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The Potential of Emerging Online Policy Communities: Cases of Indonesia

Research Topic
The potential of emerging online policy communities: Cases of Indonesia

Lead Researcher
Masaaki Okamoto, Professor, Center for Southeast Asian Studies, Kyoto University

Joint Researcher
Akihiro Kameda, Specially Appointed Assistant Professor, National Museum of Japanese History


In this research project, the following two points will be clarified by considering 35 municipalities in Indonesia as case studies: What policy areas are likely to generate policy communities in online spaces? What is the meaning of such communities to local communities?


With the rapid digitization of every emerging country, it is commonplace to speak out about issues and events on social media sites, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, WeChat, and Line. As for Southeast Asia, it is during elections that the online space becomes most active in relation to public life, with fierce cyber election battles unfolding between communities surrounding the candidates. On the other hand, what about the statements on social media about administrative services provided by local governments, which are more of a routine matter than elections? In Southeast Asia, most countries are attempting to decentralize. At least in principle, the need for public participation in local governance is called for there. Therefore, participation in politics via social media services is likely to be important.


In addition, in order to deal with various problems such as traffic congestion and air pollution resulting from rapid urbanization, the Smart City Initiative utilizing IoT has been promoted at a rapid pace. Here, too, the voices of citizens in cyberspace has become increasingly important. However, there are still few social media studies on local governance even in developed countries, while we can easily find social media studies on elections. For this reason, we will focus on online communities for public services in Indonesia, which has a relatively stable democracy and is more decentralized than other Southeast Asian countries.


First, we will select a total of 35 municipalities, focusing on those with a lot of social media outlets or those with deep social cleavages and problems. Then, we will analyze social media statements related to policy areas for which local governments are generally responsible, such as COVID-19 countermeasures, and examine what kind of policy communities can be found in cyberspace for each policy area, or cannot be found at all. As a social media platform, our analysis will focus on Twitter, which is openly accessible, has a high capacity to stimulate public opinion, and is used by about 60% of the working-age population of Indonesia who use the Internet (as of January 2021).


Our hypothesis is as follows: For urgent or sensational topics in local governance, such as COVID-19 countermeasures or cracking down on corruption among local elites, policy communities with diverse actors will appear. On the other hand, for education or housing policies, narrower communities with more limited actors will be formed. We believe that the latter is more likely to engender a higher risk that the comments of a few will lead to policy changes.