Indonesia Studies Programme Seminar Notes The Future of

$% !&$ '%
( ! '%
* +
Indonesia Studies Programme
Seminar Notes
The Future of Net Activism in Indonesian Politics:
Lessons from
14 October 2014, 2.30 pm – 4.30 pm, Seminar Room 1, ISEAS
About the seminar is a website set up by five Indonesian information technology engineers to
monitor the counting and reporting of the 2014 presidential election ballots. Although not the
first and only one of these volunteer-based information crowdsourcing, Kawal Pemilu (“guard
the election”) became one of the most authoritative and reliable sources of the election’s results.
It revolutionised ballot-counting procedures by transforming the traditionally secretive process
into a transparent one. Results could be viewed in real time by the public and potential voting
irregularities could be reported by individual citizens. Accordingly, the Kawal Pemilu initiative
has been hailed by scholars and activists as a major safeguard that allowed the fairness of the
2014 presidential election results.
This seminar investigates the origins of Kawal Pemilu’s net activism and its potential impact for
the future of national politics and civil society. It will consider the role of netizens, social media,
and the internet; and will discuss potential partnership that Kawal Pemilu’s organisers might
form with other net activists to promote greater transparency and accountability in Indonesian
Speaker: Ainun Najib, co-founder,
Discussant: Rita Padawangi, Senior Research Fellow, Asia Research Institute, National
University of Singapore
Ainun Najib, co-founder of
1 is a website set up spontaneously right after the day of the presidential
election by five Indonesian IT engineers working overseas in different countries in their attempt
to “crowdsource transparency”. Its beginning was unstructured, sporadic, but it quickly went
Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. 30, Heng Mui Keng Terrace, Pasir Panjang, Singapore 119614.
$% !&$ '%
( ! '%
* +
viral. It was set up and funded independently by concerned citizens, not sponsored or funded by
any political camp or NGO. The amount of money spent on setting the website was very low,
only USD54 to pay for the hosting and the domain name, although running the website involves
an extensive amount of work and time. From this website, ballot scans and counts from all voting
booths at all levels—village, subdistrict, district, municipalities, provinces—can be viewed and
monitored, and irregularities can be immediately reported.
KawalPemilu was initiated at the moment of high tension between the two camps of
presidential candidate, particularly since both candidates had claimed victory. An article by
Edward Aspinall and Marcus Mietzner, “Prabowo’s Game Plan”1, pointed out the possibility that
Prabowo might be working to sow confusion and steal the results by intercepting the ballot
counts at various local levels (due to the very weak monitoring by the public or the media and
the long chain of calculation process). The main reasons why KawalPemilu was initiated were:
(1) to ease up the tension; (2) to increase public monitoring; (3) to prevent electoral fraud.
The initiative started rather arbitrarily, through a conversation on Facebook, when
Najib’s friend, Andrian Kurniady (who works with Google Sydney), posted on his status that the
election data was available for download from KPU’s website. The Facebook chat brought them
to connect with another friend, Felix Halim, who works in Google HQ and has downloaded all
the data. Since up to 5% of scanned data had been uploaded in less than 24 hours, presumably all
the complete 100% data should be available earlier than the official announcement (2 weeks).
This presented a possibility of obtaining a faster crowdsourced calculation with these data, and
thus also a way to monitor and evaluate the official result.
Halim built the system in two days, while Najib set up a Facebook secret group. The
secrecy was for safety reason, and to anticipate the stealing or tinkering of the election data.
Since the uploaded scans might be intervened, and there was no guarantee that the election
committee could not be either influenced or intimidated by any of the camps, they decided to
stay under the radar until the election committee had uploaded at least 80% of the scans. This
way, at least they would secure the bulk of the reliable data first before they went public.
They tested the program, manually tabulating the data among themselves, and slowly
opened the testing processes to a larger circle of trustworthy friends. They also learned that there
were many like-minded people who had built similar initiatives, e.g. KawalSuara, diggersoft
(actually a commercial store, with a page for crowdsourcing election data set up), and realcount
(built by a friend of Mr Najib in less than two hours, but was shut down in less than 24 hours due
to the controversies and debates). See figure 1 below. However, most of these other initiatives
only managed to complete up to 20% of the data. By observing other efforts, KawalPemilu
-$% !-%.- %-
Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. 30, Heng Mui Keng Terrace, Pasir Panjang, Singapore 119614.
$% !&$ '%
( ! '%
* +
learned from their mistakes, that opening the data entry process to a larger public faced a higher
risk of mistakes, malcontents, and backlashes. They decided to keep the data entry closed only to
trustworthy friends, carefully streamlining the system and the process and to minimise mistakes.
Through their networks of trustworthy friends, in less than four days, 700 volunteers were
recruited from Facebook.
Through an analysis of IP addresses from the data entry server, the volunteers were
revealed to be Indonesians located in at least 27 countries, with more than half based in
Indonesia. The website received more than 3 million views per day, with 1 million unique
visitors. The highest concurrent views at one time was more than 5,000. Jakarta has the highest
access. 97% of the data was completed in 6 days, with about 3% unreadable, invalid data. Their
result only differs by 0.14% to the official result. They received some hacking attempts, but
fortunately they had employed reliable security from Google.
KawalPemilu has been covered in various media, including the Financial Times, and had
received endorsements by various academics (including Edward Aspinall, whose article had
triggered the initiative). After the official result has been announced, they had met various
government officials, activists and other people, including the head of KPU, Anies Baswedan,
and Jokowi.
The team is currently working on these four projects:
(1) Kawalpilkada, for the regional election, although this is dependent on the recently passed bill
on regional election.
(2) Kawaldesa, since the recently passed UU desa has allocated a budget of 1 billion IDR to each
village, which might induce rampant corruption if run without a proper check and balance
mechanism in place.
(3), to watch the parliamentary members by running background checks of all
560 MPs—this is similar to other initiatives like WikiDPR,
(4), a crowdsourced problem solving enabling Indonesian netizens to report
and solve the problems among themselves, rather than relying on government. It is meant to be a
platform for problem reporting, verification, investigation, brainstorming, and solving. Najib
wants it equipped with channels for crowdfunding, crowdvolunteering, and if needed, escalating
the issue to government. Jokowi has always pointed out that he wants to know the existing
problems through his blusukan, but at the same time Jokowi also finds that people have the
capacity to brainstorm and develop their own solutions. Ainun thus wants to build on this idea,
developing it as an e-blusukan. Existing platform like LAPOR, developed by UKP4, is still
limited to crowdreporting, but has not faciliated crowd problem solving.
Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. 30, Heng Mui Keng Terrace, Pasir Panjang, Singapore 119614.
$% !&$ '%
( ! '%
* +
Dr. Rita Padawangi, Senior Research Fellow, Asia Research Institute
Based on her academic background and her personal experience as a volunteer,
interacting with KawalPemilu platform, Padawangi recalled how during the tense moment after 9
July 2014, she received a link to participate in KawalPemilu, but it came with a strict warning,
“Please do not spread it now, it’s not ready yet, it’s only for testing purposes.” Dr Padawangi
noted how cautious KawalPemilu had been, unlike KawalSuara which had started earlier shortly
within a few days after the election, but was immediately attacked.
She added that KawalPemilu not only faced some hacking attempts, but also some smear
campaigns and backlashes, accusing KawalPemilu as a partisan, unreliable site. She noted and
applauded how KawalPemilu did not respond to this attack head to head, but had instead used
friendly and playful methods in their communication strategy—for example, through wordplays,
graphic memes of cats, etc. She also wondered about KawalPemilu’s strategy to synergise with
conventional media like televisions and newspapers.
Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. 30, Heng Mui Keng Terrace, Pasir Panjang, Singapore 119614.
$% !&$ '%
( ! '%
* +
Padawangi showed a slide showing the timeline of similar internet-based initiatives that
had appeared after the presidential election (see figure 1). She added that on top of these
monitoring sites, there was also a website, CobaQuickCount (Try Quick Count), where visitor
could try doing quick counts themselves using the data sourced from KawalPemilu. Since the
quick counts released on the day of the elction had provided different results and thus putting
doubts about the legitimacy of quick count methods, this website tried to facilitate its visitors in
understanding how quick count works.
Padawangi commented on the two main factors that contributed to the rapid snowballing
of KawalPemilu: (1) it has a very simple concept, and the task required from the volunteers was
very easy; (2) there was a strong urgency in the moment of crisis. These preconditions might not
exist in their next projects, since they might require more complicated tasks and verification
processes than just entering some numbers.
Najib remarked that all of Padawangi’s comments had hit the nail on the head. In
response to the question on communication strategy, Mr Najib explained that nine volunteers
with communication background were recruited as their public relations. They managed the
communication on Facebook, Twitter, and in relation to conventional media, and have indeed
employed playful responses and implicit symbols as their strategy. For example, Mr Najib
consciously maintained his more “religious” appearance—the beard, the clothing—to reclaim his
identity, since many smear campaigns had come from those claiming to be from religious
Their next project, KawalDPR, for example, indeed requires more complicated tasks, but
has less urgency. Initially it was developed to be a watchdog platform, to facilitate reporting, but
considering the five-year period, focusing on negative reporting is going to be exhausting, so
they are now considering to shift the focus to positive traits instead.
Some questions
What are their recommendations to KPU?
KawalPemilu advocated for electronic election, but this is not currently possible, considering the
state of technology infrastructure and development in Indonesia. Some areas are severely
underdeveloped, with unclear, often overlapping boundaries. For example, only during this
election have the geographical boundaries and hierarchies of village, district, municipality, and
province been cleared and verified by the election committee, but not all areas can easily access
it. Manual processes are thus still prerequisites in some areas.
Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. 30, Heng Mui Keng Terrace, Pasir Panjang, Singapore 119614.
$% !&$ '%
( ! '%
* +
They thus proposed a midway solution: (1) to allocate a portion of village funding (which has
tremendously increased through the UU Desa) for the development of IT infrastructure; (2) to
improve the design of current C1 forms for improved automatic reading and verification—for
example, by implementing unique QR code in each form.
They have also drafted a blueprint for the country’s information system. Unfortunately, the data
of Indonesian national resources have never been designed for a coherent, integrated long-term
system. Each department has its own information system unit, disconnected from each other.
Each system reports to their own institution, without any mechanism to integrate nationally. To
push for a national, centralised information system might require a new bill, while the outlook of
the current parliament, dominated by Koalisi Merah Putih, seems bleak and conservative.
KawalDPR seemed to be of low urgency, but requires high level of input. Unlike
KawalPemilu, the next projects seem to require a long-term and higher level of
commitment, and funding. What are the possibilities in institutionalising this movement?
The law on Information Technology and Electronic Transaction (UU ITE), which allows anyone
to be sued for libel or defamation, has been used to arbitrarily suppress public criticism. For
example, activists in Makassar has been imprisoned for criticising MPs through a Blackberry
message. For KawalDPR, therefore, they planned to build a platform that (1) allows the MPs to
communicate with constituents; (2) publish whatever good works they have done; (3) receive
feedback and concerns.
Thus far, the team has expressed refusal to institutionalise. Rather than institutionalising
themselves, KawalPemilu prefers to use their informal networks of volunteers who are working
in NGOs and government bodies to push for their agendas. The challenge is how to
institutionalise without being dampened by sluggish bureaucracy.
How did you anticipate a scenario of facing a similar initiative, but from the other camp?
KawalPemilu took precautions by being as detailed and transparent as possible with their data
and their process, both are ready to be reviewed and compared. This is why they prioritised
downloading and securing the bulk of the raw data first, the timestamps verified and
authenticated to ensure the data have not been tampered. While individually the members have
their own political preferences, as a team, KawalPemilu ultimately aims to guard the data to
represent the real counts, and to counter the possibility of the results from being manipulated.
***End of report***
Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. 30, Heng Mui Keng Terrace, Pasir Panjang, Singapore 119614.