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Smarter Cities

When A Remote Indonesian Village Plugs Into The Internet

Villagers in the mountain outpost of Melung are among the few in rural Indonesia who can solve daily problems - and sell their products - thanks to an onsite Internet connection.

Kasiem and her husband online
Kasiem and her husband online
Guruh Riyanto, KBR
Guruh Riyanto

MELUNGIn Indonesia, not everyone has access to the Internet, and it is quite rare to be able to connect in rural and mountain locations.

But one village on the slopes of Mount Slamet, in Java, is an exception, and residents here have been surfing the net for years now.

Here we met Kasiem, who's had a particular problem in tending to her paddy field. "There are so many rats here," she says. "I don't know where they come from. They come during the night and eat everything in the rice field."

So she and her husband searched online for solutions. "We found out how to make organic fertilizer through the Internet," Kasiem says. "We learn a lot from it. Our plants were attacked by worms, rats, and I found how to deal with them via the Internet. We've practiced what we've learned, and it works."

The head of Melung village, Khoirudin, says they started the Internet project four years ago. "We now have one server and seven Internet access points in the village that villagers can use to access knowledge."

And it's not just farmers who see the benefits. Eighth-grade student Linda says she uses the Internet to help her with school work.

"I learn from Google, using the wi-fi connection on my cellphone," she says. "It helps me learn a lot about physics and math. We can access any information we need."

The idea to create an Internet village came from the former village head, Agung Budi Satrio, who says that before the project, residents had to travel down the mountain to
Purwokerto. "Information is very important for us, to get the most up-to-date news, so we will not be left behind," Satrio says. "We've tried subscribing to newspapers, but it isn't very satisfactory. We usually get the paper a day late.”

Under his leadership, the village invested in building the necessary infrastructure, and he even used up his own savings to get it done.

"We collected around $600, using money from village and school funds, also from my own pocket," he says. "In mid-2010, we built three Internet access points. The following year, the local government said they needed the Internet too. So they built their own access points. So now we have seven."

Local farmers are now using the Internet to tell the world about their village, and to advertise their products online on the village website.

"For us, the Internet is not just about finding out information, but about us giving them information," Satrio says. "So there's a balance. Villages must have a voice, so we have a balance of information coming in and going out. We also share information with the outside world.”

Advertising on the website has increased sales of farmers' products and as a result, the village's annual income has increased by 30%.

Thanks to the Internet, farmer Taufik can deal directly with his buyers. "We had a buyer who came from Jakarta," he says. "He found out about us and our products from the Internet. They came to us directly."

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How Brazil's Evangelical Surge Threatens Survival Of Native Afro-Brazilian Faith

Followers of the Afro-Brazilian Umbanda religion in four traditional communities in the country’s northeast are resisting pressure to convert to evangelical Christianity.

image of Abel José, an Umbanda priest

Abel José, an Umbanda priest

Agencia Publica
Géssica Amorim

Among a host of images of saints and Afro-Brazilian divinities known as orixás, Abel José, 42, an Umbanda priest, lights some candles, picks up his protective beads and adjusts the straw hat that sits atop his head. He is preparing to treat four people from neighboring villages who have come to his house in search of spiritual help and treatment for health ailments.

The meeting takes place discreetly, in a small room that has been built in the back of the garage of his house. Abel lives in the quilombo of Sítio Bredos, home to 135 families. The community, located in the municipality of Betânia of Brazil’s northeastern state of Pernambuco, is one of the municipality’s four remaining communities that have been certified as quilombos, the word used to refer to communities formed in the colonial era by enslaved Africans and/or their descendents.

In these villages there are almost no residents who still follow traditional Afro-Brazilian religions. Abel, Seu Joaquim Firmo and Dona Maura Maria da Silva are the sole remaining followers of Umbanda in the communities in which they live. A wave of evangelical missionary activity has taken hold of Betânia’s quilombos ever since the first evangelical church belonging to the Assembleia de Deus group was built in the quilombo of Bredos around 20 years ago. Since then, other evangelical, pentecostal, and neo-pentecostal churches and congregations have established themselves in the area. Today there are now nine temples spread among the four communities, home to roughly 900 families.

The temples belong to the Assembleia de Deus, the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and the World Church of God's Power, the latter of which has over 6,000 temples spread across Brazil and was founded by the apostle and televangelist Valdemiro Santiago, who became infamous during the pandemic for trying to sell beans that he had blessed as a Covid-19 cure. Assembleia de Deus alone, who are the largest pentecostal denomination in the world, have built five churches in Betânia’s quilombos.

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