RuaiSMS to empower grass root communities

Ruai Television Station

[ 21 Votes ]


Organization Type: Private sector | Category: Internet for Development

Project Summary

RuaiSMS is a communication channel created to empower grass root communities, especially indigenous people communities in West Kalimantan, Indonesia. RuaiTV has been trained around 200 community members to use their cell phones sending news. They are practicing citizen journalism. RuaiTV is opening its news room for grass root communities who are marginalized and never in the media. Through practicing citizen journalism - with mobile technology - the community members are empowering themselves. RuaiSMS and RuaiTV are helping them to find solution of their problems. They are monitoring public servants and hold companies accountable.


The right of indigenous peoples to manage, utilize, control indigenous or custom territory, including the natural resources in the territory to fulfill their needs is the most violated in Indonesia. The development policies related to forestry, plantations, and mining are always violated the indigenous peoples right to their customary land and forest.

The indigenous peoples in West Kalimantan are still facing a lot of problems related to indigenous peoples rights recognition. Here are the issues: violation of the right to customary forests or lands; limited access to good education or schools, health services, electricity; local government policies that disintegrate indigenous peoples organizations that reducing closeness among indigenous peoples; and poverty.

The most important issue that specific to indigenous people in West Kalimantan, beside poverty, is tenurial conflict with oil palm plantation companies. n 2010 there are 550,000 hectares oil palm plantations. While the Government already issued permits or concessions for oil palm plantations for 1.5 million hectares. West Kalimantan is planning to expand oil palm plantation to five million hectares, more than any other provinces in Indonesia. Until early 2010, at least there were around 200 conflicts between communities and oil palm plantations.

The big constrain on information and communication technology is lack of proper infrastructure since most of indigenous peoples communities are in remote area. It is not only telecommunication infrastructure, no electricity means the indigenous people cannot use cellular phones and have Internet access. We can say most of indigenous peoples communities have no access to Internet.

But, mobile-phone penetration in Indonesia is 68% in 2009. In term of subscriber numbers, the mobile-phone market grew by 20.9% more. Mobile phone penetration is high in West Kalimantan, especially in Pontianak and district capital cities. Cell phone is important communication tool.

Mainstream media are very limited in covering indigenous peoples issues or information related to indigenous peoples communities or grass root communities.

Based on those facts, RuaiTV supported by Knight International Journalism Fellow (from ICFJ) created an open news room to facilitate news from grass root communities, especially indigenous people communities. Since, the only communication tool available for them was cell phone, RuaiTV created RuaiSMS - a communication channel using FrontlineSMS that can receive and distribute SMS news.


This project nominated to the ISIF Asia award because…

RuaiSMS is the only model of grass root communication channel that proved help empowering farmers, indigenous people communities in West Kalimantan. The program also has proved a model how mainstream media can help empowering grass root communities through open news room



1. To empower grass root community members using mobile technology
2. To create an open news room for grass root communities to participate in news reporting
3. To develop communication channel using Frontlinesms program
4. To monitor public services and to held public servant accountable and transparent
5. To help the grass root communities hold companies accountable

Technical details and contribution to innovation

1. FrontlineSMS program
2. IVR Swara System


1. Created RuaiSMS - communication channel (using Frontlinesms) that make possible for grass root community members to send SMS news using their cell phones
2. Created RuaiSwara - another communication channel (using Swara IVR) that make possible for grass root community members to file voice news
3. Trained around 200 grass root community members - especially the Dayaks indigenous people community members - on citizen journalism
4. Integrated RuaiSMS into news ticker on RuaiTV screen
5. Blasted SMS news from RuaiSMS to around 400 subscribers


The program has created social change in the grass root level. The program has empowered grass root communities, hold on oil palm company accountable, monitored public servants, and other social changes

Publications and dissemination efforts


Awards and distinctions

2013 Communication for Social Change Award


YouTube movie about the project

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Project Representative

Harry Surjadi

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