From TEMPO to TEMPO Interaktif:
an Indonesian media scene case study.

Saiful B Ridwan, TEMPO Interaktif, PDAT, PT Grafiti Pers, Jl. Proklamasi 72, Jakarta 10320, Indonesia. Tel: +62-21-3916160 Fax: +62-21-3916154 Email:


media, internet publishing, Indonesia, TEMPO Interaktif


In 1994, TEMPO, - the acclaimed Indonesian weekly magazine had its licence to publish revoked by the government of Indonesia, because they considered its reportings would cause national instability. Such acts could be done by the government swiftly and with ease, without giving any prior opportunity to defend the media concerned.

In March 1996, TEMPO Interaktif was published on the web by the same publisher of TEMPO magazine. No reaction came from the government, except for a very brief interview response from the Minister of Information stating that anybody in Indonesia can set up a web site to promote their own activities or business. After one year on the web, there are still no signs of the government trying to put a halt to TEMPO Interaktif's weekly appearances. On the other hand, with at least 12,000 people, out of Indonesia’s current 50,000 Internet users, accessing it regularly, TEMPO Interaktif is steadily becoming Indonesia’s most accessed web publication.

This paper will discuss the experiences encountered while setting up and running TEMPO Interaktif within the Indonesian context.

Indonesia Internet Overview


Stretching across 5,200 km from east to west, and 1,900 km from north to south, Indonesia is the world’s largest archipelago with more than 13,000 islands. With its 200 million inhabitants consisting of over 250 different ethnic groups, it is the fourth most populated nation. Boasting an economic growth of 8%, Indonesia, a strong supporter of APEC, has enjoyed an economic boom which in turn has led to developments in various fields, including the Internet.

Indonesia Internet Growth

Like many other countries in the world, whether developed or developing, Indonesia has also been affected by the Internet phenomena. Internet use took off in Indonesia with the establishment of the first commercial Internet Service Provider (ISP), IndoNet late 1994. Before 1994, Internet access in Indonesia was limited to the very few universities, research institutions, and government offices, linked to IptekNet, - the National Science and Technology Network. Providing access to less than 1000 people at that time, IptekNet had been operated, on a low budget, since mid 1993 by BPPT (National Agency for the Assessment and Application of Technology) under the auspices of DRN (National Research Council). Since the establishment of IndoNet, ISPs mushroomed. There are presently 41 ISPs licenced by the government of Indonesia, 30 of them being already operational. Web Presence Providers are even more numerous than ISPs and some of these companies even have servers outside Indonesia, mainly in the United States.

ISP Business Structure

The ISP business structure, in terms of ownership, in Indonesia, can be classified in a number of categories: main business activities which mostly include the early (pioneering) ISPs such as IndoNet, RadNet; subsidiaries of telecommunications companies, such as Idola (PT Lintasarta), IndosatNet (PT Indosat), TELKOMnet (PT Telekomunikasi Indonesia); those belonging to big group of companies or conglomerates (which just recently joined the race or bought over some early ISPs) such as LinkNet (Lippo Group); and also the more recent category franchise, such as PacificNet (NV Soedarpo and Pacific Internet, Singapore).

With uplink bandwidths ranging from 128 Kbps to 3Mbps, registration fees range from A$ 14 to 36, and average hourly rates vary from A$ 0.8 to 2.7.

Nusantara-21 Project

The most recent Internet-related development in Indonesia is the Nusantara-21 (N-21) National Information Infrastructure project proposal. N-21 is an ambitious project to build a telecommunications and information technology infrastructure to link the archipelago electronically, to allow Indonesia to enter the global information society. With a budget of at least US$14 billion, partially supported by the World Bank, it is planned that by the year 2001, people in all regency capitals (more than 500 towns) will have access to the N-21 information superhighway either from homes and workplace, or through community access centres. These centres will provide various broadband telecommunications and information technology facilities, which include Internet connection. Such an infrastructure will make Internet access affordable to a lot of people, not just in big cities but all over the country, hence boosting even further Internet use in Indonesia.

Government Policy

The fast growth of ISPs in Indonesia is largely due to encouraging government policies. Currently there are no difficulties in obtaining licences to establish ISPs. The government apparently is not limiting the number of ISPs. A company with a simple proposal covering basic business aspects such as investment, equity, return of investment, etc. will have no difficulty in obtaining a licence from the Ministry of Tourism, Post, and Telecommunications. In terms of Internet service business, the government is basically just relying on market forces. As a result of this policy, there are now signs that conglomerates are setting up ISPs and are joining in the competition to grab a share of the market.

In line with the government's encouraging use of Internet, an association of internet service providers, APJII, was recently formed, and through the Ministry of Tourism, Post, and Telecommunications, the government has regulated the basic user subscription rates.

In terms of content, there are currently no specific laws regulating publication on the web. Thus, as a result anyone wishing to publish on the web may do so without obtaining licences unlike in the print media (newspapers, magazines) where they are a prerequisite. Up till now there has been no cases regarding contents of Indonesian web sites. While the recent Broadcasting Bill covers conventional broadcasting such as newspaper, magazine, radio, television, satellite, cable, closed circuit TV, video on demand, audiotext services, videotext services, it does not cover internet publications.


No comprehensive survey has yet been conducted to give the current profile of Indonesian Internet users. However between March and August 96, TEMPO Interaktif has conducted a survey of its readers. A total of 7002 persons responded (4340 of them being physically located in Indonesia, thus around 9% of the total Indonesian Internet users). The survey revealed that the average age of readers was 27 (dominant age group: 26-30 years), and that 60 % of users were employees in private companies. Thus in general, current Indonesian Internet users are young people from the middle income group.

TEMPO Weekly News Magazine

TEMPO weekly was established in 1971. Published by PT Grafiti Pers (GP), TEMPO had consistently provided the nation with accurate information and lively commentaries. With a circulation of 200,000 per edition, the magazine was Indonesia’s most popular weekly. It had become an essential reading material especially for critical minds.

Each week, TEMPO offered hard-hitting investigative reporting on topical issues, for which the magazine won praise from foreign publications, especially for its thoroughness, its tenacity, the objectivity of its reporting staff, and the skill of its writers.

In June 1994 TEMPO’s report on the East Germany used warship purchase which confronted opinions from both the Minister of Research & Technology and the Minister of Finance, filled the government with alarm. They considered that such reports could cause national instability. Hence their decision to revoke TEMPO’s publication licence.

The cancellation of the licence by the Ministry of Information was done promptly giving TEMPO no prior opportunity to defend the case. TEMPO being an established and reputed magazine in Indonesia, the news came as a shock. People took to the streets. Prominent local and international figures appealed to cancel the revocation, but no change in the government’s position followed. TEMPO brought the case to the PTUN courts (special courts to appeal for government’s actions) for appeal. Surprisingly TEMPO won in the first, and second level courts in 1995. But, as expected after more than a one year process in the courts, in the final ruling in June 1996 by the Supreme Court, TEMPO lost, putting an end to its hope to ever publish the magazine again.

The banning put around 400 people out of work. The government did give licence to a new magazine, GATRA, supported by a well-connected and government-backed business tycoon, to provide alternative employment for TEMPO people. Some moved there, some went to other media and some stayed at GP, since the publishing company itself had not been dissolved. Those that stayed explored possibilities on how to let the public have access to its extensive archives, as well to its photo documentation, ranked as one of the most comprehensive in Indonesia. At the same time Internet was just starting to flourish in the country. GP management then decided to publish the material on the web.

TEMPO Interaktif

ISP Selection

Having decided to go on the web, and the contents to be published identified, the next step was to find an appropriate way of web hosting those contents. At that time, March 1996, there were only four ISPs operating in Indonesia. Three criteria were set to evaluate them: technical, security, and business aspects.

Technical aspects: since GP had hardly any experience in the matter, going on the web being an innovation for the company, they had to look for ISPs that provided strong technical support, while considering the uplink bandwidth, hardware, and software resources available.

Security aspects: as GP was to physically put its archives in the ISPs server, it was necessary to have a guarantee of the safeguarding of the said materials.

Business aspects: to find the best business deal. Internet being just in its infancy, there was strong competition between the four ISPs. This early stage was also a period dedicated to educating the market. GP was thus able to push for the best possible deal: a profit-sharing contract where payment of internet access service would be due only once it had generated revenue, either from subscription or from advertisement.

GP’s final choice fell on Idola (PT Lintasarta) for they filled GP’s business requirements: a profit-sharing deal with free services provided. Idola could afford to sign such an agreement because the ISP business was only a very small part of the company’s main bank (financial) data communications business. The cooperation was based on profit sharing. In other words, any income generated from the publication of GP material would be shared between GP and Idola. This criteria was very important as at first GP had no idea on how the authorities would react to the publication on the web of the magazine they had ‘banned’. It would have been a waste to have invested in equipment and access, and not be allowed to make use of it.

Interestingly Idola is a semi-state company, the major shareholders being the Indonesian Central Bank (Bank Indonesia), and Indosat, the state-owned international telecommunications company. This is probably an indication that not everybody in the government is hostile towards TEMPO. At least Idola management had sympathized with TEMPO’s cause.

Server Configuration

Since going on the web was a new experience to GP, and given the uncertainties concerning the government’s reaction to the publication of TEMPO archives and TEMPO Interaktif on the web, it was decided to put the material on Idola’s server, without GP investing in its own server. The URL was then Updating of the contents was done by FTP with a 19.2 Kbps dial-up connection.

Days, weeks, and months went by without any reaction from the government, except for a very brief interview response from the Minister of Information stating that anybody in Indonesia could set up a web site to promote one’s own activities or business. After a three month evaluation it became apparent that the government was displaying an indifferent attitude. It was then decided to set up GP’s own server in August 1996, located at Idola’s hosting facilities. The URL then changed to The server used was a Pentium (166 MHz, 64 Mb RAM) based machine with NT 3.51 operating system, and Netscape Enterprise web server. By having its own server, besides relieving the burden on Idola’s server and disk space of TEMPO Interaktif’s 41637 hits/day traffic and more than 100 Mbytes data, it allowed GP to experiment on various web applications, such as use of CGI scripts, database connectivity, and other server related aspects. Idola does not allow its clients to develop their own CGI scripts on Idola’s servers.

In an effort to reduce the load on the current server, GP is planning to add another Pentium based server this year (1997). By having two servers GP will host TEMPO Interaktif alone on one server, and use the other server for other GP Internet products as well as GP’s virtual domain hosted clients.

Another effort already being carried out is to distribute the contents of TEMPO Interaktif to other servers. One that is already running is the placement of TEMPO Interaktif at the University of Indonesia’s SunSite with the URL Thus TEMPO Interaktif readers will have the choice of accessing TEMPO Interaktif at UI’s SunSite in case GP’s server is overloaded. The other reason for having several servers is a kind of precaution, just in case the Indonesian government one day decides to also ban TEMPO Interaktif.

In order to have better line connections between GP’s office and Idola’s hosting facilities, in June this year, GP will have a dedicated 64 Kbps line between the two locations.


The contents of TEMPO Interaktif are basically the same as TEMPO magazine, less only in quantity. Columns such as Analysis & Events, National, Business & Economy, Opinion, and People appear regularly each week. Besides that, web specific features such as Opinet, an animated caricature also appear regularly each week, as well as an Online Polling feature which appear time to time depending on the current news issue. For instance, in March, and May 1997, TEMPO Interaktif conducted an election poll, a type of poll, content wise, highly improbable in print media in Indonesia. It is GP’s intention to try its best to fully utilize the Internet medium. GP does not want to make TEMPO Interaktif only just a print media on the web.

At first, securing interviews from government officials was difficult as they were asking about TEMPO Interaktif’s legality on the web, since as far as they knew TEMPO’s (the magazine) licence to publish had been revoked. For some people, in fact not just officials, its image was that of an underground publication. However, TEMPO Interaktif, just like the former TEMPO weekly, always tries to uphold quality independent journalism, covering both sides of the story by conducting balanced reporting.

Due to its consistent quality reporting, TEMPO Interaktif is increasingly becoming the most popular web publication of Indonesia. Now a number of government ministers as well as military officials are willing to be interviewed, even taking advantage of TEMPO Interaktif’s widespread accessibility to promote their ministries’ and agencies’ activities. Some have even written articles, and opinions for TEMPO Interaktif.

In an effort to cater for non-Indonesian speaking readers, and strengthen its image as global medium, TEMPO Interaktif now features some articles in English.


TEMPO Interaktif is currently maintained by 7 full-timers: 2 editors, 2 reporters, 1 graphics designer, and 2 programmers, and 3 freelance reporters. In the beginning, in March 1996, TEMPO Interaktif was set-up by only 3 persons.


Currently at 12,000, the figure is increasing. The ratios are:

Business Aspects

TEMPO Interaktif’s popularity started to attract advertisers. The first advertisement, which came from Intel Corp., appeared in August 1996. This was a significant case in Indonesia, since web publications were still scarce, let alone those containing advertising.

Subscription has started to be applied (in May 1997) with an annual fee of A$53 (around A$1 per issue). However, Indonesian Internet users are not yet used to paying for information, so GP is experimenting by applying a bonus system. Paying users thus have access to more facilities. For instance, non-subscribers can still access TEMPO Interaktif’s four latest editions, but to gain access to earlier editions, they have to subscribe. Subscribers will benefit from special features such as search engine and articles sent to their email address if they wish. They will also receive a bonus: TEMPO Interaktif backissues in print (book) form.

The publishing of TEMPO Interaktif ‘Book’ is probably a case unique to Indonesia. One needs to have a licence to publish a magazine, but not a book. However, books can still be easily banned, if the government wishes to do so. So far there has been no reaction following the first edition of TEMPO Interaktif ‘Book’. GP plans to publish TEMPO Interaktif regularly in book form every 3 months, thus covering all issues within 3 months. The idea to publish in book form came from a number of students in various parts of Indonesia who printed TEMPO Interaktif issues and sold it to other fellow students or whoever wanted to buy it. Producing the TEMPO Interaktif ‘Book’ will allow people who have no access to Internet to read TEMPO Interaktif, even though not as up-to-date as on the web. As in the beginning it was not planned to have a book version, many technical difficulties, such as links deletion, relayout, and reformats, were encountered.

Future Plans

After the successful mirror site test case with the University of Indonesia, TEMPO Interaktif’s hope is to establish mirror sites abroad, particularly in universities. By becoming more like reference material, it will hopefully gradually lose the attached underground image, given in particular by officials. Discussions are currently underway with the Australian National University, RSPAS, as they already have a large archive of Indonesian related materials. Having copies of TEMPO Interaktif in Australia such as at RSPAS will allow readers in Australia which comprise around 10% of TEMPO Interaktif readers, to have better and more reliable access to TEMPO Interaktif.

TEMPO Interaktif is also planning to have more of its articles in English. By this it is hoped that non-Indonesian readers, such as the people of Australia, will also be able to read TEMPO Interaktif, and thus make TEMPO Interaktif one of their sources of information on Indonesian current issues. On the other hand it could very well be used as a medium for the people of Australia to disseminate information on Australia to TEMPO Interaktif readers.

More practically, TEMPO Interaktif plans to apply gradual subscription, from the current bonus-based subscription (one can still access limited parts of TEMPO Interaktif) to full subscription where one has to subscribe to access any part of TEMPO Interaktif. Subscription will be for both individual subscribers as well as institutional subscription in the form of Intranets.


This paper has presented the experiences gained in the setting-up and operating of TEMPO Interaktif, a web publication devoted to Indonesian current issues, that was published in response to information technology developments, the lifting of the licence to publish TEMPO weekly news magazine, and to still be able to constantly disseminate information without violating any Indonesian laws or regulation.


Saiful B Ridwan ©, 1997. The author assigns to Southern Cross University and other educational and non-profit institutions a non-exclusive licence to use this document for personal use and in courses of instruction provided that the article is used in full and this copyright statement is reproduced. The authors also grants a non-exclusive licence to Southern Cross University to publish this document in full on the World Wide Web and on CD-ROM and in printed form with the conference papers, and for the document to be published on mirrors on the World Wide Web. Any other usage is prohibited without the express permission of the authors.

[Interactive Presentation]  [All Papers and Posters]

AusWeb97 Third Australian World Wide Web Conference, 5-9 July 1997, Southern Cross University, PO Box 157, Lismore NSW 2480, Australia Email: