Jakarta – A series of new digital infrastructure projects are strengthening Indonesia's information and communications technology (ICT) sector as the country prioritizes the digital economy as an area of growth.
In late September, Japanese telecom giant NTT announced it would invest US$500 million in a new data center in Indonesia, the company's third in the country.
Due to be completed next year in Cikarang, West Java, the Jakarta 3 Data Center will provide 18,000 square meters of IT space and 45 megawatt (MW) information technology (IT load).
NTT officials said the site would give domestic companies higher data speeds and low latency.
This comes on the heels of an announcement made in July that fellow Japanese company SoftBank will invest $2 billion in Indonesia over the next five years, through Singaporean transport, food delivery and digital payments firm Grab, to upgrade digital infrastructure.
The funds will go toward creating a new urban transportation network based on electric vehicles and geo-mapping solutions as well as toward expanding e-health care services.
Having invested around $1 billion in Indonesia since 2017, Grab also plans to open a new head office in the country.
Digital economy outlook
The upgrade of digital infrastructure aligns with government plans to encourage ICT growth.
Central to this is the Palapa Ring broadband project, which will see a 35,000-kilometer fiber-optic network installed across the country.
The $1.3-billion project, expected to be operational by the end of the year, is designed to provide 4G services across the entire archipelago, with the government hoping it will push broadband penetration – at 9.38 percent as of December last year – well into double digits.
Aside from upgraded infrastructure, tech-based companies are benefitting from improved access to credit. One initiative in this field is NextICorn, launched in May last year, which looks to link local start-ups with suitable financial backers.
The measures to improve the domestic ecosystem are bearing fruit, as Indonesia is now home to five of Southeast Asia's eight unicorns – start-ups valued at $1 billion or more.
Meanwhile, the domestic internet economy is currently valued at $40billion, having quadrupled since 2015, according to the "e-Conomy SEA 2019" report released by Google, Singapore's Temasek and US consultancy Bain & Company.
The country has already met its goal of becoming the largest digital economy in Southeast Asia by 2020, and is expected to continue to enjoy sharp growth in the sector, which is projected to reach a value of $130 billion by 2025.
Online payments boom
Growth has largely been driven by rapid expansion in digital payments.
A series of new options have entered the market, and last year the value of digital transactions quadruped to Rp 47 trillion ($3.3 billion), according to the country's central bank, Bank Indonesia.
The most recent significant development was the launch of the LinkAja mobile payment services platform in March. Emerging from an alliance between Telekomunikasi Indonesia, the country's largest telecom firm, and a series of public financial institutions, the app allows people to make transfers or pay bills on their mobile phones. It joins major players Go-Pay and OVO in the market.
While the development of the digital economy is encouraging to policymakers, it has also given rise to calls to update legislation.
Speaking at the Indonesia Fintech Summit & Expo in Jakarta in late September, Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati said the government was looking at ways to update tax laws in response to the digital payments industry to ensure that the broader economy benefits from the recent growth.
Making Indonesia 4.0
Aside from strictly online industries, improved digital infrastructure is crucial to government plans to encourage high-value industrial development and boost local manufacturing.
The Making Indonesia 4.0 road map launched in April last year seeks to diversify the economy away from a reliance on natural resources by developing higher-tech export industries.
Areas of focus include 3D printing, artificial intelligence, human-machine interface, robotics and sensor technology, all of which require advanced digital capacity.
Planners hope that the strategy will create between 7 million and 19 million new jobs between 2018 and 2030 and lift the industrial sector's gross domestic product contribution from 20 percent to 30 percent over the same period.
[Content provided by Oxford Business Group. For more info contact Lukas Bester.]