and closed down afterwards. Evidently vision was lacking in the business plan and in the long run, this would prove to be futile exercise for the future of Information Society driven by the WSIS (World Summit on Information Society) Plan of Actions ( PoA) paragraph 6, which envisions all villages in the world should be wired by 2015.
To assist the Government Telecentre projects, the author and chairman of APWKomitel, has come out with a book entitled ‘Step by Step Guide for Developing SMCD Telecentre’ in native language for the operators and managers interested in developing Telecentres in future in rural villages and for establishing Warnet in Cybercafe as well. The book is also in line with the business management model of ITC (Unctad/WTO) segregating the ‘business’ and the ‘management’ aspects of any venture. This is relevant because the Association is trying to adopt business model of private sectors’ profit oriented model for nonprofit telecentres. The effectiveness and efficiency of any management model will be the same, whether it is meant for profit or nonprofit, in order to sustain the business from operations. The key point is to be not too dependent anymore on donors, sponsors or government subsidies in the long run.
Since the book was designed for telecentre, the business aspects were mostly tuned for nonprofit operations and encourage the private sector participation and the readers are also evoked of their moral consciousness to share their profit, as part of the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). Moreover irrespective of being big or small, Private Sector Organisations (PSOs) are also responsible enough for the environment and community and have to serve them if they want their own businesses to survive.
Indonesia is the largest archipelago in the world today with 15,000 big islands and countless small islands spread in three time zones, where majority of the territory is almost, 70 percent water. So it is once more divided than any other country in the world in connecting these villager in thousands of islands. There are 70,000 villages, in Indonesia that have to develop more than 10,400 cybercafes in urban area and more than 56,000 in rural villages within year 2015 (as per the WSIS PoA).
During the WSIS Tunis, in the ITU pavillion of Partnership to Connect the world, the Association has signed a MOU with Indonesian National Satelite and Internet Provider to facilitate the member and future members in the rural areas with affordable VSAT connections and distributing the bandwidth using outdoor wireless LAN (OWLAN 802.11b). But the challenges are beyond technological advancement for any remote villages to be connected to a satellite. The bigger challenge here lies in overcoming cultural, financial, social and political transformations along with gaining public acceptance.
One of the APWKomitel projects with MoCI since 2004 was to develop ‘Directory of Warnet, PIC, Telecenter’ to push the demand side of the Internet user or Market, and at the same time to develop future business model for Warnet/cybercafes or PICs. This model is named as ‘Multipurpose Community Internet (MCI) Centre’ a dream PIC which is multifunctional benefit provider to community in the future(global information society). It is common phenomenon that during the early period of installation, many Warnet/cybercafe mushrooms, due to the Internet-hype factor.
If neighbour has started a PIC business, there is always a tendency for the person to have one. The initial period of high growth is followed by a downsize, because many Warnet businesses have closed down competing on price alone without any proper strategy or innovation in implementation. It was then the Association was established to solve these problems and traced out that many of these SMEs had set the businesses without any ground plan. Even the Association has been setup following the strategy. But, using its future model, it has emphasised the importance of knowing one’s environment and market to follow the future model of MCI Centre in order to be more sustainable and competitive. It therefore asks its members to know the needs of their customers in tuning their products and frill to the community requirement of Internet access and information technology.
Details of Directory
The Directory, posted in the website http://www.apwkomitel.org has helped tourists and students of Distant Learning University (Open University of Indonesia) to find the nearest Warnet/cybercafe in their town in many remote islands. Thus the directory provides the feeling of ‘Near On’ or Near to the Internet in developing countries, as opposed to ‘Always On’, a concept introduced by mobile operators in developed countries. The directory, still lacks promotion and dynamic features of the current website technology and encourages the MoCI to facilitate the directory for further promotion as the Internet user and penetration is still in its lower ebb. The directory is not just limited to the Indonesian territory. Any neighbouring countries interested to join can just submit their Warnet or cybercafe, since many of the islands are closer to the neighbouring countries.
APWKomitel also introduced a unique eBilling System for PIC that is equipped with photo authentications. It is felt that with authentication of people, using public facility(user) will ensure its responsibility in using the public facility to reduce cybercrime, cyberterorrism or negative use of Internet. APWKomitel distributed the Millenia eBilling Systems at a very affordable price of $100 (include webcam), so that many small Warnets can afford and encourage the positive use of Internet in the future also. (http://www.milenia.net )
As NGO, APWKomitel will work hand in hand with Public sectors to promote PIC in rural town and villages as well in developing its directory, business model and Billing Systems, as a showcase that enables to declare in the ITU Pavillion Partnership to Connect the World.