Working for the Empowered Informational Community

By on October 16, 2013

To date, who are actually benefited from the widely circulating information, parallel to the developing information technology? Is there any chance for the marginalized people to take benefits from it? If so, then how can they achieve that?

Those questions come from the reflection of MediaLink’s programs implementation. The program is about “Public Education for Utilizing the Act of Public Information Disclosure (UU KIP) in Health Issue”, and it is funded by TIFA Foundation. It has been implemented in three areas: Cikupa-Tangerang; Porong-Sidoarjo; and Palu-Central Sulawesi.

Since the beginning, MediaLink was founded to campaign the benefits of access to information, which is guaranteed by the Act of Public Information Disclosure (UU KIP) Number 14/2008. We have been distancing the organizational work from supporting the government, for example supporting necessary condition for the Act implementation. We presume that the KIP Law will bring greater benefit when the people and the government are interconnected. When both aware about the great benefit the KIP Law can bring, its ideal can be realized.

Dreams do not always come true. First, the initial intention to publicly introduce the benefit of the KIP Law is reluctantly responded by people. When the first time MediaLink came to the community to introduce and discuss what KIP Law is all about, they were questioning what kind of problems can be solved by utilizing the KIP Law. The community sees other regulations only bring more obligations. So that, MediaLink must compromise the ways of accessing the information, between the already exist in community and the formal procedures regulated by the Law.

Second, the community depends on the public institutions and the chief of village’s willingness for the informational disclosure. Majority of them avoid having anything to do with the government. They were scared, reluctant; avoiding the procedural complexities in accessing the bureaucracy, as a response to MediaLink’s invitation to proactively obtain the needed information, even it for their own sake. The community response is getting worse, when they were invited to dispute the rejection of their demand to information disclosure. There we found that the KIP Law, in fact, only guarantee the informational need of a fewer people, who are having the ability and the courage to interact to the relevant public institutions. Meanwhile, the wider people don’t have its necessary condition to be able to access their needed information, as its result they are being economic, socially, and politically marginalized.

The Community-Need-Based Access to Information

Having found thus facts, MediaLink develops the previous model of accessing the information to be more community oriented (abbreviated as ASIK). It has been applied to encourage both: the community in Besuki Timur-Sidoarjo and the Ar-Rohmah community in Porong-Sidoarjo. It is funded and supported by TIFA Foundation. The chosen communities live around Lapindo industrial zone, and they have been victimized by its mud eruption, since the first time it happened at 2006.

ASIK model of accessing the information has been developed to be focus its direction a lot to the middle-lower-class needs, than to the elite-minority’s; and community as a the preferred-collective-unit it serves to, rather than individual. The community will do any needed efforts to accessing the information to the relevant public institution, collectively. The way to apply the ASIK model is not limited to the formal procedural method. It can also be applied according to the local custom, such as the initiative effort to bring the KIP Law booklet with them to argue the rejection of their demand to accessing the public information. This is an effort they try to do when they realized that they having less the ability and the courage to interact with the government institution. In applying the ASIK model, the expected outcome is not only the ability of community to look for and obtain the needed information, but also utilize it for their need based fulfillment or their problems solving. As have applied to both of the two women’s groups in Sidoarjo: the KJS and the Ar-Rohmah, they utilize it as their problems solving in health. Having obtained the needed information, both of them having more ability to access the public health services, by apply for the application for economic assistance (SKTM) from the chief of village. They also having more courage to access the needed health services, as they accessed the information about territorially registered member quota of Jamkesmas (the previous national health security). They are getting better in knowing that health security, which they really need, is their rights to be fight for. When they found that one of their members is excluded from the public health security, they know what to do by accessing the needed information. They try to prepare the countering-data of the excluded, to be submitted to the local health authority. This is an effort to claim their right to be registered member, so that can be included to the health security coverage, as they accessed the information about the imperfect data collection by the government.

The applying of ASIK model is expecting two different-level outcomes. First, it is expecting the emergence of public institution’s awareness and responsibility to proactively disclose the information, as publicly as possible. Second, it is expecting the increasing ability of the community to network themselves to other communities and mass media, in order to make the voice of community louder and clearer.

Expecting the Emergence of the Informational Community

ASIK work model is continuously modified as the time goes on. Its result brings MediaLink to the next direction; it is to work for the emergence of informational community. We see the informational community as the community having more abilities to access, select, filter, process, utilize, reproduce, and even more actively produce the information on their own version. It is expected for them to criticize the circulating information supplied by the conventional mass media, which majorities are often not related to the community immediate needs. Information is not without vested interests.

MediaLink also expects the community having more ability to transform their voice to become public knowledge by utilizing the mass media or influencing the public policy.  MediaLink currently evaluate the social-political problems of accessing the public information. In our observation, in order to be able to take benefit from accessing the information, the ability aspect of the middle-lower class is less concerned by the government and other non-government organizations. So that, we presume there is the informational gap vertically between the society and the government; and also horizontally between the middle-upper and the middle-lower class. In order to decrease the problem, MediaLink try to define a new direction, by applying the modified ASIK work model, that is to work for the emergence of informational community.

Several abilities considered being requirement of the initial emergence of informational community. They are the ability to select, filter, process, and actively produce the needed information as their own version, through the mass media or the public institution. It’s all the necessary condition of the community to be able to take benefit of accessing the information. To make sure the dream comes true, at different level, MediaLink has been also working to get rid of any hampering public policies to the utilizing of the community information channel, which is used to strengthening the dissemination of the new emerging knowledge from community to larger audience.

As we knew thus far, the access to information benefited only a few people, such as bureaucrats, private sector, and the middle-upper-class. The necessary condition to change the pendulum is being prepared by MediaLink. It’s now the time for the marginalized communities to fight for benefits from it.*

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