Women are agents of change

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Martha Simanjuntak, Founder of Indonesian Women’s IT Awareness (IWITA). (photo: IO/Yoga)

IO, Jakarta – Living in the digital age, Indonesian women must be technologically responsive. Women should walk equally as men in living their lives; therefore, they must learn to keep abreast of the times.

In a special conversation with Independent Observer, Martha Simanjuntak told about the beginning of establishing Indonesian Women’s IT Awareness (IWITA) in 2009. At that time, Atha, her nickname, realized that women were still very poor in using technology. “I’m not a technical person, but I know technology can improve a person’s productivity,” she said.

She also stressed that Indonesian women should be able to wisely undergo two roles, both as housewives and career women who master technological responsiveness.

IWITA is a technologically-responsive Women Association that invites Indonesian women to be not obsolete with the advancement of technology world. “Because women are the driving force, so we prefer to empower women,” she said.

Based on data from internet association services, male users number 51 %, while females are at 49%. For technology, most women only use the internet, while men create it.

Nine years after founding IWITA, Atha is grateful that this organization is already active in 8 provinces, starting from East Java, East Nusa Tenggara, Papua, Maluku, South Sulawesi, East Kalimantan, West Kalimantan and Jakarta. “This is for women’s opportunities to be more powerful. In the future we want to be present in all provinces,” she said.

During the first 5 years after the founding of IWITA, the organization is still focused on Jakarta. As I was growing older, IWITA expanded into rural regions. “Because we see in Jakarta is already a lot of access to information,” she said.

“If women’s opportunities in the region are still far away, they need equalization so that the city and the village have the same opportunities. Now the government through Kemeninfo (Communications and Information Ministry) has arranged for internet networks to be accessed easily. Although this is not an easy job, but at least they can be improved. The hard work of the government needs our appreciation, but it must be parallel with humans because humans are managing it all. When humans are not educated with technology, it can be imagined how negative impacts can occur,” she continued.

IWITA can grow so far because many of its programs are implemented with the Ministry of Women Empowerment, the Ministry of Communications and Informatics, the Ministry of Cooperatives and Small and Medium Enterprises and the Industry Ministry.

“IWITA cannot be like it is today if it is not in collaboration with other parties. The power of our collaboration. With collaboration, our members can be empowered. So we need cooperation among government, academic, industry, and civil society” she said.

Women in the digital age
IWITA’s mission is to educate women through Information and Communication Technology. Therefore, now IWITA has hundreds of thousands of members spread across various locations in Indonesia.

Currently we are still in revolution 3.0, that is content and connectivity. However, we are heading for the 4.0 industry revolution, where humans will be replaced by machines.

For Atha, it is important for a woman to master the internet. “Now we see in terms of parenting, and finding information about schoolchildren which can be through the internet. Consequently, women can nurture and guide children in learning,” she said.

The solution to the growth of negative internet content is not by blocking. That’s not enough. In fact it will appear. What is more important is by motivating and educating the public by creating positive content.

Atha said women should be smart and technologically literate. In accordance with the tagline of IWITA, the realization of Indonesian women is to be responsive to Information Technology through awareness, learning, implementation in community life and socialization so that women can participate  in the economic development of Indonesia.

Changing perceptions is a challenge for women to advance in the world of information technology. “Because if perception cannot be changed, it is difficult to get a woman to move forward,” she explained.

In the future, Atha hopes there will be more and more Indonesian women who use smart information technology. “Hopefully women should be a smart mother who  can choose good and bad and how to use the opportunities that exist for positive things,” she concluded. (Dessy Aipipidely)