Open Access in Indonesia?

I have enjoyed and used the fruits of various Open Access works and initiatives, but to the best of my knowledge, there is not yet an established, comprehensive Open Access initiative in Indonesia. (Googling “Open Access Indonesia”, I found an Indonesian Open Access Initiative, unfortunately last updated four years ago.) In this writing, I am going to write down some observations and thoughts, based on my own modest experience navigating scholarly publications in Indonesia. Hopefully this sketch can contribute in mapping out the conditions and potentials of Open Access in developing worlds.

In Indonesia, we are seeing a number of Open Access initiatives growing in many forms, such as Open Access journals, archives of back volumes of journals, institutional repositories, and the development of Open Courseware. As of the time of this writing, 40 Indonesian Open Access journals are listed in the Directory of Open Access Journals, out of the 245 Scientific Journals in Indonesia. Some researchers/institutions also self-archive, compiling and archiving their writings online using their own personal websites/blogs, or services like academia.edu, slideshare, and issuu. These initiatives seem to be slightly sporadic. They may or may not be aware of Open Access movement, but the underlying aspiration seems to be similar: to increase exposure and use of published research. Publishing academic literature in open access mode also increases awareness and access to knowledge about less-heard developing nations like Indonesia, produced by the researchers, and thus advances the scholarship.

Like many other developing countries, most Indonesians face barriers in accessing scholarly literature. Internet access, while rapidly growing, is still distributed unequally along class and geographical lines. Except for a number of elite institutions, most students and universities cannot afford the cost of access to peer-reviewed journal databases. Access to some international journal databases is usually obtained through the Ministry of Education and Culture, General Director of Higher Education (DIKTI). To each university, DIKTI then assigns one single user login, which can be obtained from the university library. All students, lecturers and faculties must use the same login to access these databases, so DIKTI can monitor and compare the use of every database across various universities. Theoretically, sharing these login details outside the assigned university is prohibited, but I have seen various login details circulating through emails, mailing lists, Facebook groups, notifications pinned on billboards, during class, and so on.

Outside the scant number of databases made available by DIKTI, access to additional databases—like JSTOR, Elsevier, Wiley—is limited to a handful of elite institutions which can afford single subscriptions. Unlike most universities in Indonesia, they usually also have reasonably good information provision infrastructure that support scholarly communications. Sharing accounts and passwords is a pretty common practice, however. Students and faculties with better access—usually built when they study overseas—tend to share their login details to their friends and colleagues back home.

Considering the potential advantages and barriers, I believe a more systematic Open Access movement needs to be implemented, appropriated to Indonesian context, to increase its visibility and access, to ensure that the open access data is not repeatedly limited to the privileged, educated few in Indonesia. But how do we get there? I don’t know the answers either, but these are random thoughts that I hope we can further brainstorm and refine together.

A declaration, or a launch of Open Access Indonesia is perhaps necessary, to build a framework for developing open access systems that can be implemented and continuously adopted across the archipelago. However, a careful research and structuring, working together with related communities, institutions and researchers, both local and international, need to be carried out prior to the public launch. (Perhaps the launch of Creative Commons Indonesia can be a good case study—it is being launched next month during the Creative Commons Asia Pacific Conference, having actively worked and networked with various institutions beforehand.) The application needs to be rooted in its local contexts, but it also needs to consider global impact and legitimacy. Unfortunately research publications published in the periodicals of developing countries do not yet accord the legitimacy and attention in the international, or even local, research community, particularly considering the lamentable state of academic journals in Indonesia.

An Open Access condition can be applied selectively as a formal requisite to publicly-funded research, to ensure wider dissemination, transparency, more research productivity, discovery and advancement. Digital divide is still a very real issue, but Internet access is rapidly improving in Indonesia, although most people access the Internet through their mobile phones. (Mostly due to Facebook and Twitter usage, and the price of personal computer that is mostly beyond the means of an average Indonesian.) But as Suber (2005) noted, while bearing in mind and attempting to resolve these technological conditions, we also have to actively communicate and spread the benefits of Open Access, particularly to persuade relevant institutions such as universities, libraries, funding agencies and governments to adopt Open Access-friendly policies.

Open Access has the potentials to make the research from developing countries more visible to researchers from around the world, as well as making research elsewhere more accessible to them (for a case study in India, see Ghosh and Dash (2007)). I must also add that in Indonesia, we tend to be more familiar with research and researchers published in English language. Publishing in Open Access journals and archives will help us to integrate the lesser-known research into an accessible global knowledge base, and increases opportunities for collaborations.