Covid-19 has revolutionised Indonesia’s digital transformation. In the span of two years, the country saw an increase of 45 million internet users driven by the digitalisation of daily activities like work, school and shopping, according to the Indonesian Internet Providers Association.

This brings the nation to over 200 million recorded internet users, with an internet penetration rate of up to 77 per cent. There has also been a concurrent rise in the adoption of disruptive technologies like cloud computing, IoT and big data analytics – all of which are accelerating the impact of a digital Indonesia, says Wahyu Adi, Indonesia Country Business Leader of global telecommunications firm Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise (ALE).

Today, e-commerce, online learning, remote working and e-government are increasingly becoming part of life for Indonesians, he adds. And underlying this shift is the growth of resilient information and communications technology infrastructure.

Wahyu sits down with GovInsider to explain how ICT is bridging the gap between Indonesia’s islands, and propelling the nation’s digital transformation forward.

Challenges in connecting an archipelago

In 2019, the archipelago launched the Palapa Ring project, which saw Indonesia laying more than 35,000km of land and sea cables. The project cost an estimated US$1.5 billion, and was

successfully completed in 2020, bringing access to 4G internet services to more than 500 administrative regions in Indonesia.

This project may become a catalyst for local socioeconomic development to connect various areas in Indonesia and allow citizens across Indonesia, including those in rural areas, to experience digital services, says Wahyu.

But trying to implement ICT infrastructure in an archipelago with over 6,000 inhabited islands is no easy feat. “Indonesia’s geographical condition must be addressed as a prospect for connecting various regions to allow equal distribution of digital services to all citizens,” Wahyu says.

This is a challenge for infrastructure like fibre optic cables, which is needed to enable telecommunications services like the internet. Besides just laying land cables, Indonesia also needs to consider laying fibre optic cables under the sea to connect different islands. All of these processes will add to the cost and logistical challenges of implementing ICT infrastructure in the country.

While the Palapa Ring project is a good start, the work is not quite done for the Indonesian government. Connectivity will still need to be extended to cover the entire population, and communication platforms need to be integrated to prevent silos from forming, Wahyu says.

Beyond infrastructure

“Digital ICT has already changed the way that our government delivers services to citizens and businesses, especially during the pandemic,” Wahyu says. Whereas citizens in the past would have to physically visit government offices for matters like applying for business and transport licenses, these processes are now digital.

One of Indonesia’s key focuses at the moment is smart cities, which relies heavily on easy connectivity, according to Wahyu. “Being able to easily connect people, objects, algorithms and processes effectively is a key in the smart city transformation,” he explains.

“What we would like to see is a further development towards ICT infrastructure that involves the enablement of a connectivity platform which helps to collaborate and integrate various digital services to citizens,” Wahyu says.

“This is going to be a big concert for the government for many years,” he adds. And while the government plays their role as conductor to bring this concert together, ALE too is looking to play their part to ease communication across the islands.

Connecting Indonesians

ALE is entering the stage with a proprietary communication platform, Rainbow, which can help citizens better connect with one another, and governments to better connect with their citizens.

Rainbow is a cloud-based communication platform that provides a simple way for organisations to “integrate communication and enter IoT-enabled communication”, Wahyu says. Users can easily access Rainbow through mobile applications, computers, or even dedicated phone sets. The only basic requirement is that the citizens need an internet connection, he explains.

Three key features make Rainbow a suitable communication platform for governments.

First, the platform is open and adaptable. Government agencies have the flexibility of reaching out to ALE’s developers and working with them to develop customised tools and applications. This means that local governments in Indonesia can easily adapt the Rainbow platform to the unique application based on their own cities and regions’ needs, Wahyu says.

Additionally, the Rainbow platform is simple and easy to integrate with other third-party tools and applications. This means government agencies can host multiple tools through a single application. For instance, governments can introduce services like emergency alert systems for disaster-prone areas in Indonesia, which is vulnerable to volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and floods.

In Hokkaido, Japan, ALE helped the municipality develop advanced cloud communications for more than 10,000 residents. Hokkaido has an ageing population with many residents living in remote towns. As such, they needed a communication, alert and notification system that can reach all of these residents.

ALE helped the Hokkaido council by bringing in physical internet-enabled phone sets that were connected to Rainbow and placed them in elderly’s homes. This ensured that even residents without a smartphone can now receive notifications from the government and communicate with others. Meanwhile, the Rainbow platform could also be accessed via a mobile app.

Finally, the Rainbow platform promises both flexibility and security, in that it can be deployed either on the cloud, on-premise, or in hybrid IT environments. This allows government agencies to both enjoy the flexibility and speed of the cloud, while still having a peace of mind that their data is secure through their on-premise databases.

Digital transformation opens up a world of possibilities for new and improved citizen services. As an archipelago, Indonesia is faced with a tall task to connect its thousands of islands, but an improved ICT infrastructure and internet-based platforms like Rainbow can ease the digital transformation process.