Social media and blogging have been the source of change in many societies. Their impact and efficacy has been varied from small time activism to nationwide revolution.
The Middle East is the latest theatre where blogging and social media has to good extent displayed its potential as a gatherer of masses and then channel that raw energy to a concerted goal.
While many debate the actual impact that social media and blogging had in the Egyptian revolution, there has been a blogging initiative in an island country hundreds of nautical miles from the Nile. A blogger’s collective thought has progressed into a full-fledged movement that helps collect pennies to send impoverished children to school.
The geographical location is Indonesia.
The bloggers at the heart of it is a social media executive working with a public relations company. Hanny Kusumawati, who blogs on beradadisini.wordpress.com thought of the “Coinachance” campaign in 2008 to use the otherwise useless pennies to fund education of destitute children.
“In Indonesia, coins are more or less useless, with the only real use being public pay phones – which no one uses anymore”. So, left with a bulk of metal which cannot be used to purchase any commodity, not even to pay parking, the coins are basically dead weight. Some people, including Hanny, used to store them in a jar, not having much use for the change otherwise.
However, those pennies found a way to make Hanny, and thousands other realise their importance. “[Some blogger friends] counted all the coins we had saved and it turned out that the collection was worth almost 300,000 Indonesian rupiah,” says Hanny, “we then blogged about how we can fund the education for needy children.”
While education in Indonesia is free, the accessory costs have to be borne by the student. “Education is free in government, but there are things you have to pay for like books, uniform, some exam certificate fees”, she says.
As word spread, some prominent Indonesian bloggers and journalists picked up the thread and soon blogs, and articles about the initiative started making its way into the mainstream, it even got Hanny and her blogger friends an appearance on Indonesia’s television equivalent of Oprah.
The popularity helped spark interest in Indonesians within and outside Hanny’s native city of Jakarta. So much so that in three years time, the campaign has been initiated in six Indonesian cities by bloggers, with one group of Indonesians based in Germany sending in contributions to continue the good work.
Coinachance – which owes is existence to the cyberspace and social media, rather than the now controversial pennies-for-peace campaign by Greg Mortenson, has a 7,000 strong force on Facebook and is the main source of support for the movement. The creators of Coinachance do not build schools, they just fund the education of some students, like the 17 children who are now getting education thanks to Coinachance, and blogging.