Empowering Communities through the Media

The program has been started since 2011 in West Kalimantan. Surjadi partnered with RuaiTV (a local television station in West Kalimantan) to train indigenous people and community members and give them open access to RuaiTV.

Trained community members sent information through SMS to RuaiSMS - this was the system. The idea was to expose problems to the local government through media. Now, Surjadi is partnering with Tempo - a national media outlet to develop TempoSMS. He has trained more than 600 community members in several provinces in Indonesia. And - if the funding is available - he and his co-trainers in Tempo and also RuaiTV will train more community members to help them empower themselves through sharing information that is usually not in the mainstream media.


Objectives of the program:
1. To empower communities that are facing problems, especially to fight for their rights to land and forests.
2. To expose injustice by sharing the facts related to their problems with government and the general public.
3. To push government or stakeholders to help communities resolve their problems.
4. To hold companies and government officers accountable.


1. Surjadi, with partners, created two new communication channels: RuaiSMS and TempoSMS.
2. Developed a training module and a trainers' team in each media
3. Trained community members - they have trained more than 600 community members in five provinces
4. Trained community members to send facts/information via SMSes through RuaiSMS and TempoSMS
5. RuaiSMS and TempoSMS published the SMSes on RuaiTV news tickers and online via TempoSMS online (http://indonesiana.tempo.co/kanal/temposms/) to make them available for general public
6. Forwarded the SMSes to the local and national goverment officers who were supposedly responsible for resolving the problems exposed by community members.


1. Surjadi and partners developed a grassroots communication model as a new model of a communication channels through mainstream media
2. Using low technology - SMS - as a reporting tool
3. Using open source software - FrontlineSMS - for media as a crowd source model
4. Showing that through communication, community members could help themselves to cope with problems.


1. At least two conflicts between communities and oil palm plantations have been resolved after they reported facts relating to the problems through RuaiSMS.
2. The communities have also successfully held the local government accountable and exposed petty corruption by the heads of villages.
3. The program has helped communities to push local government to work properly in helping communities that are facing disasters (floods).
4. The community successfully reported on a company that was involved in illegal logging.




The biggest challenges:
1. Lack of funding to train more community members throughout Indonesia and fund the cost of sending SMSes.
2. The technology in sending SMSes would be more efficient and less costly through using Twitter or Whats App or online SMSes.

The challenge is how to integrate Twitter or Whats App or any messenger system through the established systems.

3. Going to the next level - by shaping a new media model that belongs to communities, or a separate media outlet from the mainstream media (RuaiTV and Tempo).


1. Mainstream media in Indonesia served only the middle class population and up, and had forgotten the people at the bottom of population pyramid.
The indigenous people communities were neglected and dissociated from mainstream media.
2. When mainstream media was opened and made accessible to communities it could help the communities find solutions for their problems.
3. By opening access, the media shared its power with communities in resolving their problems.
4. Low tech such as SMS could be used in mainstream media as reporting tools.
5. Community members have the capacity to send reports in the form of facts and data to mainstream media.
6. The communication model could be implemented in any countries and with any mainstream media.
7. It was an open system, no copyright.