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MAHNETTIK A NEW APPROACH FOR MIGRANT WORKER EMPOWERMENT

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The scenario was set. Separated by distance, everything was discussed in the chatting room and through emails. Work was delegated. A friend was assigned as one of the family members. Another friend acted as the relative. Information on identity was prepared to prevent hitches when confronted. “At the time, if you were not picked up by family, a newly returned migrant worker would not be allowed to go home by herself. She must use the available transport. And I was then reluctant to do so,” said Narsidah as she recounted the situation six years ago. Narsidah then had just ended her employment term in Hongkong. She previously worked in Singapore in 1998. “Only for a year. Because it was my first work experience. I still missed home then,” she admitted. Her second stint as a migrant worker in Hongkong changed the course of Narsidah's life. It was here that Narsidah began to become part of the Indonesian migrant workers' organization. This was possible she said because the condition was conducive. “If it's an official holiday then it means you don't work. A three-day holiday means you don't work for three days. It's just like being a civil servant,” she explains. It was during this spare time that she had the opportunity to interact with other migrant workers. From an early introduction during a visit to the park, Narsidah eventually became an activist at the Indonesian Migrant Workers' Union. Under this organization, Narsidah had her first direct encounter with problems confronted by Indonesian migrant workers. It was here that Narsidah also first learnt about using the computer. As she was adamant to not be constantly dependent on others when operating the computer, Narsidah initiated to attend a computer course organized by IMWU.

"To pay for the course fee, I could not sent money back home because a major portion of my salary at the time was deducted by the agent. The course was quite costly as the union had to hire local computer experts. I even took photographs of the classroom filled with rows of computers to send back home,” said Narsidah during a discussion forum between various parties held by Microsoft and Tifa recently in Jakarta. Her early introduction to computers made it easier for her to move on to the internet. “In Hongkong, internet facilities are readily available. And more importantly is that I also had the time to have fun with the internet,” she further explains. Upon her return to Indonesia, Narsidah decided to join Migrant Care. She therefore has to make frequent trips to Jakarta from her hometown in Banyumas, Central Java. In Banyumas, Narsidah along with a group of former migrant workers organize regular get-togethers. The agenda is consistent: to conduct advocacy work on issues related to migrant workers and potential migrant workers. These get-togethers were later formalized into an association known as Seruni. All Seruni members are individuals who were previously migrant workers. “At first we lack confidence. But we were constantly motivated by friends who are students and lecturers at Soedirman University. They advised us to set up an association to be more organized in sharing information and experiences,” explained Narsidah who completed her junior high education in 1995. Unlike other migrant workers' organizations, Seruni is not an NGO. Its activists are involved purely on a voluntary basis. Members in fact have diverse professions. Narsidah tends to a fishpond,

selling pandan-leaf handicrafts from Kebumen and occasionally produces bedcovers on order. Lili, Narsidah's friend who is also Seruni's Chairperson owns a mobile phone and voucher counter. Narsidah mentioned, “We must be wise in arranging our time schedule. We often hold meetings after taking part in meetings arranged by colleagues from other organizations.” Seruni's list of activities now has an additional agenda as it is entrusted to manage CTC which they named “Seruni Learning House”. This CTC is located in Datar village of Sambung sub-district in Banyumas. This CTC has yet to operate as intended. The main constraint is the unavailability of internet connection. Available computers are now focused on computer lessons including on the use of Microsoft Word and Microsoft Excel. Learning to print and also scan documents. “Friends involved in legal cases are encouraged to produce their own chronology of events,” she further said. Narsidah and her peers at CTC Banyumas have high expectations when CTC is in full operations. “We would like to set up an internet kiosk. The tariff must surely be affordable. Proceeds will be used to finance legal defense and counsel,” Narsidah hopes as she ends the conversation. On a more personal note, Narsidah expressed her wish to be able to immediately start blogging. She admits to have honed her writing skills from other migrant worker friends. We shall patiently wait for her blog entries!

email: public@tifafoundation.org website: www.tifafoudation.org

Working without proper documents is an issue as reliable information at IOWs area of origin is lacking. Jobs learned from relatives . Problems that started at the very beginning led to series of potentially unsafe migration. According to BNP2TKI, 45.626 cases were reported in 2008, vary from violation of employment contract, poor working and living conditions, limited freedom of movement, harassment and violence, lack of social protection to debt bondage. Migrant Care noted, in 2007 alone, 206 died in destination country. Therefore, it is important to have alternative information about opportunity to work overseas.

Secondly, family participation is crucial as they motivate and use remittance sent by IOW. Skills training should be offered to aspirant IOW and their family, considering the central role of the family in the decision making process. IT skills improvement could enhance employability and economic opportunity for both aspirant IOWs and their family; and strengthening access to overseas migration information leads to better understanding of processes and opportunities. Therefore, intervention should be conducted in IOWs areas of origin. Mah-Net-Tik, a Tifa's project supported by UP Community Technology Skills Program's aims to provide skills training in the area of origins to improve employability and economic opportunity of aspiring IOWs and their family. This is a new approach aims to establish a CTCs in 10 districts in provinces with highest IOW concentration through partnership with local NGOs. Access, relevance, affordability are 3 distinct UP-Community Technology Skills Program's DNA. We breath, eat, and sleep with it every day, finding ways and means to make sure people that were touched by the program realize the benefit of the program

Five years ago, it would be unimaginable for Akhmad Fadli to envision himself participating in a video conference from his hometown in Sidareja sub-district, Cilacap. This is indeed a historic moment for the people of Sidareja, as in the past a local resident would have to travel 1.5 hours to the sub-district city in order to access an internet connection. The inconceivable became a reality last February 16th. A video conference was conducted between Renata (Tifa) and Sita (Microsoft) in Jakarta with Fitri and Mimie (migrant workers) in Hongkong. The video conference was the culmination of the launching of CTC Cilacap located

in Jl. Jenderal Sudirman 14, Sidareja. Local government officials present at the event were awestruck. A village head who also witnessed the video conference instantaneously requested for internet lessons. “Could you please teach me, you must,” appealed Khusnus, Sidamulya's village head to one of the CTC organizers. *** The video conference was an effective demonstration of the benefits of internet access. From once a peculiar and unfamiliar word, local residents' first hand experience of the internet and video conferencing will now further

Number of Indonesian overseas workers (IOW) has gone up 300% in 14 years (748,825 people, 2008) characterized by and women (74%). Indonesia, as stated in Medium Term Development Plan 20042009, wants to increase workers quality through skills training.

by realizing their own potential. Through the show case in the launch of CTCs in Lombok Barat, Lombok Tengah, and Cilacap, CTC shows village community that technology brings family member who are separated by distance closer to each other in affordable manner. The showcase has showed village community the relevance of technology for them. Those who witness the web conference immediately sparks community's interest to learn to operate computer. What more is that with such an access, they do not have to travel far. One interesting fact is that both Microsoft and Tifa Foundation, did not budget the activity in the original project. But, that does not stop them. The training for trainer conducted in December, where they learn to think positively, identify and tap local resources, has shown its impact. They found their supporters in the community and have shown how resourceful they are. That tells us how strong the sense ownership to CTC. Even though the launch was not budgeted in the grant, it does not mean that it could not happen. From villages where resources are limited, when the wall seems to high to be climbed, when distance does matter, when the impossibility seems to rule, we have learned the art of possibilities. The art that beats the odd. When there is a strong will, there is a way. When the cup is seen as a half-cup full, it motivates. Let's celebrate mileages achieved by our partners and hopes that many more to come.


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broaden their imagination and possibilities of benefiting from this modern technology. First, CTC provides ease for organizers to engage in offline internet surfing. The “Village Discussion” forum has gained popular attention. This is supported by pertinent discussion topics such as the problems and intricacies surrounding migrant workers. Such themes are relevant to Sidareja as a large segment of the local population have family members employed as overseas migrant workers. “This is part of our initiative in information advocacy,” explained Fadli. Second, the availability of CTC as an access point to cyber-surfing has brought about a wave of resultant activities where local residents are not only avid information seekers but have also become active information producers. This initiative started off with a citizen journalism training course attended by 30 participants from 21-22 February 2009. The presence of active community members eager to report on all matters that they find interesting, important, extraordinary or novel has helped local residents to adjust to a more open environment. When in the past, state apparatus at the village or sub-district levels can assume that they are impervious to the scrutiny of conventional mass media due to their narrow scope, the presence of an active information-sharing community will compel government bodies to be more heedful and encourage fundamental reforms aimed at providing better public services. An example is the application procedure for citizens' identity card. From the perspective of a conventional journalist, this is probably no longer newsworthy or it might not be able to compete for media coverage compared to other news considered to be more attention-grabbing and with greater news value. This is unsurprising considering the extremely limited space in the print media. Citizen journalism that makes use of virtual space have changed these boundaries. Citizens can easily chronicle what they witness and experience. There is no need to conform to the conventional

approach to news reporting (normally follows the inverted pyramid principle), no need to be too preoccupied with language structure according to the correct journalistic lingo and more importantly there is no need to fuss over the merging of facts and opinions. Examine the following excerpt from a piece written by one of the participants of the citizen journalism training course recently featured in suarakomunitas.com. In the first paragraph, the participant wrote: “Several points along roads found in Sidareja sub-district are in a state of disrepair. Some road sections are considered to be seriously damaged, beginning from Sidareja's post office to Wringin Harjo, in front of the Sidareja post office, then 100m to the west of the railway track, and 50m to the east of Setuan market and the west of

“Setuan market” is also badly damaged.” As the reporting was posted on cyberspace, the account on the dire state of the roads spread instantly in all corners. People in Cilacap were not only the first to know but Cilacap natives living in Jakarta and even abroad were updated on hometown news. This rapid flow of information permeated from the virtual world to real life. From the common people to highranking officials. It can be assured that local bureaucrats are the ones most 'bothered' by this issue. Those who understand the virtual realm know for sure that any blockage much less any censoring is highly unlikely. Brutal or subtle intimidation will only aggravate the situation and worsen the impact. Any aggravation is akin to blowing public attention out of proportion. From human rights defenders to journalists, and from local officials to regional bureaucrats. It is therefore not surprising when local government officials were racing to repair the damaged roads.

*** From the foregoing illustration, what can be concluded? The internet and CTC have opened up an array of possibilities previously implausible for the local people. Apart from computer literacy, CTC also helps community members to become internet savvy. What started as an effort to build community awareness on citizen journalism, CTC has become the gateway for the arrival of a new world, a world unlike what the local people are accustomed to. Internet access has allowed members of the community to forge more intensive, more intimate and more affordable communication. Those distantly removed in terms of space and place are now interconnected, prompting the rapid stream of information, much faster than it was previously thinkable and in real time. Not only in regard to sound, but also words and visuals. In relation to migrant workers, this situation for example is reflected in how news on the death of a migrant worker in a neighboring country spreads far and wide. Family members in the migrant worker hometown can obtain information earlier than the speed to which the news is covered by conventional mass media and even from official notification from the government. This rapid flow of information has shattered existing walls, from the bureaucratic system to state boundaries. It has become a realm accessible to all segments of society; internet technology has upended many established norms. Internet users are not only passive actors in search of information but at the same time they are also creators of information. It is indeed not a coincidence that users can avail themselves to a multitude of information channels to be able to simultaneously undertake both activities; from mailing lists, blogs, websites to virtual forums. If the credibility of information is previously only the privilege of journalists and government officials, then now it can be established through a chain of trust from one user to the next even though they might not be acquainted or have had face-toface encounters. If what was once considered good and superior as only belonging to those hailed as experts, moral exemplars and or individuals holding a certain position, the internet now has supplanted them

Picture s from The Fie ld with the consensus of the masses or known as the wisdom of the crowds. Moreover, the internet erodes barriers and reverse positions. It would be hard to distinguish between knowing and learning, between structure and process, between having and using as well as between tangible and virtual. Producers turn into buyers, buyers become producers. A home transforms into an office, and an office functions as an abode. This is a new world where we will live and work in. *** It would not be easy to determine when this new world truly becomes the daily existence of all layers of society throughout the country. Restricted accessibility to internet connections offered by internet service providers and the high cost of connection tariff remain to be the main constraints. Nevertheless, as proven in numerous locations, internet technology often brings about profound changes much sooner than anticipated. This endless information traffic will eventually compel the government to deregulate telecommunication policies to ensure that the public has access to a broader range of more economical and easier options. Before this evolves into a reality, CTC can assume the role of accelerating computer and internet literacy among members of the community. If this spreads far and wide, then when the new world truly becomes a daily existence, the people will neither falter nor become mere observers. ***

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Women learn to use the internet to improve their social life

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Story from the Field , Migrant Workers and Technology  

Story from migrant workers areas of origin describing how villagers in this area using information and communication technology to improved...