How The Project Started
The Howard Hughes Foundation helped fund my research
of BKKBN and its practices during the spring and summer of 1998.
The purpose of my research was to obtain information
and materials of potential benefit to community
and public health officials working
in the area of family planning in poor and ethnically
diverse communities in the United States.
Unfortunately, I landed
in Indonesia as anti-Suharto rioting began,
hours before the airport road was closed.
I spent the next three weeks in a sealed house with Chinese-Indonesian friends,
listening for gunshots and watching for signs of arson.
I helped Rotary arrange the evacuation of all their exchange students,
but decided not to go myself.
Being one of the relatively few foreigners
who chose to stay through out the crisis and the months that followed
gained me a great deal of respect from Indonesians, and I acquired
a deep understanding of the effects of the Asian economic crisis and
the causes of social unrest.
It was a life-changing experience.
I was invited to attend a BKKBN conference to brainstorm
possible responses to the economic crisis which was quickly putting
contraceptives financially out of reach of huge numbers of Indonesians
as well as the political crisis which was hampering family planning field work.
Because dra. Byarlina Gyamirti Msc, who invited me to the conference,
happened to be aware of my work with handheld computers and
the Global Positioning System, I was introduced to Bapak Lalu Sudarmadi
who had responsibility for designing and implementing a computer-based
data collection and mapping system for Indonesia.
Cirebon Regency, West Java, my second
home, is one of five
regions where BKKBN and the United Nations have established a pilot
project to enter manually-collected field data on family planning and
living standards into a database on a networked management information
The data entry process is extremely time-consuming and inaccurate,
and frustration with it has led Bapak Lalu Sudarmadi to a vision of a
comprehensive technological means of acquiring and analyzing
As a volunteer, I've been helping to create this system.