Indonesia Expat

BagiKata: The Healing Power of Online Listening

Ask and tell service BagiKata was established as an ‘information hub’ for all kinds of questions and discussions happening in the archipelago.

Indonesians sometimes experience difficulties when looking for answers to their problems online. The archipelago operates much differently than the rest of the world, and sometimes the rules of developed nations simply don’t apply here. Baskara Putra, the founder of BagiKata (which translates to ‘Sharing Words’), felt dissatisfied with the way search engines like Google provided information that might not always be relevant in the context of life in Indonesia.

“In a country like this, the tips and articles that you find on Google aren’t always applicable, given the place you live right now. People here are capable [of exchanging information], but I feel that to write and share things in the form of relatable content is just not in our everyday culture,” the founder lamented.

Putra noticed that the young generation – who make up the majority of social media users in Indonesia – actively raise questions online and are often left unanswered, even when the questions they pose might actually concern real problems that need to be addressed.

This phenomenon led Putra to create BagiKata, a simple ask and tell service where users can virtually consult with each other about anything. Topics are all inclusive, ranging from directions in foreign cities to daily music recommendations and advice for someone going through an ugly breakup.

Most importantly, it allows people – whose identities are protected – to share their stories and problems and receive support they need in return. “When we listen to users and give out information, we don’t only present [answers] on the [surface] – we give context and try to push users to think what’s best for them,” Putra explained.

BagiKata is managed by a team called ‘handlers’ whose job is to listen to users’ stories, look up the requested information and act as their discussion partners. In some extreme cases, handlers are confronted with reports of domestic violence, relationship abuse, and even suicide attempts.

To cater to these different problems, BagiKata’s handlers come from various backgrounds and include doctors, anthropologists, lecturers, entrepreneurs, graphic designers and filmmakers. Since its inception, BagiKata has activated three batches of new handlers and will introduce more this month. Handlers are carefully selected based on their skills and expertise, and receive additional training to make them better prepared when responding to online queries.

With BagiKata, Putra aims to reinforce the value of sharing information related to romance, school, life and family. These issues, which are often taken for granted, can provide valuable insights into how locals often struggle with everyday problems. BagiKata acts as a platform to show people that they’re not alone.

BagiKata is driven by the urgency to help others. The firm looks to aid those who are in need, especially in a country where prejudice is still pervasive. “To be frank, Indonesia is not very open to diversity, especially when it comes to things that are related to religion and gender issues.

It’s heart-breaking to see our everyday users become victims of many kinds of bigotry.”

This reality serves as extra motivation for Putra, knowing that BagiKata’s services have a real impact on users’ lives. “It gives incomparable warmth to our hearts when we know that there are real people out there that we’ve helped and are now okay, and that we played a part in making it happen,” said Putra.

With this in mind, it is also a challenge for BagiKata to attend to hundreds of queries each day, some chats lasting for hours at a time. With the increasing number in daily queries, the service works hard to maintain a swift response time coupled with a high level of quality.

“BagiKata’s user base and number of queries grows every day, and our system is still semi-manual. All these crazy numbers, combined with totally random types of users, test the patience of our handlers every day,” Putra confessed.

Nevertheless, the growth in users suggests that people are in fact interested in opening themselves up and finding solutions to their problems on the internet.

With his experience working on BagiKata, Putra is finding that many Indonesians might just need someone to talk to. “I feel like local people here are not keen on talking about their problems upfront with those who are directly involved. Instead, they need middlemen to sort things out and help them weigh the choices. Sometimes they just need someone to say ‘uh-huh’ so they may justify their own thoughts or actions.”

The latest version of BagiKata is currently under development. The firm welcomes original content from the public in a bid to expand its reach. Currently, it disseminates micro-articles via instant messaging applications like LINE to draw in more users. New visitors can greet handlers by adding BagiKata on LINE (@bagikata).

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