Since its establishment in 1967, plenty of efforts have been made to strengthen cooperation within ASEAN, as well as to reach the goal of the ASEAN Community by 2015.
As stated by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY) at the opening of the 44th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting in Bali in July, ASEAN is no longer just walking at a leisurely pace. ASEAN is beginning to run, and run faster. ASEAN should run faster because the region and the world are running even faster.
To run and to realize an ASEAN Community by 2015, many things have been done intensively to implement the rules and regulations of the ASEAN Charter, which was ratified by all ASEAN member states in December 2008.
Since the ASEAN Charter comprises only basic provisions, in 13 chapters and 55 articles, it is necessary to develop those basic provisions into rules and policies to be implemented. Here, there are battles of ideas among all parties concerned over the interpretation of the Charter’s basic provisions and its delivery to the people.
In the midst of these battles of ideas and the interpretation process of the Charter’s basic provisions and the ASEAN Community 2015 just a step ahead, where are the bloggers? What is their contribution to the establishment of the ASEAN Community by 2015?
All those questions have come up since we realize that one of the key areas for the successful development of the ASEAN Community is that it must be people-centered and people-driven. In the era of information and communication technology (ICT), bloggers play pivotal roles in engaging people-to-people contact. Alongside the mainstream media, bloggers can utilize blogs as a new media to bring key information to the public.
A blog, an abbreviation of the term web log, is a type of personal website with regular entries such as opinion pieces, commentaries, descriptions of events, or other materials such as graphics or videos. People who upload this content for public viewing are referred to as bloggers. Since its first development in the early 2000s, blogging has been growing rapidly, with blogs becoming a new medium for the dissemination of news and information.
Blogs provide us with opportunities to: first, open up issues for wider discussion when somebody don’t necessarily have all the answers; second, add depth, context and personal angles to issues somebody is working on; third, engage in conversations that somebody knows are taking place elsewhere on the web; and fourth, engage in online social activities.
Moreover, blogging is not just about bloggers talking to bloggers. Blogging is a tool for people to speak informally with their target audience about specific issues.
With rapid developments in ICT, blogging has also developed rapidly and has become more accessible for Internet users. According to blogpulse.com, it is estimated that there are now 176.5 million blogs around the world, with around 100,000 new blogs being formed every day.
In Indonesia, according to salingsilang.com, with only a few blogs in the beginning of the year 2000, there are now 5.2 millions blogs out of 84.7 million Internet users in Indonesia. Bloggers are highly active in online activities including open discussions, and engage in conversations with people via their blogs as well as other social media i.e. Facebook and Twitter.
Bloggers have established communities in many big cities, for example the Bunderan Hotel Indonesia Blogger Community in Jakarta, Bekasi Blogger Community in Bekasi, West Java, and Cah Andong Blogger Community in Yogyakarta. These groups actively conduct and organize various blogger gatherings such as Pesta Blogger in Jakarta (2007-2010) and Amprokan Blogger, which was organized by Blogger Bekasi in Bekasi (2010 and 2011) as well as implementing community care programs such as the 1000 Books Movement, Jalin Merapi and Free Prita Mulyasari.
With bloggers playing increasingly pivotal roles, several big media companies in Indonesia such as Kompas and The Jakarta Post daily newspaper have also set up their own blogs (Kompasiana and IMO) to engage with their readers to share ideas and take a part in the community development process called citizen journalism.
With this important role in view, Indonesian bloggers also took the initiative to establish and declare an ASEAN Blogger Community Indonesian chapter (ABC-Indonesia) on May 10, 2011. This was the first blogger community in ASEAN, and most probably in the world where bloggers get together and share concerns in regards to regional issues.
In its declaration, ABC-Indonesia aims to, first, assist efforts to strengthen ASEAN integration and encourages people-to-people contact; second, give input on the three pillars of ASEAN cooperation (political and security, economic and sociocultural); third, facilitate communication among bloggers and the public through blogs, social media and offline activities; fourth, organize activities to encourage bloggers and public engagement in the framework of ASEAN cooperation; and fifth, establish blogger forums to contain and convey information on ASEAN.
As reflected in President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s at the opening of ASEAN Ministerial Meeting, the public welcomes the establishment of ABC-Indonesia and sees it as an innovative idea to promote people-to-people contact. This statement is indeed recognition and a boost to the bloggers’ role.
In the wake of its formation, ABC-Indonesia is facing challenges in translating its aims into a roadmap and programs that are beneficial to the people. In this regard, the first ASEAN blogger conference (initiated by ABC-Indonesia) in Bali on Nov. 16-17, 2011 just ahead of the ASEAN Summit, is a significant step toward setting up a strategic ASEAN Blogger Community network and blogger’s road map to enhance ASEAN awareness.
The ASEAN Blogger Community is not just about a community for bloggers from ASEAN member states — it is a community where people can talk informally about ASEAN issues. It is also a blogger’s forum to convey ASEAN information and promote public participation to realize the ASEAN Community by 2015 without having to wait for initiatives from the governments of ASEAN member states.
The writer is the founder and adviser of the ASEAN Blogger Community Indonesia chapter and aseanblogger.com.