Focus Group Discussion on The Impact of Technology

Teenagers in Indonesia, inclusive of those who receive Ribbon of Love’s scholarships in Flores, East Nusa Tenggara, are often victimised by the rapid modernisation of our world. New technology inventions do improve people’s living, especially those in the rural areas whose lives are eased by the utilisation of electricity, irrigation systems, television, mobile phones, and many more. However, people seem to passively receive the ever-changing trends of technology and not being aware of the real benefits and tradeoffs of using the eye-catching gadgets.
As an attempt to raise such awareness in the young people, Ribbon of Love formed discussion groups in Maumere and Ruteng consisting a total of 21 high school students (12 in Maumere, 9 in Ruteng) who are enrolled in Ribbon of Love's Scholarships Program. They came from different villages around the Sikka and Manggarai districts, and the schools which they are attending are senior high school, vocational schools, and a boarding catholic school.
Below are some issues which were raised in the discussion held during our team visit last May.

Many people, especially those in the teenage groups, are greatly affected by what they see and what they hear from the media, such as the television. Families in most rural areas which are able to enjoy watching TV most likely put on the Indonesian popular soap operas. News programs are less attractive because the televisions are shared by many people and the general audience prefers the soap operas. As a result, it is not uncommon nowadays to see a youth having the hairstyle of some celebrities, noting that he/she is living in a hill-top which distance is kilometres away from the district centre. Not only the appearance, many are also following the way of speech used in the soap operas, which is far from the proper structure and grammar of Bahasa Indonesia. Not mentioning the expensive charges of electricity in the rural villages, those evidents show the diminishing identity of the youth in particular, and the culturally-rich communities in general, in many areas across East Nusa Tenggara. That undoubtedly is also the case in other rural areas in Indonesia.

In the last few years, the trends of mobile phones have been introduced in many villages. Although not everyone can afford it, it does help people in communities who were previously under isolation to communicate with others and exchange information. Furthermore, there are success stories of its usage for improving the markets of crops and commodities, which can help improve the economy of villagers who are mostly farmers. But, what was identified by the students is somewhat threatening. Although none of the students who participated in the discussion (and others who are under Ribbon of Love’s Scholarship Program) own mobile phones, they see their peers using mobile phones. They identified some of their friends who have become slack and involved in thefts because of the needs of phone credits. Even worse, the spread of adult content such as porn photos or videos among them is inevitable. Such are the challenges that are faced by the students as teenagers in a rural society.

At the end of the discussion, the students became aware of the threats of the use of technology, such as mobile phones and televisions which are relatively expensive, to the economical stability and the social and cultural identities of their society. At the same time, they became aware of the advantages that are offered by the effective use of technologies for the improvement of rural living and teenage lives, in terms of knowledge widening through information and telecommunication technologies and infra-structure development by the use of modern machineries.

A feedback from the students on the discussion activity: “I hope more similar discussions are held in the future, as it is knowledge-widening and strengthens our moral values.” – Adrianus Lami, 18 years old.

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