Online learning case study: Indonesia’s internet quota subsidies to encourage distance learning

Indonesian boy studying

Muhammad Djindan reports on the impact of the Ministry of Culture and Education’s programme to subsidise mobile internet quotas for teachers and students alike

Mobile internet becomes a primary need

The sudden shift from face-to-face to online learning in late March 2020 caused problems for teachers and students alike in Indonesia. One of the most pressing problems was the need for households to allocate some of their already-limited resources to pay the internet quota for distance learning.

Since public wireless connections and household-level wifi are limited even in urban areas, most Indonesians resorted to using mobile-based internet quotas to facilitate distance learning. This transformed the mobile internet quota from a secondary or tertiary need into a primary need for many families during COVID-19.

Last August, a study (Redaksi, 2020) on the level of burden felt by households through having to buy mobile internet quotas for online education found 50% of respondents described this as ‘moderately burdensome’ and 17% as ‘really burdensome’ (SMRC, 2020). Additionally, there have been many complaints in the mass media about this additional expense at such a difficult time (e.g. Oktavira, 2020; Widyawati, 2020).

In response to this problem, the Ministry of Culture and Education rolled out a programme to subsidise mobile internet quotas for teachers and students. Launched at the end of August 2020, these quotas were disbursed monthly from September to December 2020 – a policy that had never previously been implemented.

Over these four months, students and teachers received two types of mobile internet quota that were directly sent to their registered phone numbers. The first was a general internet quota enabling recipients to access all kinds of websites and mobile applications; the second was an ‘education quota’ which limited access to online learning education portals listed by the Ministry.

How the quota subsidies are allocated

All students and teachers received a five-gigabyte quota each month for the first type of quota. For the second type (also distributed monthly), the quota was allocated based on each student’s and teacher’s level of education, as follows:

  • Early-childhood education pupils: 15 gigabytes;
  • Elementary- and secondary-school students: 30 gigabytes;
  • Early-childhood education, elementary and secondary teachers: 30 gigabytes;
  • University students and lecturers: 45 gigabytes.

While the quota subsidies were not distributed in January and February 2021, the Ministry of Culture and Education announced at the end of February that the policy would be restarted for at least three months between March and May 2021. In this second phase, the Ministry is providing a single quota which can be used to access all sites except social media sites, mobile phone games, and any other sites listed on the Ministry’s website.

The size of this monthly quota has also been adjusted, as follows:

  • Early-childhood education pupils: 7 gigabytes;
  • Elementary- and secondary-school students: 10 gigabytes;
  • Early-childhood education, elementary and secondary teachers: 12 gigabytes;
  • University students and lecturers: 15 gigabytes.

In addition to simplifying the quotas, the Minister of Culture and Education discontinued the subsidy to any registered users in the previous phase who had used less than 1 gigabyte of free mobile data (Ihsan, 2021).

Despite the two-month pause and the adjustments made in the second phase, it seems the Indonesian public still find this policy positive. One study found that 84.7% of respondents regarded the internet quota subsidy to be effective in easing citizens’ burden at a time of crisis (Arus Survei Indonesia, 2020). Furthermore, teachers have expressed their support because the internet quota facilitates more meaningful online education with their students.

In the second phase, teachers have reported a reduction in complaints from parents about the cumbersome nature of online learning (Nasrun, 2021). Nonetheless, some stakeholders have expressed concern about the (lack of) coverage of mobile-based internet signals. And while this is not a problem that was intended to be resolved through the internet quota subsidies policy, it is often mentioned as another challenge of distance learning in many remote areas of Indonesia.

Muhammad Djindan teaches at the Department of Politics and Government in Universitas Gadjah Mada (UGM), Indonesia. He is a 2021 Knowledge Associate of the International Network for Government Science Advice (INGSA)


Arus Survei Indonesia. (2020). Persepsi Publik Terhadap Program Bantuan Kuota Internet Kemendikbud RI 2020. Retrieved from 

Ihsan, D. (2021). Pengguna di Bawah 1 GB, Mendikbud: Tidak Dapat Kuota Gratis. Retrieved from 

Nasrun, A. T. D. (2021). Kemendikbud Lanjutkan Kebijakan Bantuan Kuota Data Internet Tahun 2021. Retrieved from,bulan%20sejak%20bulan%20Maret%202021

Oktavira, B. A. (2020). Bantuan Biaya Internet untuk Kuliah Online. Retrieved from 

Redaksi. (2020). Mayoritas Warga Menganggap Berat Biaya Pendidikan Online. Retrieved from 

SMRC. (2020). Asesmen Publik tentang Pendidikan Online di Masa Covid-19. Retrieved from 

Widyawati, S. (2020). Wali Murid Keluhkan Biaya Pulsa – Paket Data Belajar Daring, Dinas Pendidikan: Bisa Minta ke Sekolah. Retrieved from