Indonesian ministry to honor Baduy people’s demand for internet blackout

The reclusive Baduy Dalam, dubbed the Amish of Asia by Western media, have chosen to live in the forest and reject technology, money and modern education.

Nina A. Loasana

Nina A. Loasana

The Jakarta Post


Baduy people go about their lives in Kanekes village on Oct. 15, 2017.(Shutterstock/ Learnmoreandmore)

June 13, 2023

JAKARTA – The Communications and Information Ministry has said it will honor a request from the indigenous Baduy people of Banten to cut off internet service in their core villages, as the community seeks to prevent the online world from having a “negative impact” on its youth.

“We will honor their wish to protect their tradition, values and local wisdom from the wave of modernization,” the ministry’s director general for public information and communications, Usman Kansong, told The Jakarta Post on Monday.

“We are currently talking to internet providers in the area to discuss what actions we should take.”

The Baduy are a community of around 26,000 people who live in 65 villages in Lebak regency, Banten. The tribe divides itself into an outer group called the Baduy Luar, who have partially adopted modern technology, and a sacred inner group called the Baduy Dalam, who shun the trappings of contemporary life.

On June 1, the inner group sent a letter to Lebak Regent Iti Octavia Jayabaya asking her to shut down internet access or divert the signal from nearby telecommunications towers so that it would not reach them.

Representatives of the tribe asked Lebak authorities to cut internet access in the three villages where the inner group live: Cikeusik, Cibeo and Cikartawarna.

They argued that telecommunications towers built near their area could threaten their way of life and the morals of their young people, who might be tempted to use the internet.

The reclusive Baduy Dalam, dubbed the Amish of Asia by Western media, have chosen to live in the forest and reject technology, money and modern education.  

They reside in three villages in a 4,000-hectare area several hours’ drive from Jakarta. The government declared the area a cultural conservation site in 1990.

The communications ministry, Usman said, would enact the internet blackout request once it received the Baduy Dalam people’s letter to the Lebak administration.

“The Lebak administration said it would forward the Baduy Dalam people’s request letter to the ministry, but as of today, we have not received it,” Usman said.

“While waiting for the letter, we’re conducting informal discussions with the cellular operators in the area about the technicalities and requirements for an internet blackout so that we know what policy to enact, when, and whether we will divert the signal or cut it off entirely,” Usman added.

Read also: Baduy people request internet blackout

Lebak official Budi Santoso said the administration would also support the Baduy Dalam’s request to shut down internet access in their villages.

“Essentially, we want to always accommodate what the Baduy people want and need to maintain their traditions and local wisdom. We are concerned visitors or tourists could access the web and show content [the Baduy people] view as inappropriate to [them],” Budi told AFP last week.

Budi added that internet access would still be available in Baduy Luar villages, as it was crucial for members of the outer group who owned online businesses.

IT experts say that even without internet services, the inner group could still make phone calls and send and receive text messages through cellular networks.

The Baduy Dalam people’s request came amid ongoing state efforts to expand and improve internet services in underdeveloped regions.

In 2020, the government launched an initiative to build 4G base transceiver stations (BTS) in frontier, outermost and remote regions (3T). It aimed to erect some 7,000 4G BTS towers in locations with poor connectivity by 2024.

The project was embroiled in a graft scandal that cost the state an estimated Rp 8.1 trillion (US$544.8 million) and led to the arrest of then-communications and information minister Johnny G. Plate last month.

Nonetheless, the government has insisted on continuing the project “so that further state losses can be avoided”.

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