Never outrun the power of the people’s voice

May 02, 2017 | Priscilla Henriette

The hidden purpose behind the Telkomsel and Indosat hack.

On April 28th, Telkomsel Indonesia’s website was hacked. The layout of the homepage was transformed into a black background filled with rants from angry customers, about the inaccessibility of their internet data. Strong words expressing anger and anguish towards the largest telecom provider in the biggest Southeast Asian nation. A country with a population of 250 million, 50% of which are youths.

Text on the hacked site translates to:
“How can we progress as a nation if we can’t even afford the internet? Paying for food is hard for us, let alone getting internet data. Lower down your internet prices, you assholes!! As a network operator, you should make yourself affordable. How can we progress as a nation if we can’t even afford the internet? You Pig! It’s already hard for us just to pay for food, let alone getting an internet data. You chimp! Lower your price! Equalize 4g across the country, there’s no need to differentiate the pricing between 2g, 3g, and 4g. No need for HOOQ, VIQ, and all that bullshit. We all just need affordable internet data!”

A few hours later, Indosat reacted on Twitter claiming that they provide a more accessible service. Unfortunately, it also didn’t end well for the provider, as within minutes netizens responded with harsh comments expressing how weak and unreliable their signal is, far from them “providing (good) internet services” as claimed. The next day Indosat’s website was also hacked. In contrast to the black background that Telkomsel received, Indosat’s homepage was transformed to a white screen saying that network providers should have each other’s back and figure out how to make internet services accessible and reliable for people.

The hidden purpose behind the hack.

We have to admit that this sort of hack is quite a vigilante activity, not entirely wise to do so as it often heats up a situation and escalates the problem. Hacking is usually not considered constructive, however, as we know every cloud has its silver lining.

As an interesting exercise to reveal the hidden purpose behind this hack let’s take a deep breath and try to see this phenomenon through a more human lens rather than a business lens:

Purpose is a loaded word so let’s start by going back to its meaning:

“Purpose is the reason for which something is done or created, or for which something exists.”

A great starting point and let us look at the purpose from two angles:

  1. The reason why young people instigated the hack

  2. The reason why there are telecom companies  

Let us go to each point further:

Point #1 – The reason why young people instigated the hack

From the slangs and the language used, we can infer that behind this hack is a group of young people aspiring for their (very angry) voices to be heard.

With that in mind, we have to realise that today information and knowledge has become a part of basic needs – remember the viral picture on the internet where the bottom of Maslow’s Hierarchy is amended with “WIFI”? Therefore access to the internet should be democratized, not only for the exclusive few.

Moreover, people now have the power to explore and compare global news and markets to understand whether or not they’re treated fairly. In this case, people feel that the service provider giants in Indonesia are extorting their consumers instead of supporting the young to progress through access to information.

Point #2 – The reason why there are telecom companies  

Isn’t it intriguing to see that the after-match of the hack raises positive reactions from Netizens in Indonesia? The people behind the hack are called “heroes” – as if this should have happened earlier. Someone should have said something about the high price of internet and mobile data.

If we go back to what the true purpose of telecom companies (next to making money), isn’t it true that in the digital age of today, they should be the one mobilising knowledge, inviting young people to form opinions, championing freedom of speech, and encouraging sharing?

  • It is really against their own purpose to not have the spirit of sharing?

  • In a way, it is about time the telecom companies to reflect and go back to their reason for being

Telecom companies can enable progress and progress is the engine of the Indonesian youth. If there is this common ground, how can the telecom companies champion this purpose, instead of denying it and focusing on profit?

Translated: Thank you hacker for representing the majority of our voice as @Telkomsel users. We hope that Telkomsel will use this experience as a consideration and evaluation.

Translated: Hahaha @Telkomsel got hacked! However, netizens are on the hacker’s side! Lots of people say that the hacker is the true voice of our nation.

Moving Forward

The bottom line is that there is a common purpose of progress. Both from the young Indonesians who are eager to progress as well as from the telecom companies who can enable this through knowledge and information.

Brands should never underestimate the power of the people’s voice. Marketers, business leaders, and brand crafters should put themselves into the shoes of the people they serve, to meaningfully understand the true aspirations and struggles of those people.

It’s time for businesses to realise that, nowadays, it is impossible to outrun the power of the people’s voice. More people than ever want to make an impact, and for their voice to be heard. The ability to achieve both goals is now at their fingertips.

Telkomsel and Indosat have a lot to think about. We believe they should start by:

  1. Understanding the identity of young people and the meaning they give to access to internet and data

  2. Uncovering what their brands truly mean to the people they serve

  3. Revealing the expectations people have for their brands

  4. Rediscovering their purpose and innovation opportunities for the needs of the people they serve

We now invite Telkomsel and Indosat to reflect and redefine their actions. There is a big opportunity to work with the disappointed youth and turn them into our ally. Together we can progress further.


Posted By Priscilla Henriette

Cilla was born to an Indonesian family with mixed religious and cultural backgrounds, which instilled in her a great curiosity to find out more about the world. At the age of 15, she decided to study away from home. Believing in the power of hard work and going the extra mile, Cilla advanced quickly in her market research career at Acorn’s Jakarta office. Striving for more solid regional exposure, she moved to Singapore and joined Kadence, a business-to-business research company. In 2007, she joined Innate Motion to run projects across Asia. For her, learning about human beings is the most interesting and challenging never-ending theme.

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