Indonesia is navigating the influx of new technologies and the internet, as are many of its neighbors, but in a few different ways. Reports that Twitter will be setting up an office in the country call to mind the back-and-forth Indonesia has had over the last couple of years as it wrestles with web censorship policies, building out connectivity, and the gender gap when it comes to mobile access.
Tech in Asia has reported that Twitter CEO Dick Costolo is visiting Indonesia for the first time this week in order to inaugurate Twitter’s representative office in the country, to be headed up by Rick Mulia. Indonesia has historically struggled to figure out what it wants its relationship to be with U.S.-based technology companies, particularly social media ones, so Costolo’s visit and the new office is an important next step. Here, it is impossible not to recall the case of Benny Handoko — a Twitter user in Indonesia, who now has nearly 60,000 followers, and who was charged with defamation last year and sentenced to a year of probation by a South Jakarta court. Handoko had tweeted about a politician, calling him a “crook”, and was brought to court on charges of libel.
Handoko’s case is one of a few that Indonesia has pursued regarding social media accounts and the law. So Twitter has this mixed bag to deal with as it expands in the country. And there is also much work to do for the region regarding connectivity: The GSMA found in a report published earlier this year that women in Southeast Asia are 38% less likely to own mobile phones than men. 59% of women who own mobile phones in Indonesia reported never using them to access the internet. So a gap still lies between employing new technologies to improve connectivity and education and the reality of access and mobile device usage. After all, mobile will be the way in which the next billion users access the internet.
Still, in many regards Indonesia is an up-and-coming player in Asia regarding new technology adoption. The country has seen an uptick in gaming — a hugely popular market in Southeast Asia. Startups in the country have been hailed as much-deserving of venture capital and angel investment. And, last year Blouin News reported on the myriad of projects that the country supports to improve the integration of technology into the education sector through adopting more advanced devices, devoting funding for startups, building data centers, and creating a general environment that encourages innovation. The country certainly has its work cut out for itself with regards to balancing its history with web censorship, its relationship with social media, and its desire to embark upon the next era of its role in the digital revolution.