Papau Struggles to Level the Internet Playing Field

Papua-NetThe Warnet** was full. Students and adults shared a few old computers running the Windows XP operating system, connecting to Facebook, MySpace, Gmail, and other social networking sites. A few looked at web pages from universities scattered around the world, and a few simply indulged in the escape of online gaming. This is Jayapura, Papua, Indonesia. The provincial capital of Indonesia’s eastern-most province, just a couple of miles from the international border with Papua New Guinea.

Internet access is accomplished via satellite connections, mostly provided by the national PTT Telkom Indonesia through their “Speedy” Internet DSL service. However “Speedy” should be best considered a simple branding term – unrelated to the reality of Internet access that is limited by around 83 Mbps satellite capacity serving the needs of a city totaling more than 350,000 people. That is not likely to change any time soon, as the Palapa fiber optic ring is still on the drawing board, and satellite coverage and capacity over the Papua region is limited.

Connecting to Skype via the hotel WiFi connection (Aston Hotel in Jayapura), you can get a relatively decent video call – depending on the time of day (normally between 0100 and 0700). Not HD quality, but movement is good, and audio quality is good. You wouldn’t want to be downloading files via email, or web surfing on high density pages, however if the computer is basically idle, and the network not heavily in use, you can get the call.

Other Internet access is available through PT Indosat and the mobile carriers, however each have their own limitations, whether it be by location, cost, or services offered to users.

Moving to West Papua

Manokwari, the provincial capital of West Papua, is a different experience. Internet bandwidth to the city is very limited, to the point getting any level of Internet access is considered good. However, while in Manokwari, sitting outside the Blue and White Warnet at 0500 in the morning, connecting to a prepaid WiFi access point – I was able to call home using Skype. Lots of clipping and echo, a few rounds of “hey, say that again, the connection is not very good,” and a bit of frustration, but at 0500 I called home.

papua-blue-whiteThe Blue and White Warnet is probably among the best public access points in Manokwari. It also serves as a mini community center, hangout location for young people, and café. For young people with dreams of a successful, happy life, the Warnet provides a healthy opportunity to explore other parts of the world. They can build their dreams of education, job opportunities, and travel to parts of the world which seem like a science fiction novel compared to their surroundings of jungle and poverty.

Whether it is Jayapura, or Manokwari, or any other remote area in this huge country, the message is clear – “we need more, better, and faster Internet.” Students and young people understand their global competition is children from cities like Sunnyvale or Seoul, where access to the vast world of Internet knowledge and opportunity is taken for granted, at speeds to papua-wifiindividual homes exceeding the entire access capacity of their province.

But yet a crowd gathers at the Blue and White Warnet every day and evening. And students continue to squeeze every bit of value from their low speed Internet connections possible, continuing to grasp at threads of dreams they may someday become full members of the connected global community.

As mentioned in earlier posts on the Warnet culture in western Indonesia, the Warnets in general have no problems with users accessing pornography or trying to hack – most users are genuinely trying to use the resource to learn more, and get a brief glimpse into a better life.

Palapa Ring – East

Bringing the Palapa Fiber Optic Ring to eastern Indonesia is an essential key to connecting the major islands back to western Indonesia and the rest of the world. While satellite capacity begins to run dry, the hope of bringing a high performance fiber system to the shores of Papua would enable bandwidth needed to bring modern eGovernment, education, and capacity for private industry to fully join the global economy, subsequently improving quality of life for all citizens.

As a neutral cable, Palapa Ring – East will also promote competition among Indonesia’s carriers and service providers to extend their networks to Papua and West Papua bringing better price competition, quality of service (including customer service), and variety of services. An Internet Exchange Point (IXP) in the major cities will boost local content and communications performance, without having to make the trek from Papua to Jakarta to Papua for accessing locally hosted content.

That is the good news. The bad news is that Palapa Ring east only exists on Powerpoint slides and meeting discussions. A great idea, which everybody appears to want, but no schedule, and no solid plan for the project. It will happen someday, we just do not know what day that might be.

The Developing World Needs Access

Whether Burma, Laos, North Korea, Somalia, or any other developing region, Internet access is best considered a human right withheld by the government, or limited by technical capability shortfalls within the country. With a child growing up in a city such as Burbank (California) having global Internetworking technologies and applications diffused into their lives from nearly the time they can walk, the digital divide in 2010 has continued to expand to new extremes.

While those hanging out at the Blue and White café are able to use Facebook, some eLearning applications, Twitter, chats, and email – 20 miles into the jungle is a completely different story. The access is cut off, and for hundreds of villages located throughout Papua, Internet is simply not available.

Within the city center in cities such as Jayapura, you do have a scattering of good buildings, and within some of the new settlement areas outside of the city better infrastructure is being produced.  However for the most part, people struggle everyday to learn, to earn, and to meet the most basic requirements in Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs. 

papua-jayapuraImagine if you were sitting in Costa Mesa (California) and you could not connect to the Internet. Imagine that it is simply not available in your area. Hard to imagine. Today each child born and raised in Papua and West Papua is burdened with an environment that simply does not give them the intellectual tools to compete with children in Jakarta, Burbank, or any other wired city.

And in Burbank we consider it a crime if our cable TV provider has less than 100 HD channels available, or every sporting event on planet available in real time.

Instant communications, instant access to information, instant access to thousands of applications and utilities that make life better – a right of all citizens. in reality no immediate communications during disasters, no support for people when they are sick or injured, no WebMD, Wikipedia, or Yahoo Answers. Just “not available here.” As an Internet user, sitting in a hotel room where Internet is simply not available, and my next opportunity to connect is 0500 tomorrow morning – and having lived in a wired world for most of the past 25 years – this is a very strange experience.

An experience that is considered normal for everybody in Manokwari.


NOTE: Wireless access is available through companies such as Telokomsel. They have deployed 3G services to both cities mentioned in this article using flash modems, although the services are more expensive than most can handle for any level of large data transfer, not to mention the cost of user equipment (handsets and mobile/laptop computers). Again, expensive satellite connections must be paid for, and as always the end user carries the cost. But it is a step forward.

**Warnet = A Warnet is similar to an Internet Café.  However it is normally a small room, with around 10 small computer workstations connected to the Internet.  in many locations in Indonesia, the Warnet is the only location people can access the Internet, as most cannot afford their own computer, or in their area Internet access is simply not available.

We should also note that mobile telephony is available nearly everywhere in Indonesia, with the exception of remote villages within the interior of locations such as Papua.  As 3G wireless technology continues to extend into more and more remote locations, the potential of handsets becoming the dominant Internet access device is a high probability, with the only real limitation being the connection will ultimately be completed using satellite links.

John Savageau

From Manokwari, West Papua, indonesia

Social Media Enabling Asia

The Huffington Post recently posted a blog by Thomas Crampton highlighting some of the differences between social media use in Asian countries vs. the United States. Much of it driven by broadband deployment in technically advanced countries like South Korea, Japan, and Hong Kong (yes, I know…), much of it a burning desire by young people in developing countries who want to expand their social and intellectual evolution.

Indonesia is now the second largest user of Facebook in the world. Poor broadband access (generally), low disposable income to buy personal computers, and moral guidelines pressuring young people to follow religious values. How is it possible they could develop that fast?

Growth rates in broadband and mobile access are astounding, with statistics such as Vietnam’s mobile Internet users growing 846% in 2009, 84.3% of Japanese online to the Internet with a mobile phone, and 48.6% of Hong Kong mobile users connecting with a smart phone.

Oh, and mobile phones in Asia are inexpensive. Really, really inexpensive. Almost anybody can afford a mobile phone, and many do – occasionally at the expense of clothing, food, and shelter. In fact, I was able to buy a prepaid phone with around 250 minutes in Jakarta for less than US$20, with messaging, simple data access, and other net-enabled applications.

So the mobile phone represents a means of communication, added to a basic social status issue, and a door to emotional and intellectual exploration and freedom.

What is different in Asia than in the US?

Well, a couple of things for certain. When you start with nearly zero social and technical penetration, and you have the benefit of receiving a relatively mature technology, then it is easy to statistically go from zero to nine hundred miles an hour.

Also, consider the average young person in a country like Indonesia or Vietnam. You go to the occasional movie, you have an opportunity to watch foreign television shows, and you realize it is a very, very big world. Lots of diversity you would not be exposed to without the benefit of technology. Even more, you understand there are real people living in that huge world who are not simple digital renditions of a movie producer’s fantasy.

The Internet helps bring a young person in Jakarta, Samarinda, Semarang, Banda Aceh, or Merauke to Paris, Cape Town, or Burbank. Facebook puts a name and face to distant lands, cultures, and people. And when that young person goes home to their dormitory, house, or relocation home they have a glimmer, even if it is a faint glimmer, of hope that life could be better than it is today.

And Internet access, with social networking provides an additional escape. Whether it be joining a virtual gaming community, or chatting with persons on a different continent, you are able to escape your surroundings for a brief moment. That moment may be in an Internet café (WarNets in Indonesia), it may be in a home, or it may be at school.

Of course, not everybody in Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Cambodia, or Laos are poor or underprivileged.

Social Freedom

Asian culture is different than western culture. In many countries it is not easy to be open with relationships, activities, or personal preferences. While American kids certainly find their escape in gaming and social networking, it is even more of an outlet for many young people in Asia.

If you live in a strict religious environment – as many in Asia do, which restricts your ability to freely express yourself in the local “real” community, being able to develop new ideas, discover new ideas outside the control of your “thought leaders,” is an attraction. Facebook and other social networking sites offer a global conduit of hundreds of millions of other people who may also desire to share experiences and ideas.

And the Future

In the past, Americans enjoyed a fair level of economic and social security based on high levels of education, and the desire to increase their status and quality of life. We looked at developing countries with little interest, and in fact many Americans still cannot find more than a dozen countries on a world map.

Young people in developing countries such as those in Asia, who are included in those astonishing statistics of locations rapidly embracing technology and social networking, are hungry. Hungry not only for knowledge, but also hungry to improve their quality of life, with an added hook of national identity and pride.

The intellectual skills gained through accessing Internet and diffusing global communications into their life will give those persons in developing countries the same intellectual tools American enjoy, putting them on a level intellectual playing field. With the additional ability to participate in eLearning, those intellectual tools become more important – particularly when compared to the dwindling education levels and achievements in America’s education system.

Social networking sites may help draw young people to the Internet, but once there the skills learned far outweigh the social value Facebook or other sites provide. With the largest countries in the world representing the fastest growing component of the internet (China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand), within another generation or two those young people may intellectually match or exceed the capabilities of their age group counterparts in the United States and Europe.

This is all good, as educated people generally are much more likely to quickly recover from disasters, are less likely to become involved in extremist movements, and are more likely to break down political, cultural, and secular barriers that have polarized nations in the past.

It is scary to Americans, as we will need to prepare ourselves to accept the rest of the world as our intellectual and economic equals. It is inevitable.

Riding the Economic Roller Coaster of TransJakarta Route 1

The little girl, not more than 4 or 5 years old, was lying motionless in a fetal position, discarded like trash, on a ramp leading to the Sarinah station on TransJakarta‘s Route 1. Passersby displayed only one emotion – annoyance they had to step over, or step around the little body. A little body that had never known the joy of a birthday party, the warmth of a nurturing family, or a family picnic in the park.

Showing the main routes, including Route 1Two stops down the road, at the Tosari Station, sits Plaza Indonesia, an icon to opulence with customers slurping iced lattes and munching scones at a Starbucks, taking a much needed break from power shopping at Christian Dior or Cartier.

The TransJakarta is Jakarta’s attempt at building a mass transit system within the capital city. With 7 major routes, it rivals cities such as Los Angeles in the ability to serve large numbers of people needing to get around the large metropolitan area of Jakarta. All riding on buses traversing dedicated busways which bypass some of the epic traffic jams which routinely gridlock nearly all areas of the city.

Route 1 begins at Blok M, and slices its way through the city center to Station Kota at the north end of Jakarta. Riding the route takes about 40 minutes, and you get to experience all the good, the bad, and the ugly of Jakarta.

Starting at Blok M

Medium qaulity mall near Blok M StationBlok M is known for both shopping and nightlife. With shopping malls running from hundreds of small kiosks in the Blok M Terminal, to new higher end shopping malls within 100 meters of the terminal, Blok M has all the shopping you can handle. But it is the nightlife that most foreigners and expats consider when heading to Blok M. Blok M is known for loud bars, with wall-to-wall working girls, and taxi drivers who take the dumber tourists on long rides throughout the city of Jakarta while enroute to hotels and other destinations.

Station from top of RampThe other part of Blok M is the dust, the trash piling up on streets and sidewalks, and grubby little kids asking for money. Always the kids asking for money.

You work your way up Route 1 to the beginning of a scattering of high end shopping malls, including Senayan City, Pacific Place, Plaza Semmangi, and Plaza Indonesia. Immediately adjacent to most high end shopping malls are small communities of homeless people living in cardboard boxes or lean-to shacks. There is the irony, you go shopping or eating donuts a J. Co at City Walk Mall, and the trek back to your hotel passes through a fairly large homeless community surrounding the Intercontinental Hotel or le Meridien.

The Le Meridien Pool next to Abandoned Construction SiteEach station requires you to walk up a ramp, cross an over pass, and walk down another ramp to the bus ticket stand and platform. Passing children and a photo album of disabled persons with ailments that – if you do not harden your heart and soul to the images, will keep you up long hours at night thinking.

The entire corridor leading from Senayan City to the area around the National Monument (MONAS) resembles a deep ravine resting between skyscrapers hitting 60+ stories housing every multinational company in existence. There is a tremendous amount of money passing back and forthnear the Monument MONAS Bus Station between the buildings creating this Grand Canyon of Jakarta. You can dine at the Jakarta Hard Rock Café, the Outback Steak House, Tony Romas, or Burger King and McDonalds – all within a 15 minute bus ride on the TJ-1.

Heading North to the Kota Station

As you pass the National Monument, Jakarta’s landscape starts to change back to the dust and poverty we started with at Blok M. The buildings start to show more and more signs of decay, the people showing more and more signs of despair, and the smell of open sewage hits your senses. Then you realize it is actually a small stream, a living part of the sewage system, and there are children playing next to it.

You cannot escape the smell near streamsAdd the thick, syrupy smell of diesel exhaust, 2 stroke motor engines, and sidewalk vendors cooking over open fire, and you wonder how a child could possibly make it to 5 years old without serious lung problems.

You pass Mangga Besar and Olimo, famous in the expat community for its massage parlors and prostitution, and finally find your way to the end of the line at Station Kota. Straddling the port on one side, a shopping mall on the east (Mangga Duo), and a concentration of museums adjacent to the station, it is a mix of images and senses that don’t quite fit into one small geographic postage stamp in the city.

A poriton of sky scraper alley in JakartaOne afternoon, 20 bus stations, and a million images, emotions, and memories. Nowhere in the world can you observe the best and worst of life in such concentration. As a foreigner, taking pictures of everything I see, you would expect a reaction of annoyance and contempt from those who become part of your album. But not once did I receive a negative response, a sharp comment, or even a cold stare. Almost a feeling of people wanting the scenes to be recorded, preserved forever. Recorded so nobody forgets Jakarta the way it is, was, and provide a basis for what Jakarta can aspire to for the future.

I won’t use a picture of the little girl on the ramp, as it would be a dishonor to her memory. But I won’t forgetObama at Plaza Indonesia that a little life, and her memory is recorded, and the image will never be lost. Too bad she couldn’t beg, I would have given her something, anything.

900 words in a blog cannot describe Jakarta. It is a wonderful city, one of the great cities in the world. Great memories, horrifying memories.

LA has South Central, San Francisco the Tenderloin District, Chicago has the South Side, and Honolulu has Hotel Street. We cannot be sanctimonious, as every country and city has poverty and rough areas.

Bus station near Le Meridien HotelAt some point, whether it is the Philippines, Mongolia, China, Indonesia, Thailand, Mexico, Uganda, or Palestine, poor areas all start looking the same. The sad thing is that once they all start looking the same, we become accustomed to seeing poverty, and it does not bother us any longer. It almost becomes expected and natural to step over little girls discarded on the side of a road.

Then we are in an airplane, 16 hours later we pop out in Burbank, and again prioritize worrying abHigh Tech mall near Station Kotaout getting a jaywalking ticket for walking across San Fernando Road outside of a painted cross walk on your way to Fuddruckers.

It is a roller coaster

NOTE:  You can see full sized pictures by clicking on each photo.

You can see all photos HERE

Data Center Consolidation and Cloud Computing in Indonesia

2010 brings great opportunities and challenges to IT organizations in Indonesia. Technology refresh, aggressive development of telecom and Internet infrastructure, with aggressive deployment of “eEverything” is shaking the ICT industry. Even the most steadfast division-level IT managers are beginning to recognize the futility in trying to maintain their own closet “data Skyline near the Jakarta Stock Exchangecenter” in a world of virtualization, cloud computing, and drive to increase both data center economics and data security.

Of course there are very good models on the street for data center consolidation, particularly on government levels. In the United States, the National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO) lists data center consolidation as the second highest priority, immediately after getting better control over managing budget and operational cost.

In March the Australian government announced a (AUD) $1 billion data center consolidation plan, with standardization, solution sharing, and developing opportunities to benefit from “new technology, processes or policy.”

Minister for Finance and Deregulation Lindsay Tanner noted Australia currently has many inefficient data centers, very suitable candidates for consolidation and refresh. The problem of scattered or unstructured data management is “spread across Australia, (with data) located in not just large enterprise data centres, but also in cupboards, converted offices, computer and server rooms, and in commercial and insourced data centers,” said Tanner.

These are primarily older data centres that are reaching the limits of their electricity supply and floor space. With government demand for data center ICT equipment rising by more than 30 per cent each year, it was clear that we needed to reassess how the government handled its data center activities.”

The UK government also recently published ICT guidance related to data center consolidation, with a plan to cut government operated data center from 130 to around 10~12 facilities. The guidance includes the statement “Over the next three-to-five years, approximately 10-12 highly resilient strategic data centers for the public sector will be established to a high common standard. This will then enable the consolidation of existing public data centers into highly secure and resilient facilities, managed by expert suppliers.”

Indonesia Addresses Data Center Consolidation

Indonesia’s government is in a unique position to take advantage of both introducing new data center and virtualization technology, as well as deploying a consolidated, distributed data center infrastructure that would bring the additional benefit of strong disaster recovery capabilities.

Much like the problems identified by Minister Tanner in Australia, today many Indonesian government organizations – and commercial companies – operate ICT infrastructure without structure or standards. “We cannot add additional services in our data center,” mentioned one IT manager interviewed recently in a data center audit. “If our users need additional applications, we direct them to buy their own server and plug it in under their desk. We don’t have the electricity in our data center to drive new applications and hardware, so our IT organization will now focus only on LAN/WAN connectivity.”

While all IT managers understand disaster recovery planning and business continuity is essential, few have brought DR from PowerPoint to reality, putting much organization data on individual servers, laptops, and desktop computers. All at risk for theft or loss/failure of single disk systems.

basic map showing palapa ringThat is all changing. Commercial data centers are being built around the country by companies such as PT Indosat, PT Telekom, and other private companies. With the Palapa national fiber ring nearing completion, all main islands within the Indonesian archipelago are connected with diverse fiber optic backbone capacity, and additional international submarine cables are either planned or in progress to Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore, and other communication hubs.

For organizations currently supporting closet data centers, or local servers facing the public Internet for eCommerce or eGovernment applications, data centers such as the Cyber Tower in Jakarta offer both commercial data center space, as well as supporting interconnections for carriers – including the Indonesia Internet Exchange (IIX), in a similar model as One Wilshire, The Westin Building, or 151 Front in Toronto. Ample space for outsourcing data center infrastructure (particularly for companies with Internet-facing applications), as well as power, cooling, and management for internal infrastructure outsourcing.

The challenge, as with most other countries, is to convince ICT managers that it is in their company or organization’s interest to give up the server. Rather than focus their energy on issues such as “control,” “independence (or autonomous operations),” and avoiding the pain of “workforce retraining and reorganization,” ICT managers should consider the benefits outsourcing their physical infrastructure into a data center, and further consider the additional benefits of virtualization and public/enterprise cloud computing.

Companies such as VMWare, AGIT, and Oracle are offering cloud computing consulting and development in Indonesia, and the topic is rapidly gaining momentum in publications and discussions within both the professional IT community, as well as with CFOs and government planning agencies.

It makes sense. As in cloud computing initiatives being driven by the US and other governments, not only consolidating data centers, but also consolidating IT compute resources and storage, makes a lot of sense. Particularly if the government has difficulty standardizing or writing web services to share data. Add a distributed cloud processing model, where two or more data centers with cloud infrastructure are interconnected, and we can now start to drive down recovery time and point objectives close to zero.

Not just for government users, but a company located in Jakarta is able to develop a disaster recovery plan, simply backing up critical data in a remote location, such as IDC Batam (part of the IDC Indonesia group). As an example, the IDC Indonesia group operates 4 data centers located in geographically separate parts of the country, and all are interconnected.

While this does not support all zero recovery time objectives, it does allow companies to lease a cabinet or suite in a commercial data center, and at a minimum install disk systems adequate to meet their critical data restoral needs. It also opens up decent data center collocation space for emerging cloud service and infrastructure providers, all without the burden of legacy systems to refresh.

In a land of volcanoes, typhoons, earthquakes, and man-made disasters Indonesia has a special need for good disaster recovery planning. Through an effort to consolidate organization data centers, the introduction of cloud services in commercial and government markets, and high capacity interconnections between carriers and data centers, the basic elements needed to move forward in Indonesia are now in place.

Indonesia’s Wireless Vision Goes High Speed

In Los Angeles we are pretty happy with our Android phones, iPhones, and other smart handheld devices. We can buy EVDO card for our laptops, and now 4G cards are starting to POP up in some locations. In Jakarta people laugh at such nonsense. With high speed wireless infrastructure covering HSPA Sales Media in Jakarta Mall Ambassadorover 95% of the addressable Indonesian population, the country has leap-frogged not only America, but also much of Asia in delivering high speed wireless service.

If you take a walk through Jakarta’s Mall Ambassador you are presented with a dizzying array of high speed wireless access options for both smart phones and USB flash modems – and oh yes, even EVDO if that is what you really want. So you select your option, is it HSPDA? HSPA? HSPA+? In Jakarta you can easily buy HSPA+ flash modems and base stations that actually deliver between 21~42Mbps to an end user device.

While the highest speeds may not be affordable to the masses, nearly all smartphones and base stations are more than adequate for web browsing and streaming media. In fact, Indonesia has the largest number of mobile FaceBook users in the world, and that number continues to grow at an astonishing rate, as more Indonesians invest in internet-enabled devices as a tool for their future.

But let’s go beyond the city limits of Jakarta, and look at what this means toHSPA Flash Modem Sales Jakarta other rural and remote parts of the country.

If 95% of the population is covered by wireless antennas, and all of those antennas are capable of supporting at least some level of Internet access, then the need for laying copper cable to end users in remote locations becomes less important. An HSPDA base station that connects to a 7.2Mbps data stream can easily connect a LAN of dumb terminals (NetBooks) to a school in remote parts of Sumatra or Papua. eLearning, including remote transmission of lectures, lessons, podcasts, or other means of delivering knowledge becomes possible, giving a level academic playing field to anybody in the country.

City offices, commercial businesses, and even individual homes can connect to the HSPDA signal, allowing Internet access with the same or better performance many users experience with cable modems or organizational LANs connecting to a local ISP or carrier. Add a bit of cloud computing offering a suite of hosted SaaS applications and secure storage in a data center available to users throughout the country, and we have the beginnings of national access to the 4th Utility (marriage of broadband access and cloud computing resources) in Indonesia.

WarNet in Samarinda IndonesiaBut probably the most interesting, and useful example of delivering Internet access to those who need it most is the WarNet. The Warnet is the Indonesian version of an Internet Café. In many rural communities and urban inner-city areas people do not have the money to afford buying their own computer, or do not have the ability to connect to the Internet from their homes or offices. The WarNet may connect a small Internet Kiosk to wireless Internet in a remote location, offer some basic printing services, and that kiosk becomes a social, educational, business, and entertainment hub for small communities.

Schools could follow the same model as WarNets, connecting to broadband wireless through a local base station and extending an access LAN to student workstations and terminals. Again, with eLearning those terminals can be dumb, with the applications and student working storage on a data center hosted platform.

HSDPA Base station in JakartaHigh speed broadband wireless is effectively bringing the Internet to nearly all Indonesians. Now the effort needs to be making access devices more affordable and more available, as well as producing high quality content and content delivery into the wireless networks. As most of the wireless networks are still not exceeding ~30% of their transmission capacity at peak, there is ample room for growth.

Backbone fiber networks owned by the wireless carriers and wholesale providers will continue to expand, enhancing the wireless operator’s ability to increase their capacity to meet the potential of future wireless technologies such as LTE and 4G. And Indonesians will continue to approach the Internet’s technical edge.

Not bad Indonesia… not bad at all

Developing Countries in the Cloud

Developing countries may be in a great position to take advantage of virtualization and cloud computing. During a recent visit to Indonesia, it was clear the government is struggling with the problem of both building a national ICT plan (Information and Using Cloud Computing to Support EGovernment and eLearningCommunications Technology), as well as consolidating a confusing array of servers, small data centers, and dearth of policies managing the storage and protection of data.

When we consider the need for data protection, considering physical and information security, decentralization of data without adequate modeling for both end user performance, as well as data management is essential in giving the national tools needed to implement eGovernment projects, as well as fully understand implications ICT planning will have for the future economic and social growth of the country.

Considering an E-Government Option Using Cloud Computing

If, as in the case of Indonesia, each governmental organization ranging from the Ministry of Education, to the Ministry of Agriculture, to individual licensing and tax administration offices are running on running on servers which may in fact be connected to normal wall outlets under a desk, you can see we have a challenge, and great opportunity, to create a powerful new ICT infrastructure to lead the country into a new information-based generation.

Let’s consider education as one example. Today, in many developing countries, there is very limited budget available for developing an ICT curriculum. Classrooms consolidate several different classes (year groups), and even text books are limited. However, in many, if not most developing countries, more than 95% of the population is covered by mobile and cellular phone networks.

This means that while there may be limited access to text books, with a bit of creativity we can bring technology to even the most remote locations via wireless access. This was very apparent during a recent conference (Digital Africa), where nearly every country present, including Uganda, Rwanda, Mali, and Chad all indicated aggressive deployments of wireless infrastructure. Here are a couple of simple ideas on the access side:

  1. Take advantage of low cost solar panels to provide electricity and battery backup during daylight hours
  2. Take advantage of bulk discounts, as well as other international donor programs to acquire low cost netbooks or “dumb terminals” for delivery to remote classrooms
  3. Install wireless access points or receivers near the ubiquitous mobile antennas, and where necessary subsidize the mobile carriers to promote installation of data capacity within the mobile networks
  4. Take advantage or E-Learning programs that provide computer-based training and lessons
  5. Centralize the curriculum and student management programs in a central, cloud-based software as a service (SaaS) model in a central or distributed cloud architecture

Now, we can further consider building out two or three data centers in the country, allowing for both load balancing and geographic data backup. Cloud storage, cloud processing, and a high capacity fiber optic backbone interconnecting the facilities. Again, not out of the question, as nearly all countries have, or are developing a fiber backbone that interconnects major metropolitan areas.

So, starting with our eLearning SaaS model, let’s add a couple more simple applications.

If we can produce terminals and electricity for small schools anyplace in the country, why can’t we extend the same model to farmers (eAgriculture), local governments, and individuals through use of “Internet Kiosks” or cafes, possibly located near village offices or police stations? We can, and in fact that is a model being used in countries such as Indonesia, where Internet cafes and kiosks called “WarNets” dot the countryside and urban areas. Many WarNets supplement their electricity with solar energy, and provide Internet access via either fixed lines or wireless.

Cloud Computing Drives the Country

While some may reject the idea of complete standardization of both government and commercial applications at a national level, we can also argue that standardization and records management of the education system may in fact be a good thing. In addition, when a student or adult in Papua (Indonesia) gains the necessary intellectual skills through local eLearning programs, and is able to spend the weekend watching videos or reading through transcripts from the Stanford Education Program for Gifted Youth, the Center for Innovation, or Entrepreneur series.

However when a nation is able to take advantage of an economy of scale that says compute capacity is now a utility, available to all government agencies at a fixed cost, and the nation is able to develop a comprehensive library of SaaS applications that are either developed locally or made available through international agencies such as UNDP, the World Bank, USAID, and others.

With effective use of SaaS, and integration of the SaaS applications on a standardized data base and storage infrastructure, agencies and ministries with small, inefficient, and poorly managed infrastructure have the opportunity for consolidation into a centrally managed, professionally managed, and supported national ICT infrastructure that allows not only the government to operate, but also support the needs of individuals.

With a geographic distributed processing and data center model, disaster recovery becomes easier based on high performance interconnecting backbones allowing data mirroring and synchronization, reducing recovery time and point objectives to near zero.

The US CIO, Vivek Kundra, who manages the world’s largest IT organization (the United States Government), is a cloud believer. Kundra supports the idea of both national and local government standardization of applications and infrastructure, and in fact in a recent Government Technology News interview said he’s “moving forward with plans to create a storefront where federal government agencies could easily acquire standard, secure cloud computing applications.”

This brings a nation’s government to the point where online email, office automation, graphics, storage, database, and hosting services are a standard item that is requested and provisioned in near real time, with a secure, professionally managed infrastructure. It is a good vision of the future that will provide tremendous utility and vision for both developed and developing countries.

I am thinking about a school in Papua, Indonesia. The third year class in Jakarta is no longer in a different league from Papua, as students in both cities are using the same lessons available through the national eLearning system. It is a good future for Indonesia, and a very good example of how cloud computing will help bring developing countries into a competitive, global society and economy.

Wiring Indonesia with WARNETs, Wifi Hotspots, and Mobile

Jakarta is a city of cafes, coffee shops, and mobile phones. With a mobile penetration hitting nearly 62% of the population, the world’s 4th most populace nation represents a huge market, and tremendous infrastructure challenges. With more than 50% of the country making less than $50/month, the percentage of people with access to mobile phones and the Internet is astonishing.

WarNet in Samarinda IndonesiaThis is very apparent when driving through villages that are well under the poverty line, such as you will drive through on the way from Balikpapan to Samarinda (in Eastern Borneo, East Kalimantan Province). A large percentage of the “homes” you pass would not have a prayer to hold water out of the “house” during a heavy rainstorm, but you will see many, if not most, of the residents carrying a mobile phone.

Most of the mobile phones are pre-paid, meaning of course the user pays up front for the handset and phone minutes, however even the poorest people have access to handsets.

The next interesting item is the ubiquitous “WarNet.” WarNet is actually a combination of two words, Warung (Café) and Internet. While not as available as mobile phones, nearly every village has one or two WarNet rooms, which (from my observation) have most of the available terminal stations filled with users.

As a large percentage of the population lacks disposable income needed to purchase their own computer, or Internet access, the WarNet is the only place young people (and older folk) are able to access and take advantage of either computers or network-enabled communications.

Strolling the streets of Samarinda after 2200, in an entirely unscientific poll, I was able to count about 2 WarNets per city block in the downtown area. A similar stroll earlier in Batam (a free port near Singapore) yielded similar results, with Jakarta only slightly less, probably due to the fact my unscientific strolling poll was confined to a relatively opulent area with more WiFi hotspots available at coffee shops such as Starbucks and the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, with patrons carrying their own laptop computers.

This did drop the number of WarNets to a scarce one per city block when you are off the main roads.

WarNets are Not Just for Fun

While the Korean Internet Café experience of the 1990s was fueled by insatiable demands for higher performance multi-user gaming networks, the Indonesian experience appears to be much more broad in scope. According to Mr. Ibenk, an official with the Indonesian Government’s Kominfo (national ICT organizer), WarNet’s serve the community by providing both exposure and low cost access to the Internet for students, business people, as well as access to social media and entertainment.

WarNet is downtown Batam Indonesia“Access to a WarNet costs users less than 3000 Rp (Indonesian Rupiah, around $.35) per hour. While still a reasonably high cost to a poor user, nearly everybody can afford at least a couple hours per week to access the network” added Ibenk.

WarNets are used by students, professionals, and from my observation a lot of foreign tourists trekking through both Jakarta and other more remote locations. Students spend a lot of time on the Internet, and it appears schools encourage use of WarNets for some students to access research, write reports (most WarNets also have sideline services such as printing, copying, and faxing), and as one student told me, they are now even submitting some homework assignments through the Internet.

You may question why this would be necessary, and the answer is simple – most schools in poor sections of Jakarta and most rural areas do not have sufficient budget to build ICT within their school or curriculum. However both students and teachers know that for a child to be competitive in the new wired world, they need exposure to Internet technologies to gain skills critical to their future success in a global economy.

Porn, hacking, and other nefarious use of WarNets

While it may seem unbelievable, most WarNet operators claim use of WarNet’s to access pornography and conduct illegal activities occurs, it is probably at a level much lower than we’d expect. “Niki,” a former WarNet operator in Sumatra now working as an ICT manager in Jakarta, explained “Indonesia is a Muslim majority country. Muslim’s may have a stricter social manner than in some other countries, and thus the negative uses of WarNet’s may be lower than you would expect.”

Not sure if that is entirely true, however most of the WarNet’s I visited during the past 10 days in Indonesia appeared to be meeting the objectives noted above. Just a lot of people chatting, researching, doing email, or using word processing programs (including Google Docs and MS Live Office). Cloud computing, whether the users know it or not, has actually made a very positive contribution to the community by providing applications and online storage that would not have been available just a couple years ago.

WarNets are a Positive Contributor to Indonesia

A report by Rudi Rusdiah, from APWKomtel, claims WarNet’s account for more than 40% of all Internet access in Indonesia. I’d believe that number is actually higher, given the number of WarNets I observed in rural areas throughout Java, Sumatra, and Kalimantan.

Rusdiah’s report includes a listing of the positive social impacts of WarNet’s, including:

  • Extending public Internet access to serve people with no computer or Internet access at home;
  • Providing value-addition to small and medium businesses in the community, strengthening the economy by creating employment and business opportunities;
  • With the support of the Ministry of Industry and Trade, setting up of Warsi (Warung Informasi or Information Centers) near small traditional industry clusters;
  • Providing Internet access and literacy to the small businesses in the community and cluster;
  • Promoting the products and services beyond local and traditional markets, to global and national reach;
  • With Open University and OSOL, programs to promote the use of IT as a tool for education;
  • Providing tourists, travelers and commuters with Internet access.

In a world where many governments struggle with bringing broadband Internet to every home as a public utility, developing nations need to exercise great creativity in delivering “any” internet access to the community. The WarNet provides that utility, and the creativity of Indonesians to find ways to deliver Internet to nearly every community in the country through use of satellite, microwave, mobile phones, DSL, and telephone access should be applauded.

Not the final solution, but with the world’s fourth most populace nation getting wired, we will expect a lot of new ideas from a lot of motivated Indonesians in the near future.

Indonesia’s ICT Policy Provides a Success Story for Developing Countries

In the mid-1990s, as an operations manager with Sprint International, I worked in Jakarta to deliver a direct X.25 expansion to PT Indosat from the old SprintNet packet switching network. 15 years ago walking around the streets of Jakarta gave the impression of despair among much of the population, with large groups of unemployed men hanging around street corners. As a relatively well-off foreigner, I drew stares of both wonder and contempt. Internet access was possible through dial-up connections through the X.25 network and a gateway to SprintLink, Sprint’s Internet network.

Returning to Jakarta in 2010 is a shock. While there is still a visible dichotomy of wealth vs. low income population, the changes in Jakarta today are stark. Aside from the rapidly rising skyline, bringing back memories of Shanghai in the 1990s, the other most obvious change is the people. Everybody is going someplace or doing something. Nobody hanging around the street corners (at least from the areas of Jakarta I have traveled over the past few days), and high end shopping malls are everywhere.

An Internet Connection on Every Corner

Advertisement for BizNet IndonesiaJakarta is wired. Sitting in my hotel room I count not less than 20 visible WiFi connections. Along the main routes and shopping malls coffee shops are a standard fixture on just about every main street, and nearly every restaurant boasts a free WiFi connection for patrons. If you do not have the money to pay for an Internet services account, but do have a laptop computer, there is really no reason you would ever be without WiFi access within the downtown area.

And throughput is very good. The World Bank reports that average access speeds for Internet connections within Jakarta hang around 1Mbps. My experience sitting in a WiFi-enabled coffee shop at the City Walk shopping center (near the Jakarta Intercontinental Hotel) gives me around 3.5Mbps on test downloads.

And sitting here I could have run the same test on about 10 available WiFi networks, all serving nearby coffee shops and cafes.

Wiring Indonesia

Indonesia’s National
ICT Vision is
to bring into reality a
modern information society, prosperous and highly competitive, strongly supported by ICT

(Ministry of Information and Communications Technology, Republic of Indonesia)

While you would expect the best Internet access within Jakarta, the capital city, Indonesia is aggressively working to overcome national shortfalls in Internet access around the country. As the world’s fourth most populace nation, and a geography covering nearly 2 million square kilometers, with more than 10,000 populated islands, Indonesia does face challenges.

Mobile phones have shown the greatest success. With more than 140,000 mobile subscriptions, and a quarterly growth rate of 14%, Indonesians are getting connected. However, national broadband access does not share the success of mobile, with only 1.5 million people of a population exceeding 200 million having direct access to broadband – and the majority of those users are in Jakarta.

The government does understand the connection between having broadband access and the potential growth of Indonesia’s economy. Tim Kelly, a policy expert at the World Bank stated in his Digital Africa 2010 speech that for every 10% increase in a nation’s broadband access, the country will experience a 1.3% increase in their economic growth. And of course those countries not hitting that number will continue to fall further behind the rest of world – a statistic that the world’s fourth most populace nation might not find attractive.

The good news is that Indonesia has a very open telecom market, with several companies including Telkom, BizNet, Telkomsel, Indosat, Excelcomindo, Bakrie, and XL making huge infrastructure investments. This includes developing high capacity backbone fiber systems throughout the country, which will allow even better development of wireless and cabled communications infrastructure in rural areas underserved today.

The government is also considering releasing more spectrum to wireless companies that can be used for WiMAX development, primarily in the 700Mhz and 1900/2100Mhz range. In addition, the government will also encourage mobile operators to share common infrastructure such as towers and backbone capacity to reduce the capital expense requirements for building into rural areas.

This includes development of the “Palapa Rings” that will expand existing fiber plant all the way to Papua, although admittedly this will still not meet the needs of most islands, which will still need to use a combination of microwave and VSAT access to interconnect with the rest of the nation and world.

Indonesia also supports use of Internet exchange points (IXPs), including the nation’s largest IXP, the Indonesia Internet Exchange (IIX) to retain most domestic Internet traffic within the country. There are several smaller Internet exchange points located in larger cities throughout the country, including a private IXP operated by a large domestic fiber and Internet provider BizNet.

The Bottom Line

It is easy to look at a country like Indonesia with a critical eye, and come up with lots of suggestions on how the country may more rapidly develop Internet broadband infrastructure. That is until you travel within the country and learn the true meaning of “rural.” Indonesia’s government understands the value of integrating eLearning, eGovernment, eBusiness, and eEverything into the Indonesian socio-cultural DNA. And the government is encouraging Indonesia’s private sector to invest.

As foreigners looking in, we should step back and remember the Jakarta and Indonesia of the mid-1990s, and consider the remarkable development that has occurred over the past decade, and congratulate the government in its current success, while encouraging further growth. A well-educated, well-wired, and productive Indonesia is both important and valuable to the international community, and from what I have seen over the past few days the country is making great progress in meeting their goals.

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