How the Special Autonomy Funds May Help with Social Development in West Papua

Social Development
Social Development

Many have agreed that the special autonomy for West Papua will bring more great results to their indigenous people. Dominggus Mandacan, the governor of West Papua, claimed that the special autonomy has boosted the growth of both of Papua and West Papua. Does that also include social development in West Papua?

For starters, the term ‘West Papua’ is generally understood as both Papua and West Papua. Still, some people may still mention the two as separate areas, which is also fine. Then, the earlier statistics regarding the Papuans and West Papuans were still worrying.

Let’s start with the health statistics according to Pacific Policy. The rate for infant mortality in Papua had gone up to 6.85 percent in 1999. This was a bit higher than the national average of 5.95 percent. Unfortunately, the indigenous ethnic Papuan babies suffered more in this case.

Based on the Pacific Policy, the literacy in Papua and West Papua was still very poor in 2011. In the 15 – 44 age group, the illiteracy rate had gone up to 34.83 percent. This is way far off the national average of 2.30 percent. Without a proper education, the Papuans and West Papuans would not just fall behind in education and work opportunities, but also in social improvement.

Why the Gap?

Social Development

The social development in West Papua will not improve if the basic needs of its indigenous people (in this case, the Melanesians) are still unfulfilled. From the statistics above, we could not help but wonder: why so much gap?

The location also counts. The infant mortality rate for trans-migrants in Papua and West Papua (which are non-Melanesians) was only 3.6 percent. Compared to the infant mortality rate for the Melanesian babies whose parents lived in rural areas, that was still considered small. The infant mortality for Melanesian babies in rural areas had reached 18.4 percent.

In other words, if the health services are not adequate to support the health development of Papuans and West Papuans, then they will suffer too in terms of educational development. Without proper education, they will not be considered for future employment—which means no better careers. They will be falling even more behind.

Slowly But Surely…The Progress Is There…

Even though it seems so slow, the progress for all developments, including social development in West Papua, is still there.

For example: The statistics compiled by BPS (Badan Pusat Statistik or The Central Bureau of Statistics) from 2009 to 2013 has shown some improvements in terms of educational development. The numbers of school participation rates for aged 7 – 12 and 13 – 15 have gone up to over 90 percent. To be more precise, the rate is 95.58 percent for aged 7 – 12 and 92.81 percent for aged 13 – 15.

This means, many Papuan children have gained access to basic education. The government (including various political parties involved in it) have made a lot of effort to make this happen. However, the participation of parents and the communities is also very much needed. That way, the children and the future generation of Papua and West Papua will get support all from home, the neighborhood, and the government.

The Digital Life in Papua and West Papua

Social Development
Digital Life

After basic education, the social development in West Papua must also include getting connected to as many parts of the world as possible. The problem is, Indonesia is still in the 77th rank in terms of internet use. The average speed of the bandwidth is still 3.7 mbps. This is still way far from South Korea (25.3 mbps), although Indonesia is still much better than Vietnam (2.5 mbps) and India (2.0 mbps). Another country that is still slightly better than Indonesia in this is Thailand (6.6 mbps).

In March 2017, the project for installing an internet connection Papua and West Papua was signed. So far, there were plenty areas to cover. Eight of those areas as the main focus for this project are: South Sorong, Maybrat, Tambrauw, The Wondama Gulf, The Bintuni Gulf, South Manokwari, and Arfak mountains.

Of course, the progress is still on-going. So far, the two areas that had internet connection successfully installed are Sorong and Manokwari. Sorong is also considered a model city for the successful development of West Papua. With this program, the social development in West Papua will also be improved. They will get to know other cultures around them, not only in Indonesia – but also the world. They can even get in touch with their closest neighbor Australia.

Along with the special autonomy, the Papuans and West Papuans can be more in-charge of their own home and how things should be run. The funds for the special autonomy have gained benefits for the local, indigenous Papuans. Many of them have gained more access to education and work opportunities, like Fientje Maritje Suebu in the Indonesian Foreign Ministry, Listra Kogoya in the police force, and Velix Wanggai in Bappenas.

Slowly but surely, the social development in West Papua is still going forward.