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Indonesia Attempts to Address Digital Divide in Education

The government has vowed to address Indonesia’s perennial education problems, such as the lack of equal access to digital technology and high-quality education, which have only been exacerbated by a COVID-19 pandemic that has forced many schoolchildren online.

The country has for the longest time put education funding on a pedestal, with a regular allotment of 20% of the state budget mandated by the 1945 Constitution. In 2022, the government’s entire education budget stands at Rp 541.7 trillion (US$37.9 billion). However, efforts to evenly develop the sector across the archipelago have been less than ideal, despite the funds, given the size of the population and the geographical challenges of infrastructure building.

Kick-starting the nation’s G20 activities in the education sector, the Education, Culture, Research and Technology Ministry has said that COVID-19 has further exposed Indonesia’s deeply rooted problems. As a result of the nation’s wide digital divide, for instance, students, especially those in vulnerable communities and impoverished population groups, have been facing the brunt of cognitive learning loss.

Inequality in education has actually been around for a long time. The pandemic has opened our eyes to the fact that education is in crisis, and we must deal with this together. Since COVID-19 swept throughout the world, schools have been locked down and students were forced to migrate online, robbing them of opportunities to socialise and develop skills that need to be learned in person.

The Indonesian government, while convinced that online classes cannot effectively replace face-to-face learning, has been unable to overcome the obstacles to online learning, such as the lack of equal access to the internet and devices, or poor digital literacy among teachers. Even as authorities resumed limited classroom learning earlier this year, the recent surge in COVID-19 cases has led to another tightening of activity restrictions, putting the issue of learning loss once again.

This pandemic is an opportunity for us to be more enthusiastic in rethinking and rebuilding a better education system that is more inclusive, fair and of high quality.

– Anindito Aditomo, Head of Ministry’s Educational Standards, Curriculum and Assessment Agency

Under its G20 presidency, the Education Minister, Nadiem Makarim said Indonesia will prioritise four main issues at the G20 Education Working Group (EdWG): quality universal education, the use of digital technologies, forging solidarity and partnerships and building a post-COVID-19 workforce. With the spirit to recover and rise together, the Education Minister invites everyone to strengthen mutual cooperation to succeed under Indonesia’s G20 presidency and realise merdeka belajar, merdeka berbudaya (freedom to learn, freedom to be cultured).

As reported by OpenGov Asia, in the measurement of the Indonesia Digital Literacy Index 2021, Digital Culture has the highest score. The pillar of Digital Culture was recorded with a score of 3.90 on a scale of 5 or good. Furthermore, the pillars of Digital Ethics (digital ethics) with a score of 3.53 and Digital Skills with a score of 3.44. Meanwhile, the Digital Safety pillar got the lowest score (3.10) or slightly above average. The measurement of this digital literacy index is not only to find out the status of digital literacy in Indonesia but also to ensure that efforts to increase people’s digital literacy are more targeted.

The four pillars that form the Digital Literacy Index are measured annually by the Ministry of Communication and Informatics. This year the Indonesian Digital Literacy Index is at a score of 3.49 or at a moderate and close to a good stage. The use of the four pillars in this measurement refers to the 2020-2024 Indonesia Digital Literacy Roadmap compiled by the Ministry of Communication and Information, based on previous national research and refers to similar measurements held by UNESCO.

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