Community Radio Comes to Borneo

Posted on 20 July 2011  |  0 comments

Community Radio in BorneoIt does not necessarily take cutting long roads across huge forested areas or operating expensive flights to remote airstrips to break the information and communication isolation of communities in the interior of Borneo. The set-up of digital technology can effectively bridge the information divide and provide what the UN calls: E-prosperity for the poor. 

The inauguration of the first Tele-Center E-Krayan in Long Bawan, Krayan (Nunukan, East Kalimantan, Indonesia) in April, 2011, is an example of how internet facilities can bring new opportunities and address the need of the communities in the Highlands of the Heart of Borneo to have speedy access to information and be part of a wider communication community. The Tele-Center in Long Bawan was made possible by financial support from a German government (BMZ-FiT) grant. 

The Tele-Center, appropriately named in the local language Tadur Rang Gawa, or a ‘bridge to the space’, is the third Tele-Center to be built in the Highlands, the eco-cultural landscape shared by Indonesia and Malaysia in the Heart of Borneo, and the ancestral land of the Lun Dayeh/Lun Bawang, Kelabit, and Sa’ban people. 

Internet is now accessible in this remote area in the Heart of Borneo. The pioneering initiative was the multi-award winning E-Bario (Sarawak) project that opened the way to the internet ‘revolution’ in the Heart of Borneo and spawned Malaysia’s first licensed community radio station (see story below).

In December 2010, the Tele-Center in Ba’ Kelalan was opened in the northern part of Sarawak across the international border from Long Bawan. With three operational Tele-Centers in the Highlands, a digital communication network is now in place to help project the voice of the Highlands communities to the outside world and potential partners.

The E-Krayan Tele-Center is managed by FORMADAT-Krayan, the Forum of the Indigenous Peoples of the highlands in Krayan. It provides internet access to a larger number of customers in the Krayan sub-district, including schools, visitors, health center and other users.

With easier access to information and communication, FORMADAT can support the promotion of its premium products like adan rice and ecotourism. The increase in the number of visitors and tourists coming to the highlands from Malaysia and the lowlands in Indonesia have highlighted the importance of web-site and internet to support sustainable enterprises like community-based ecotourism.

The set-up of “Tadur Rang Gawa” has brought an important, concrete slice of globalization in support of the sustainable future of the highlands in the Heart of Borneo. 

Malaysia’s first licensed community radio in Bario, Sarawak

The eBario telecentre in the Kelabit Highlands of Sarawak is poised to launch Malaysia’s first community radio station ‘Bario Radio’. The station will primarily serve for community members within the Forum of the Indigenous People of the Highlands of Borneo - known by its acronym FORMADAT (Forum Masyarakat Adat Dataran Tinggi Borneo).

Funded through a grant from the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) under its Indigenous Peoples Assistance Facility (IPAF), Bario Radio is expected to broadcast local news collected by the residents themselves and stimulate debate on issues of local concern.

WWF-Malaysia, in partnership with FORMADAT, sees Bario Radio as providing a platform to reach the community in the local Kelabit Language. Through this platform, conservation efforts, environmental protection and sustainable development issues in the highlands within the Heart of Borneo can be highlighted

“The concept is relatively new in Malaysia. With the registration of this license, we hope to transform community radio services in the country”, said John Tarawe, CEO of eBario Sdn Bhd and Bario District Leader of FORMADAT.  “The concept allows an innovative use of Information and communications technologies for the social and economic development of the people living in the remote Bario area,” he said.

To act in accordance with new community radio services guidelines, eBario will encourage members of its community to participate in both the operation of the service as well as in the variety and the specification of its programmes. Coverage of a community radio station is limited to a particular geographical area of the targeted community and services are strictly not-for-profit.



Jim Ellinger

Greetings from big city of Bario, unofficial cap of Sarawak, pop. 800+. Y-day, rode bicycle to an ancient stone megalith (rock carving) w. headhunter holding three heads (!), w. long drooped ears, & tally list of heads taken (9) (!!). The nearest village: Pa'a U'mor, I think. Had to lv. bike behind once I reached the water buffalo pits/rice paddys... 
Difficult to post photos from here. Just not the bandwidth.