Indonesia Expat
Outreach Scams in the City

You Say You Want a Revolution?

Cybercrime is on the rise in Indonesia. Government critics claim the biggest online scam is an official website promoting President Joko ‘Jokowi’ Widodo’s “mental revolution” slogan. But did the Government really squander $10 million on a useless website?

In late August, it was widely reported that the Coordinating Minister for Human Development and Culture, Puan Maharani, had spent a staggering Rp.140 billion ($9.97 million) on setting up a failed website. Many people thought the figure must have been a typing error.

And it was an error, of sorts. The ministry later clarified that had cost “only” Rp.200 million ($14,250). This clarification was ignored by some sections of the media that had earlier lambasted Puan, whose chief political qualification is being the daughter of former president Megawati Soekarnoputri and the granddaughter of founding president Soekarno.

Regardless of the amount spent, the website was a disaster. Launched on August 24, it went offline two days later, purportedly hacked. This was after netizens noticed some of the script code had been carelessly swiped from, a site operated by supporters of the US president. It was also noted that was built on a theme from open-source website platform WordPress and hosted on a shared server.

If the website really had been hacked, the ministry could have taken legal action. The Electronic Information and Transactions Law carries a maximum penalty of eight years in jail and/or a fine of Rp.800 million for hacking. The ministry’s secretary, Sugihartatmo, said he would not file a police report but would instead respond positively by improving the site’s security.

The site was heavy on tiled visuals and light on written content. There was a photo of Puan and a photo of Soekarno. Visitors could enter their name and email address to receive updates on how the Government is revolutionizing the nation’s mental character. 

At the launch, Puan claimed the site would provide useful information promoting mental revolution programs in all ministries and state institutions. She said the public could use the site to provide suggestions and feedback.

The ministry stopped short of providing explicit examples of how the mental revolution will be implemented. There are many vague “taglines” about developing morality, integrity, a strong work ethic and mutual cooperation. There are general calls for an end to corruption, better public services and business innovations. There’s nothing as explicit as “set a good example by jailing officials who seek bribes or misuse state funds”.

There was some sensible comment from Administrative and Bureaucratic Reform Minister Yuddy Chrisnandi. He said the mental revolution should not be viewed as a project under the domain of certain ministries, but instead must be a passion shared by all state agencies to develop clean governance and people of integrity. He said criticism of the bureaucracy is the cornerstone of a mental revolution.


Let’s Do It

After the website went down, it was replaced by the following message: “Thank you for the suggestions and input for the website From the outset, in carrying out every activity, we uphold the values of integrity, including in building the website We will work hard to fix it to make it better. Let’s do it together.”

More than a week later, the site remains dead and its sad, solitary block of text now reads: “Sorry. Because public enthusiasm is so high, we experienced a server overload. Therefore, we are currently in the process of upgrading the server. Thank you for your support and participation. Peace, Mental Revolution!”

Puan seems to have lost her enthusiasm for the site. On August 28, inspecting preparations for a regional yachting rally, she insisted that reporters ask only about the maritime event. When they persisted, she eventually said “there’s my deputy, ask him,” and then entered her car. On August 31, attending a book launch at a South Jakarta hotel, Puan told reporters that questions about “technical problems” should be directed to the ministry’s secretary.

Sugihartatmo would not confirm or deny that had swiped its source code from He insisted the ministry is “forbidden to plagiarise” because the mental revolution’s principle is integrity. He said the website would be aborted and improved if an investigation finds there had been plagiarism.

As for the $10 million figure, Sugihartatmo admitted the ministry has a budget of Rp.149 billion for “mental revolution” programs in 2015. How is that money being used? In March, he said about Rp.130 billion would be spent on formulating and promoting programs, while the remainder would be used for their development and evaluation.

The manager of, Achmad Gunawan, said the Rp.130 billion budget had not been used entirely for the development of the site but was also for television, newspaper and radio campaigns to promote the mental revolution.

One of the site’s main critics is former youth affairs and sport minister Roy Suryo, who branded the designer as incompetent. He also said the slogan “mental revolution” is false rhetoric and a dream that people should wake up from.

While four senior ministers lost their jobs in a cabinet reshuffle last month, Puan is at no risk of being fired, no matter what blunders her ministry makes. She was foisted on Jokowi by his political patron Megawati, chief of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDIP). When PDIP won last year’s legislative election, the party planned to install Puan as speaker of the House of Representatives. Instead, losing presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto formed a majority coalition that changed the rules and appointed Golkar Party treasurer Setya Novanto as House speaker, despite his links to numerous corruption cases.

This manoeuvre left Jokowi in a quandary. What to do with Puan? Give her a cabinet post, such as social affairs minister. But she required something more prestigious, despite her lack of experience. So she was placed at the helm of the Coordinating Ministry for Human Development and Culture, overseeing eight other ministries.

If Puan truly wants a mental revolution, then perhaps she could set an example by showing that political appointments are based on merit, rather than nepotism. The Government could also develop a protocol for the design, funding and hosting of websites to minimise threats posed by hackers, scammers and embezzlers.


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