On 23 May 2016, DFAT’s pioneering educational app, Next Door Land, officially went live! Over the next few weeks, the AIYA Blog will be providing insights into the background to this project and the organisations involved. First up, we hear first-hand from Celia Finch, an AIYA member and co-founder of AIYA Jawa Barat, about the game’s Talk Show event in Jakarta.

Next Door Land was initiated and funded by DFAT from the Australian Embassy, in collaboration with the Indonesian Ministry of Education and Culture, Agate Studio, the Asia Education Foundation and AIYA. Both the Australian Ambassador to Indonesia, Paul Grigson (@DubesAustralia), and the head of Badan Ekonomi Kreatif Indonesia (Bekraf), Pak Triawan Munaf (@Triawan), were on the panel at this event, along with a managing partner of Agate Studio (@AgateStudio). Agung Yudha, Public Policy Manager of Twitter Indonesia (@TwitterID), co-hosted the panel and moderated the discussion. Twitter Indonesia has played a big role in the promotion of the app, showcasing their interest in connecting cultures through digital mediums. Agung Yudha described this initiative as a step forward for their interaction with Australia.

Talk Show photo 1

Panel members discussing the Next Door Land app. Photo: Celia Finch

The talk show event was held in the co-working space Conclave. This is a very cool space in Jakarta where you can smell the energy of collaboration in the air. It was beautifully decorated with wooden furniture and pot plants – very funky. Audience members were from a broad range of organisations, including the Australian Embassy and various media outlets. Whilst waiting for the event to begin, there was chatter in the air and the chirping of tweets from participants’ phones.

After a short introduction from the Australian Embassy’s Ben Davey, one of the key brains behind the project, the @TwitterID panelist took over. The talk show began in Indonesian however casually switched between English and Indonesian throughout, even in mid-sentence. The functionality of Next Door Land was introduced by Agate Studios and a fun trailer was shown.

Bajaj race challenge

A screenshot of the Bajaj Race Challenge. Image: Next Door Land

We saw how the app takes the player to many iconic places in both countries such as Jakarta and Sydney Harbour. In each location there were challenges that need to be overcome. For example, in Jakarta the player has to battle the traffic in a bajaj (a motorbike that has three wheels and a bench in the back that is covered by an awning – these are particularly useful in Jakarta during the wet season and when you have too many shopping bags to take an ojek!).

It was particularly interesting to see that comics feature heavily in the app, with a new short comic appearing at each new location throughout the game. Our very own AIYA National President, Nicholas Mark, was one of the creative minds behind the app and also developed the comics, together with illustrator Pak Bambang Shakuntala.

The app and the rationale for creating it formed the key talking point of the talk show. Ambassador Paul Grigson described how the app aimed to get younger children to be curious about and engaged with Australia and Indonesia. The app can play a role in provoking interest in the other country as it is a fun and modern medium. The importance of people-to-people connections and engagement in the bilateral relationship on a more personal level was also emphasised, particularly for future generations. Pak Triawan Munaf from Bekraf said that educational games such as Next Door Land are very important and exciting in the context of digital diplomacy. This means the use of the internet and other new communication technologies to assist in achieving diplomatic objectives. The exposure to culture and history that this app provides the younger generation will inspire positive images of the other country that will encourage the new generation of leaders to engage more deeply in whichever industry they become a part of.

Talk Show photo 2

Another screenshot from the game shown during the Talk Show presentation. Photo: Celia Finch

The Q&A session confirmed that the app is primarily aimed at younger children, however all ages can enjoy it. In Australia, the app is being promoted through AIYA channels and other community networks, with a particular focus on education networks such as the BRIDGE program, as a study guide has also been developed for the app.

All in all, the app is an inspiring initiative that demonstrates how DFAT is thinking outside of the box when it comes to furthering the relationship between Australia and Indonesia, particularly in the way that this project enabled collaboration between so many organisations.

So in conclusion, be sure to download the app and start playing no matter what age you are – it is surely better than Candy Crush!