Contributor Spotlight: Why Prioritizing Indonesian Users Should Be at the Top of the Internet Freedom Agenda

Untitled design.png

By Andrea Brás

Localization Lab knows that the work we do would be impossible without the help of incredible contributors who make up the community. The Contributor Spotlight is a way to highlight some of the community members who are unlocking access to digital security technology for users around the world.

This month we want to highlight the work of Indonesian language contributor, Ical. Since joining the Localization Lab community in 2017, he has been answering our calls for the translation and review of tools that his community needs the most. If you have used or shared the Indonesian versions of Tor Browser, Tor Browser Support Portal, Psiphon, Signal (and more), it is because Ical has been a driving force behind their availability.

Localization Lab spoke with Ical about his advocacy work around digital security issues, what motivates him to localize Internet Freedom tech, and why he feels Indonesian users need to be prioritized.

How long have you been interested in tech and digital rights?

I am a digital security trainer who works with activists. I started giving digital security trainings 4 years ago, but I’ve been interested in tech and digital rights for about 7-8 years.

Why are you concerned about digital security? Why do you think that other people should care about protecting themselves online?

Everything we put online is used by corporations and governments without our consent for profit and political purposes. People think targeted ads are helping them, but they don’t realize that corporations are just trying to sell us more products we don’t really need.

There’s no distinction between online and offline life anymore now. There are a lot of online threats which could lead to physical threats as well, and most people don’t realize that. That’s why I think digital security is important to keep our lives secure — both online and offline.

How did you get involved in digital security training? What motivates you to work as a trainer?

I started out because a colleague asked me to be her co-trainer — we have the same concerns about digital security. What motivates me is that digital literacy in Indonesia is so low despite internet penetration being one of the highest among the Southeast Asian countries, and Indonesians have really bad perceptions about privacy and security. I have also heard a lot of cases of outing, doxxing, etc. in the LGBTIQ+ community who are my friends.

What are some of the biggest challenges you face during trainings?

The level of tech-savviness is usually low among my [training] participants and also there is gap between tech and users. All of the tools that I teach were not built taking into account the kinds of the participants I have: The language, the logic, and the context are mostly global north/English-centric. The notion that “tech is difficult and not for everyone” or “I am just a user” is more exacerbated by the difficulty of the tools.

You have been such a big supporter of Localization Lab — How did you find out about the community? Why did you decide to join?

I found out about Localization Lab at a digital rights camp in 2017. I wasn’t aware of what it was about. But after I participated the 2-day sprint, I realized that this could be the answer to some of challenges that I faced during trainings. I think it is really important to make technology, especially digital security tools, speak my own language to make it easier for people to understand. But localization is not just about language translation, it is about translating the tools into a local logic and context so that the tech actually works for us.

Why is it important for your networks to have these tools in Indonesian?

Because most of my participants are not English speakers and they use Indonesian on their devices. Sometimes the tools are confusing for them. But in my experience doing localization, I found a big challenge because some technological terms that are already translated into Indonesian are more confusing because the new translated terms are not popular/ familiar to the general audience.

Why do you think funders, developers and contributors should prioritize Indonesian language and Indonesian users in general?

For me, the reason why Indonesian and Indonesian users in general should be one of the priorities is because Internet penetration here is one of the highest among the SEA countries. Also, the political situation, both historically and currently, are putting activists in danger. In the last few years, the rise of religious conservatism (which translates into state policies/laws) poses a threat to marginalized communities such as LGBTIQ+, religious minorities, and activists.