With a booming population experiencing rapid economic development, Indonesia faces numerous social and environmental challenges. The archipelago must address its issues sustainably, one step at a time, and what better way to start than with access to knowledge? As Kofi Annan once said, “Knowledge is power, information is liberating.” Today’s global economy thrives on the quantity, quality, and accessibility of information, making knowledge the new currency by which nations maintain economic competitiveness and global prosperity.
With this in mind, Indonesia is dedicated to a strong foundation of knowledge. The country hosts a whopping 4,000 universities, 500 research institutes, 1,200 public libraries and 600 governmental research departments. These institutions publish a combined 7,000 academic journals and millions of research papers every year. However, accessibility to that knowledge remains a problem. Currently, only 2,000 of Indonesia’s 7,000 journals are available online, meaning most of their research is essentially undiscoverable. This effect is magnified for international researchers or those based in rural areas. Such poor dissemination and limited readership means, no matter how valuable, Indonesia’s research has a low impact on government policy and accountability.
Neliti is an attempt to address this problem. Incubated at the National Library of Indonesia, Neliti aims to digitalise Indonesia’s entire research industry – 6,000 libraries and 7,000 academic journals. Via Neliti, institutions can seamlessly create their own libraries and journals where they can upload journal articles, raw data, books, and research reports. Once uploaded to Neliti, publications are automatically dispersed to dozens of other databases, such as Google Scholar, for exponentially increased exposure.
Neliti’s technology carries obvious benefits for Indonesia’s development goals: everyone can access knowledge regardless of their background or rurality, and important research is more likely to reach the ears of policymakers and international readers. Neliti already hosts 50,000 academic publications, 300 academic journals and 300 online libraries from universities, think tanks and government departments alike. They could, in theory, become the biggest online host of research in the developing world, and aspire to disrupt other developing markets like China, India, Brazil and Nigeria.
Neliti was created in April 2015 by a 20-something year old kid, Anton Lucanus, who wanted to learn how to build websites. At the time, Anton was interning at the Eijkman Institute for Molecular Biology in Jakarta. He noticed that much of the institute’s important reports were yet to be digitalized, meaning they had little impact outside his laboratory. He therefore built Neliti as a side project to help his lab’s research dissemination. Although the site passively gained traction, Anton had to move to Singapore to finish his degree. He also didn’t have the technical skills to roll out Neliti’s larger features. In Singapore he met Andrew Wrigley, now Neliti’s CTO, who realized the widespread benefits of digitalizing research from the developing world. Within a few months, the pair had built a larger website and cold-called the National Library of Indonesia to showcase their work. The library offered them funding, office space and marketing collateral and is now an important partner in achieving Neliti’s goals. Although Neliti is still young, it’s impact on access to information to Indonesia is already being felt.