Proposed activation of fixed broadband in each district reached by the Palapa Ring, resulting in a dramatic upgrade of the network speeds of local governments, schools and universities, banking systems and microcredit programs, the public health system, the central government’s citizens-facing institutions, mosques and warnets. It entails the creation of a smart device and powerful apps that will produce a mobile broadband and fixed broadband ecosystem, which enables individual citizens and institutions to interact with great impact.
While the world was focused on the Asean summit in Brunei last week, wondering what the leaders of the region would do about the South China Sea, something else, also of great importance, was taking place elsewhere, first in Bali and then in Jakarta.
The Bali part of it was the meeting of the APEC Telecommunication and Information Working Group (TEL), composed of the telecommunication and information technology ministers of 21 countries, which is now updating its strategic plans.
You don’t hear much of APEC TEL because when APEC is mentioned, you think of the Bogor Goals, which form a large part of the APEC story. Since the Bogor Goals of free and open trade and investment were adopted when Indonesia was chair in 1994, APEC economies have increased their trade volumes six-fold. Their GDPs each year have risen half a percent higher than the rest of the world. That’s big.
APEC TEL’s part of this story is also big but isn’t well known. Established in 1990, APEC TEL would shepherd the transition of the Asia-Pacific information infrastructure into an Asia-Pacific information society. Since 2000, APEC economies have reached the goal of tripling Internet access. They are now striving for universal access to broadband by 2015.
When APEC officials talk of connectivity, however, they talk of shipping, road networks, railway links and power systems — which are, of course, vital forms of connectivity. But the revolution of the future will not be any of these. It will be meaningful broadband. “Meaningful” because it’s affordable, accessible and empowering.
In Indonesia there’s a movement to leapfrog the country into massive broadband deployment. Guiding this movement are Dr. Ilham A. Habibie, a leading light in the aviation industry; presidential aide Wim Tangkilisan; and Craig Warren Smith of the Bangkok-based Digital Divide Institute.
Chairman, managing director and adviser respectively of the Meaningful Broadband Working Group, they interacted with APEC TEL in Bali.
I understand that after this interaction several APEC members, including China, Japan and Malaysia, are moving to make meaningful broadband a cross-cutting theme for the APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting later this year.
Then in Jakarta late last week, Ilham Habibie and Wim Tangkilisan led a meeting of stakeholders in the Indonesian broadband movement, including the cabinet secretariat, senior government officials and representatives of civil society and the academe. The meeting received Smith’s 240-page Meaningful Broadband Plan to make broadband a platform for Indonesia’s socioeconomic and environmental reform. The movement is now going over the plan prior to submitting it to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono at the end of May.
The plan envisions the activation of fixed broadband in each district reached by the Palapa Ring, resulting in a dramatic upgrade of the network speeds of local governments, schools and universities, banking systems and microcredit programs, the public health system, the central government’s citizens-facing institutions, mosques and warnets. It entails the creation of a smart device and powerful apps that will produce a mobile broadband and fixed broadband ecosystem, which enables individual citizens and institutions to interact with great impact.
The program will be piloted in Pekalongan on the north coast of Central Java before it is extended to 200 others connected to the Palapa Ring. Its impact is expected to be immense in the delivery of good governance and in the fight against corruption, in education and in every economic activity. It will not only increase GDP. It will bring about social equity.
It will be up to Yudhoyono when the plan is presented to him at the end of May — whether meaningful broadband remains an idea that must wait for its time, or he makes it the heart of his legacy.
Jamil Maidan Flores is a Jakarta-based writer whose interests include literature, philosophy and foreign policy. He is an English language and writing consultant of the Indonesian government.