Human Rights

Short-term Internet Shutdown in Bali Tied to Holiday

The Indonesian province of Bali has asked mobile providers to shut down customers’ access to the Internet during Nyepi, a Hindu holiday known as the Day of Silence.

Mobile Internet access will be cut off at 6 a.m. local time Saturday, March 17, and the island’s airport will also close for 24 hours during the New Year celebration. Other Internet access will be available during the holiday, the Bali government said.

Internet advocates oppose shutdowns, saying they can hurt local economies and endanger users who depend on connections to contact emergency and health services. Internet shutdowns cost countries $2.4 billion in 2015, according to a Brookings Institute study.

“In a globally connected world, social and economic freedoms depend on reliable access to the Internet,” Sally Shipman Wentworth, the Internet Society’s vice president of global policy development, wrote in Quartz recently. “The internet is the lifeline to the global economy and each shutdown contributes to a more divided world.”

Without Internet access, many business activities are also disrupted, she said. Digital payments can’t be made, contracts can’t be signed, and data in the cloud can’t be accessed.

Although the Internet outage in Bali is limited, it can create problems for people, said Zak Rogoff, campaign fellow for Access Now’s KeepItOn campaign, which tracks Internet shutdowns. Journalism, business, online education services, and web-based communications are among the activities that will be affected, he noted.

“Even a partial shutdown for apparently benign reasons has serious effects on freedom of expression, information, and association,” he said. “Though some Balinese may choose to refrain from these activities on Nyepi anyway, other people within Bali’s religiously diverse society will also be swept up in the shutdown.”

Internet outages during holidays and festivals are not confined to Bali, and they also happen regularly in Pakistan, India, and other countries, Rogoff said.

Shutdowns can weaken investor confidence in country economies, and “set a bad precedent which can be leaned on by governments to suppress political activity during elections or unrest,” Rogoff added.  “As connectivity and reliance on the Internet grows, so does their harmful impact.”

While the Bali shutdown is a limited one, several other countries have enforced long-term outages in recent months:

  • The government of India has repeatedly cut off Internet users, particularly in the disputed Kashmir region, where there were 19 shutdowns between mid-2016 and mid-2017.
  • Iran began blocking some Internet service on Dec. 30 to combat large-scale protests.
  • The Houthis, a northern insurgent group in Yemen, has shut down the Internet for short stretches, and it has also blocked some sites and throttled Internet speeds.
  • Access Now counted 61 shutdowns worldwide in the first three quarters of 2017. India, Pakistan, Iraq, Turkey, and Syria were the countries with the most shutdowns, with India the leader by far.

In Bali, many Hindus observe four prohibitions – no fire, travel, activity, or entertainment – during the Nyepi holiday. While Indonesia is a majority Muslim country, more than 80 percent of Bali residents are Hindu.

“Many Hindu people are addicted to gadgets,” the BBC quoted Hinduism Society head Gusti Ngurah Sudiana as saying. “I hope during Nyepi they can be introspective.”

Religious, civil, and law enforcement leaders asked the Bali government for the mobile Internet shutdown. This year is the first time the government approved the request, after denying it last year, the BBC reported.

Part of the reason for the shutdown request was to prevent tourists from taking selfies during the holiday, a representative of Parisada Hindu Dharma Indonesia, the country’s leading authority on Hinduism, told

In recent years, many governments are placing a greater emphasis on national security and political control than on personal data privacy. “The result is the mainstreaming of shutdowns,” Nicolas Seidler, senior policy adviser at the Internet Society, told the Daily Dot.

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Community Projects IETF Open Internet Standards

IETF Outreach in Singapore, Indonesia and the Philippines 2016

The initial idea for the IETF Outreach initiative came to me during my first IETF, when I noticed that there were very few people attending/participating in the IETF meeting who were from Asia-Pacific outside of Japan, China and India.

Yes, the Asia-Pacific is a region of great contrast – but in today’s age, what binds the countries together is the Internet and the value it provides on many dimensions. All are interested in furthering the use of online technologies, a secure Internet and maximizing the opportunities the Internet provides.

Seeing the limited participation from many parts of Asia-Pacific, I got to thinking of what we could do to change that. After discussing with my colleagues and many well-wishers from the Internet community, I started putting together a plan of action on how this initiative could take shape.

With the very kind support of the APRICOT-APAN 2015 Executive Committee and the Internet Society Asia-Pacific Bureau who provided funding and programmatic support, I was able to see my initiative come to life with the IETF Outreach programme being implemented in Indonesia, Singapore and the Philippines through the first half of 2016.

Our outreach has been to students and professionals through technical community meetings, ICT community-operated workspaces, tertiary institutions, technical/professional associations, private companies and network operator groups.

We reached out not only in the capital cities but other cities too e.g. Surabaya, the second largest city in Indonesia with a population of 2.8 million and an extended metropolitan area of 9 million inhabitants and, Cebu City, one of the most densely populated urban centres in the Philippines where the population is less than 23 years old. 

Yes, we had some challenges – and a tight timeline – but with the support of the Internet Society Asia-Pacific Team, and our partners in the three countries, we were able to deliver localized programmes that generated much interest and helped with spreading greater awareness of what the IETF does and how one could get involved in the Internet standards-making process.

I would like to acknowledge the assistance and commitment of our country mentors and partners – Yudho and Garin in Indonesia, Harish and Olivia in Singapore, Nestor and Benjz in the Philippines – who helped us achieve our goals.

Through their efforts, we were able to reach nearly 800 people over 13 events in the three countries – and we are not done yet – with more to come! We already expect at least 2 Internet Drafts to come out of this exercise, which is really promising and an early endorsement of our efforts!

Development Growing the Internet Internet Exchange Points (IXPs)

IXPs level up in emerging Asia-Pacific

There are currently some 80 or so active Internet exchange points (IXP) operating in Asia-Pacific, according to a database maintained by Packet Clearing House. These are in various stages of development, having as little as 2 to as many as 170 participants, but more than half are concentrated in developed markets like Japan and New Zealand. Most emerging economies in the region only have one or two, and more than 20 countries—most of them in the Pacific—do not have a single IXP.

We have written at length about the benefits of having a carrier-neutral IXP. Costs and delays associated with having to rely on international transit providers are reduced when ISPs can freely exchange local traffic in a local facility—much like using the local post to have your package delivered straight to your cousin in the next village, instead of having it shipped out of and back into the country before it reaches their doorstep. What follows is a more competitive playing field, especially for smaller ISPs, and better quality of service overall. Having more direct routes is becoming even more relevant as more Internet users access bandwidth-heavy content, such as videos, or services like VoIP, which has a low tolerance for latency.

But if IXPs bring in such good gains, why aren’t there more of them? Proportions vary, but pundits like to say that building an IXP is 80% human and 20% technical engineering. It can take as little as US$ 5,000 to put together the physical infrastructure—some routers, switches and cables– but it takes a lot more time and effort to have competing ISPs come together to share a common resource for mutual advantage.

There are different ways by which local communities build momentum. In the Philippines, it was a small ISP that took the plunge and connected to the country’s then newly established open Internet exchange, PhOpenIX at a time when others remained skeptical of its value. In September last year, we helped the Department of Science and Technology-Advanced Science and Technology Institute (DOST-ASTI), which runs PhOpenIX, launch a second IXP in Cebu, in the Visayas region, by which time the IX in Manila, the capital, was interconnecting 43 networks, including major carriers, universities, cable operators, state agencies, hospitals and broadcast companies. In Thailand, a younger neutral IX, BKNIX, which we helped set-up in 2014, is on a similar trajectory.

Now nine years old, PhOpenIX is in many ways leveling up. It increased its capacity from 1Gb to 10Gb in 2015, and has attracted six DNS root server mirrors, as well as Google and Akamai caches—which now comprise the bulk of its traffic. It is reaching out to partners, both in the Philippines and abroad, and is looking into more sustainable funding and governance mechanisms—the focus of our follow-up session at last month’s PHNOG conference.

But with its expansion comes growing pains that many IXPs in the region, and around the world, may be familiar with. The incumbent has recently agreed to host a third PhOpenIX node and peer with the government network, but prefers to negotiate bilateral arrangements with other ISPs, a move that stakeholders fear would undermine trust in an ecosystem where all members have participated on equal terms—with everyone peering with everyone else—and could set a precedent for other operators to follow suit.

The local community is undoubtedly keen to have the incumbent, which currently controls more than 70% of the market, onboard, but it is more keen to have PhOpenIX growing as it has been—open, neutral and non-discriminatory–and to reap the many rewards that these bring, with or without the biggest player in town.

*Photo credit: Benjz Sevilla, Board Member, ISOC Philippines Chapter

To learn more about creating an Internet Exchange Point in your region, please visit our IXP Toolkit.

Improving Technical Security

Not a government-only duty: cybersecurity is a shared responsibility

‘The responsibility to ensure a secure and trusted cyber space is not to be left to governments only; it is an obligation to be filled by all stakeholders.’ This was the opening statement of the Minister of ICT, Republic of Indonesia at the Asia Internet Symposium Jakarta. The Indonesian government is currently deliberating the creation of a national cyber security agency, which is expected to be operational next year, and a national cyber security policy to bolster its cyber defence mechanisms.

Cybercrimes have affected Indonesia so much that in a statement, its defence minister warned that Indonesia was on the brink of a cyberwar.  Over the course of three years, there have been a staggering 36.6 million attacks on Internet networks. In monetary terms, the loss has been greater than Rp33.29 billion, a figure that is much higher than conventional bank robberies.  For much of 2013 and 2014, Indonesia has consistently ranked as one of the world’s top three sources of cyber-attacks. The Indonesia Security Incident Response Team on Internet Infrastructure (ID-SIRTII) reported a total number of 42 million intrusion stacks recorded during the first nine months of 2013, and 12,000 deface attempts on local websites during the same period.

AIS Jakarta was well-attended with over 180 participants on-site and over 50 around the world watching it live. This only attests to the importance of cybersecurity discussions and the corresponding interest from the community. Speakers from APNIC and Fortinet highlighted the importance of cross-country collaboration, and of utilising platforms such as national CERTs to enable the timely sharing of cyber security threats and vulnerability information. “By sharing information, we can be warned about likely attacks or specific problems coming ahead in our country.” Today’s cyber world is a sort of wild, wild west – a great paradox in that it can empower us to do good but can also be used to inflict harm. 

Internet Society’s Collaborative Security – an approach to tackling information security issues, was described and received attentive participation. Panellists from the National Defense University, ID-SIRTII, .id RegistryNational ISP Association and Ministry of ICT shared their views on:

  • The social impact of increased cyber attacks on Internet users
  • Incident reporting and rectification mechanisms that are in place, as well as required improvements to these
  • The cyber security prevention levels of the ISP industry and .id registry
  • An update on the government’s planned cybersecurity agency and details of their readiness index maintained by the Ministry
  • Requirements for technical capacity building and user awareness 
  • Present status of coordination, and gaps in ensuring strong collaboration among all stakeholders. 

Cybersecurity threats in and from Indonesia are real and costly. All concerned stakeholders including the government has stated that, ‘Indonesia must do more to counter this frightening situation’ – of course they ask and require more assistance from international and regional communities. Just as roads in Jakarta are full of traffic, the Indonesian Internet space is full of threats, intrusions and attacks – jamming the confidence, trust and socio-economic opportunities brought to us by Internet.

We need to act and act right now!

Growing the Internet Technology

Connecting the (other) rising Asian titan – Indonesia Internet development focus

The Asia-Pacific Bureau of Internet Society recently released a study on Internet development focusing on the ASEAN region.  To coincide with the launch a series of roadshow events (talking forum) are being held in the countries of study, the latest one in Jakarta in May, with the collaboration of Singapore-based research firm TRPC.

Indonesia, known as the other titan in the region, is the largest economy in ASEAN, the 9th largest economy in the world, and is a member of G-20 countries. It represents the third largest democracy in the world and is home to the largest and most active social and mobile media users. Indonesia is both an economic and social powerhouse at the cusp of a major transformation.

According to a 2015 study by Price Water House on future economic powerhouses, identified Indonesia as the 5th largest economy in the world by 2030 and 4th largest economy by 2050.

To realise its potential and goal to become a Digital Society, Indonesia will need to transform itself from a commodity export-driven economy to a more broad-based economy which supports its growing young population with strong appetite for the Internet/ICT. The leadership in the country realised this early on. Measures began, first by liberalising the ICT and telecom market just under a decade ago. It was one of the first few countries in the region to enact a national open source legislation in 2008, and embarked on a governance reform under the Open Government Initiative and Partnership which the country pioneered with 7 other countries in 2011. More recently, the introduction of ‘Made in Indonesia’ initiative promises to pave way in transforming the country into a leading ICT industry player.

According to our study, Indonesia has yet to fully reap the benefits of the Internet. There remain several chokepoints that require immediate attention on improving connectivity in terms of basic access, affordability, coverage and performance (speed).

  • Around one third (36%) of its population has access to the Internet today via wireless broadband and less than 16% from fixed broadband. Mobile broadband is twice the size of fixed broadband and has been experiencing high growth rates since 2003, while fixed broadband remains stagnant. However, compared to its neighbours across the Straits–Singapore, Brunei and Malaysia–Indonesia remains an uncompetitive market in all four areas.
  • As a low-income country, the price for basic Internet services remains unaffordable for the general public at more than 5% of Indonesia’s GNI. The recommended minimum by ITU is 5% of GNI. Even so, Indonesia’s cost remains moderately high compared to countries like Cambodia and Vietnam.
  • In terms of multiple device ownership, Indonesia has only 15% of users owning multiple devices/handsets. To address this, the Indonesian Government has announced a new initiative to promote locally made smart phones.
  • Access to international bandwidth is relatively small at around 1.030 kbps/capita–comparatively lower than Malaysia (15 kbps/capita) or the Philippines (5 kbps/capita). This is partly due to its geography (archipelago terrain) and a combination of fragmented local network and spotty coverage, especially in areas far from regional urban centres or in smaller islands with low population density. This also impacts the speed of Internet access.
  • Indonesia’s average download speed is comparative low (4.77 Mbps), well below both the region’s average of 18 Mbps and the global average of 20 Mbps.

But it also has a lot of capacity for growth. Mobile-first policies and wireless technology are the best bet in connecting the rest of the population.

In terms of regional supply of international bandwidth and its future demand, the study finds the ASEAN region already well invested with overcapacity built in for future demands.

However, national capacity remains an ongoing concern. Investment in backhaul network and backbone infrastructure is emphasized and will help determine future quality of service, performance, and adequate capacity built up to accommodate last mile connectivity and growing mobile and data traffic.

Another missing link are more neutral IXPs and carrier neutral facilities which can further boost cost efficiencies at several levels as well as surfacing latent demand in the local market.

In terms of new application and services, Indonesia to some extent has shown remarkable potential. The ISOC study cited the mobile money payment system, a collaboration between three network operators using the PoS network (online banking and ATM) to create a single payment platform. This is the first of its kind in the world. It is important to note that there is a high percentage of Indonesian that do not have access to banking services and at the same time are heavily dependent on foreign remittances. In fact, Indonesia’s migrant workers have been a key contributor to its growing adoption of new digital solutions, including prepaid SIM cards, mobile payment, and cash payment systems.

A recent report by InMobi identified Indonesia as one of the up and coming application development nations.  This comes as no surprise given that the Indonesian market is made up of a large youth population eager to experiment and create.  This is something the Indonesians and its policy makers have clearly expressed and is very keen to exploit.

In short, building the right ecosystem with Internet-friendly policies to enable interoperability and interconnectivity will be key to creating a digital society. An advantage is that policy makers adopt a mobile-centric development framework that compliments the country’s abundant resources and characteristics—a rising middle class and technology friendly population among them. Also noting that the need to build an innovative and entrepreneur culture in Indonesia will require a degree of openness both in policies and market mechanism that allow people and ideas to flow freely. Only then can Indonesia create a thriving new economy, run by Indonesians for Indonesians.