Hokky Situngkir

Ashoka Fellow
Bandung, JR, Indonesia
Fellow Since 2012


This profile was prepared when Hokky Situngkir was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2012.
The New Idea
By introducing a social system that connects people of different islands and local identities across Indonesia to a national information project with a social purpose, Hokky is liberating the rich but repressed cultural heritage of Indonesia and making it available in ways that allow anyone to access its value. Hokky has developed organizational, web, and mobile systems to empower Indonesians to record and share samples of Indonesia’s cultural history: musical instruments, dance, batik, weavings, architectural designs, games, ancient documents, and more. A photograph of a batik design, for example, from one small corner of the country becomes a data point in a national scientific analysis to identify, confirm, and make accessible Indonesia’s traditional batik designs. The open source collection of cultural samples allows rapid data aggregation, which is then analyzed by a council of scientists, anthropologists, and other experts to build a reliable and comprehensive database of traditional designs. Hokky then makes this database available online to the Indonesian public and the world.

The accessibility of this cultural data, previously buried in the academic work of anthropologists, or in some cases, lost even to the communities of their origin, serves three main purposes. First, it not only preserves Indonesia’s rich cultural heritage but unlocks cultural potential in several ways—by helping Indonesians construct a new narrative of their shared history in the wake of forced political and economic unity under Soeharto—by making Indonesia’s cultural diversity a national asset from which the rest of the world can learn, and by enhancing future cultural research. Second, it enables the protection of Indonesia’s intellectual property. Where traditional designs are collected and made available online in a reliable process, it becomes far more difficult for outsiders to claim traditional Indonesian designs as their own. Third, it has the potential to advance economic opportunity by opening up new landscapes of creativity in the use of traditional designs to market a diversity of products.

The value of Hokky’s system, though, does not rest only in the outputs, but also in the process itself. The system design encourages, indeed relies on, the participation of experts and ordinary Indonesians, alike. Participants include university students, aging craftsmen, policymakers, art historians, scientists, anthropologists, business people, urban and rural dwellers, all from diverse regions across Indonesia’s far-flung island geography. Whether an artisan in a remote village identifying a little-known traditional batik design, a university student using modern technology to help that artisan photograph and upload that design to the database, a scientist analyzing the data, or a modern batik designer accessing that design online to add value to new products, each participant develops a greater awareness of, appreciation for, and ability to access the value of Indonesia’s rich cultural diversity.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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