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Published: Oct 24, 2008

Michael Cookson

 
   Mapping Papua on the web
   Touchgraph search

Inside Indonesia’s last review of web-based resources for Papua in 2001 inspired the creation of the World Wide Web Virtual Library for Papua (see www.papuaweb.org/vl). The virtual library hosted by Papuaweb.org is an annotated list of web-links related to Papua. Since 2001 there has been a tremendous increase in the volume of coverage of Papua on the web and those of us involved in the virtual library do our best to keep up. As well as a lot of Papua-specific sites, some general sites are worth investigating for their Papua content. Social networking in and on Papua is also a growing trend. This article is meant as a guide through these resources. The hotlinks show the reader how to navigate through the web to find Papua-related sites, using the virtual library for Papua as a starting point.

Papua-specific sites

There is a range of websites which privilege Papua-related content and are run by individuals and groups who consider themselves to be key stakeholders in Papua. Prominent websites in this category include local media (www.papuaweb.org/vl/www/01.html) as well as the local administrations of Papua and West Papua and their elected officials (www.papua.go.id and www.ijbprov.go.id). Some Indonesian national government agencies with branch offices in these provinces also have dedicated Papua websites. Government institutions are responsible for a variety of services to communities in Papua. They are typically well-funded and their web-presence is an important mechanism by which they promote public accountability and build popular legitimacy (www.papuaweb.org/vl/www/02.html). The state universities of Papua and West Papua have a similar public mandate and as educational institutions might be expected to be at the cutting edge of web innovation in the region. Yet their web presence (and that of more than a dozen private counterparts) is marginal. It is only through research collaborations like Papuaweb.org that Papua’s higher education institutions achieve significant web exposure (www.papuaweb.org/vl/www/08.html).

Several Papuan civil society organisations (CSOs) are represented on the web, but most of them struggle to build or maintain a web presence due to funding and other capacity constraints. Major religious groups in Papua have virtually no direct web-presence (www.papuaweb.org/vl/www/07.html) although the website of the Catholic Office of Justice and Peace serves has a bi-lingual information clearing-house for ecumenical and inter-faith campaigns in Papua (www.hampapua.org). FOKER, a secular Forum for Papuan non-government organisations (NGOs) helps create a web-profile for its members (www.fokerlsmpapua.org), but many smaller and regional NGOs are not in the Forum (see www.papuaweb.org/vl/www/05.html). Individuals and NGOs working inside Indonesia or abroad to promote Papuan rights and self-determination are also represented on the web (www.papuaweb.org/vl/www/06.html). Assorted other sites represent tourism operators, the primitive art market, and the interests of individuals or groups who have visited or worked in Papua (www.papuaweb.org/vl/www/03.html).

Other sites

A second important category of relevant sites is non-Papua specific websites with Papua content. These are frequently hosted by institutional actors, including Indonesian national government departments as well as bilateral or multilateral donors and agencies. Included in this category are international advisory groups (such as the International Crisis Group) and other international NGOs who today rely on a significant web presence to disseminate and promote their work. While some multilateral donors are influential enough to implement programs in Indonesian Papua with few administrative obstacles, most bilateral agencies and international NGOs are obliged to provide a clear rationale and justification for their work there. Many international aid initiatives in Papua for this reason are framed as part of broader national or international programs of action. This approach has helped foreign project partners to deal with the vagaries and political sensitivities of work in Papua and been crucial to the success of recent bilateral and international NGO programs (www.papuaweb.org/vl/www/02.html).

Papua’s history and culture is best represented on the web by cultural and government institutions outside Indonesia. There are no Papua-based museums, libraries or archives on the web and national institutions in Jakarta have little online content related to Papua. By contrast, the National Archive of The Netherlands hosts more than 6000 historical images related to New Guinea. Other sites in The Netherlands and elsewhere host significant digital collections of relevant documents, maps, photos, news-reel footage, radio broadcasts and multimedia material (www.papuaweb.org/vl/www/11.html). With a staggering 27000 objects online the Dutch Museum of Ethnology is the largest single repository of New Guinea artifacts on the web (www.rmv.nl/index.aspx?toplevel=collectie&identifier=423).

Papua’s history and culture is best represented on the web by cultural and government institutions outside Indonesia

Prominent multinationals include Papua in their suite of investments, capitalising on the fabulous resource wealth of the region. Freeport McMoran Copper and Gold, once predominately a Papua-based concern, has diversified its interests to minimise commercial risk and now has a global portfolio of assets worth more than US$100 billion. Others multinationals, like BP and BHP Billiton, also count Papua among their assets (www.papuaweb.org/vl/www/04.html). At the opposite end of the corporate spectrum are booksellers with publications about Papua. Reflecting the meager market for books on Papua, major Indonesian booksellers like Gramedia don’t even bother listing their Papua catalogue online. However, many Papua-related books are available online through the websites of not-for-profit organisations like PACE (www.papuaerfgoed.org) and Papuaweb (which hosts a new books page at www.papuaweb.org/dlib/baru/_buku.html). These online books may be supplemented by collections from digitisation projects like Project Gutenberg and Google Books (www.papuaweb.org/vl/www/11.html).

Social networking

Social networking sites with Papua content are an emerging phenomenon on the web. None of these sites have a major stake in Papua. With innovative and easy to use content management systems these sites have transformed the web from the preserve of technologically savvy elites into a truly public domain. Social networking sites (like Myspace and Facebook), new blog sites and image and video sites (like flickr and YouTube) are beginning to attract the interest of people in – or interested in – Papua. Papua is appearing on social networking sites in concerned members groups (see the ‘West Papua cause’ on Facebook at http://apps.facebook.com/causes/15221) and through the desire of individuals to find a space of their own on the web (see http://profile.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=user.viewprofile&friendid=149378032). Other users are discovering that blogs (web-logs) are a convenient way of presenting news and views on Papua (see the website of Elsham Papua and their subsequent blogs at www.elshamnewsservice.tk, http://elshamnewsservice.wordpress.com and http://ipahr.wordpress.com). A list of blogs on Papua is available online (www.papuaweb.org/vl/www/01.html).

Online multimedia repositories are another important and rapidly growing form of social networking. The ‘Papua’ and ‘West Papua’ pools on flickr have thousands of photos and provide a forum for members to share, sell or discuss their images (www.flickr.com/groups/papua and www.flickr.com/groups/westpapua). Other image repositories also have large ‘West Papua’ collections (see http://picasaweb.google.com and http://photobucket.com) while sites like Panoramio merge Google Earth technology with photos from around the world (visit the new Swiss-Bel Hotel at www.panoramio.com/photo/5662822). YouTube, Google video and other video repositories host growing collections of past and recent footage related to Papua.

Social networking sites appear to offer relative anonymity with few commercial or political restrictions. Many people say the web is an inherently democratic technology which encourages free speech. Such presumptions embolden web-based critiques and commentary about Papua. However, the role of the web in cultural change is poorly understood.

Go ogle without Google

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   Web-resources on Papua (Redzee search)

Finally a word about searching for Papua-related material. Google is the most popular search engine on the web, but it is not without its limitations. Google Corporation remains tight-lipped about its search technology and criteria for ranking web-resources. Choosing the right search terms is crucial to your results (Papua, West Papua, West New Guinea, West Irian, Irian Jaya, Nieuw Guinea, etc) but few of us realise the importance of choosing the right search engine. Standard alternatives to Google are worth considering, such as Yahoo www.yahoo.com, Altavista (www.altavista.com) and Hotbot (www.altavista.com) - or you can help rank web resources for Papua yourself by using Digg (http://digg.com). Blog sites are often best found with a blog search engine like Technorati (http://technorati.com), while other sites like Ditto allow you to view stills of mixed media (www.ditto.com). You can also find answers to your questions about Papua online (www.ask.com) or preview websites before you open them with Redzee technology (www.redzee.com). Search engines like Clusty group results by topic or category (http://clusty.com) while others like Touchgraph use similar clustering principles to visually depict the relationship of different web resources to one another (www.touchgraph.com/TGGoogleBrowser.html). And remember, when searching for web-resources on Papua it pays to be creative and when using web-based material about Papua it pays to be critical.

The web in Papua

This article has discussed web-based resources about Papua and the structural changes and innovations in the way individuals and groups are using this information. In 2001, there were severe infrastructure constraints to internet access in Papua. Since then, the major expansion of a ‘third generation’ (3G) telephone network across the 36 district capitals of Papua and West Papua has made high-speed wireless connectivity possible. Today the main constraint on internet uptake in the region is not technical; it is a socio-political malaise across the region. Addressing this challenge requires the financial resources and political commitment of all levels of government to improving educational and economic opportunities for disadvantaged and disaffected communities across Papua and West Papua. Such measures, together with the effective implementation of existing policies and programs, may help build peace and prosperity. The web has an important role in helping to promote transparency, accountability and social capital. It can become a tool to help local communities realise their aspirations to renew Papua.     ii

Mike Cookson (michael.cookson@anu.edu.au) is the webmaster of www.papuaweb.org and recently completed a PhD on Indonesian Papua at the Australian National University.

 

Inside Indonesia 94: Oct-Dec 2008