Web 2.0 Roundup: US Embassy Jakarta Wows!

Kick-off Pesta Blogger 2009
and Blogshops announcement. One Spirit One Nation
Ambassador Hume is 3rd from the right

Tomorrow, October 24, the U.S. Embassy Jakarta is sponsoring Pesta Blogger 2009, Indonesia’s only national-level bloggers’ gathering. This is the second consecutive year that US Embassy Jakarta is sponsoring the event. Four U.S. bloggers will participate: Brian Giesen, a Digital Influence Specialist with over five years of experience with Ogilvy PR and is an Interactive Marketing Manager in Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide; Arsalan Iftikhar, international human rights lawyer, founder of TheMuslimGuy.com blog, and a contributing editor for Islamica magazine in Washington DC; Mark Frauenfelder, co-founder of BoingBoing.net and was an editor at Wired Magazine from 1993-1998 and Corvida Raven, author of SheGeeks.net, co-author of EverythingTwitter and TheSocialGeeks Podcast.

The U.S. Embassy has also sponsored a series of blogging workshops in 10 cities across Indonesia over the past three months, in order to encourage more Indonesians to blog and to impart the principles of citizen journalism. Over one thousand people participated in the programs, which were held in Malang, Semarang, Balikpapan, Samarinda, Makassar, Medan, Bandung, Surabaya, Palembang and Yogyakarta.

Sounds like fun!

In June this year, I wrote about the State Department’s digital diplomacy footprint. I looked at our most important posts in terms of perceived engagement need and size and included posts in Afghanistan, Iraq, Egypt, China and Mexico. Read my original post here.

I omitted Indonesia because in Asia, there were other high flyers online that shocked my balls. Yes, Indonesia did have a user growth rate of 1,150%, but Afghanistan is the top dog with 49,900.0 % growth rate while China holds the highest number of Internet users at 48.2%. As an aside, the countries with the highest growth rates after Afghanistan (in five digit rates) are in the –stans: Azerbaijan, Pakistan, Tajikistan (US Embassy Dushanbe is on Facebook) and Uzbekistan (IRC Tashkent is on Facebook).

But I did want to write about Indonesia because among the US missions I’ve been keeping tabs on, US Embassy Jakarta’s digital outreach probably offers the most active, creative and fun engagement in the new media. Indonesia is also a sprawling country of 17,000 islands. It is the world’s fourth most populous country, with the world’s largest population of Muslims. Indonesia’s internet stats below:

Estimated population in 2009: 240,271,522

Internet Users in 2000: 2,000,000

Internet Users (latest data): 25,000,000

Penetration: 10.4 %

User Growth (2000-2009): 1,150.0 %

% Users in Asia: 3.6 %

The US Embassy in Jakarta says that it was the first diplomatic Mission in Indonesia to create a Facebook page. Check it out at www.facebook.com/jakarta.usembassy. The page was launched in January and as of this writing, has 15,106 hard-earned fans. Its Facebook page also features unique content, including photos (see the Embassy’s resident cats and batik collection), videos and contests (FotObama, Ocean in Focus).

Ambassador Hume has posted once in DipNote but Embassy Jakarta has no regular blogger. The US Embassy Jakarta is also on YouTube and Twitter but its Facebook page is obviously its flagship engagement online.

In late August, it announced its plan to organize a fans meet-up when the number reaches 10.000. Exactly a month later, it hit that impressive mark. To put that number in context, Co.Nx: See the World which is hosted by the State Department’s International Information Programs (IIP) Bureau and spans the globe has 31,993 fans. The State Department’s main Facebook page has 23,432 fans. Most US mission pages on Facebook barely breaks the thousandth mark. So 15,106 fans is a big wow! I hope that goes into somebody’s EER. I also hope that the embassy can keep it up even when the current team running it rotates out to new assignments.

Just a couple more thoughts –

1) I am glad the embassy no longer plasters the embassy’s URL across its shared photos. But I am still hoping that they move their photo gallery over to Flickr not only for easier search but also to have an integrated depository of mission photographs. To date the U.S. Government has spent over US$ 8 million for the West Sumatran earthquake assistance campaign. The photos are available here but have not been posted in its Facebook page.

2) I’m wondering who will venture bravely into the undiscovered country of public diplomacy via SMS? Indonesia could be a great place for PD innovators (admittedly State is not known as a great incubator for innovators, but one can hope). The total mobile subscribers in Indonesia crossed the 90 million mark in early 2008, with a 37% penetration rate. According to trendsmith, its mobile market is growing rapidly with almost 50% annual increase in subscribers over the past 7 years. Now there’s an opportunity for engagement. Think about it.