Indonesia and Palestine have signed an agreement that will allow for zero tariffs on some Palestinian goods imported into Indonesia from next month.
The agreement serves as the implementing guidelines that follows the Memorandum of Understanding signed by Trade Minister Enggartiasto Lukita and his Palestinian counterpart on the sidelines of the 11th World Trade Organization Ministerial Conference in Buenos Aires, Argentina, last December. The MoU allows zero import tariffs for certain goods between the two countries.
“It will be one-way trade from Palestine to Indonesia at the start, but we expect in the future it will be a two-way trade,” the Trade Ministry’s Director General for International Trade Negotiations Iman Pambagyo said.
The initial Palestinian products that will be exempted from import tariffs are fresh and dried dates and virgin olive oil. Pambagyo said that, during the first year of the agreement, dates imported from Palestine are estimated to increase by 11.62 percent, while olive oil is estimated to jump by 172 percent, as a lot of Indonesian cosmetic manufacturers use olive oil as an ingredient in their products.
“We will encourage our importers to benefit from this policy by sourcing their olive oil and dates from Palestine,” Pambagyo added.
Fachry Thaib, head of the Middle East Committee at the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce, said the business community welcomed the agreement and its upcoming implementation.
“We have always encouraged the government to expedite the MoU implementation. This policy would be beneficial for importers since it would make the products more competitive in the domestic market,” he said.
He added the policy will not hit other imported goods, given the big market opportunities for dates, which are widely consumed by Indonesians.
Lukita and Palestinian Ambassador to Indonesia Zuhair Al-Shun signed the agreement on Monday following the ratification of the MoU into a presidential regulation in April.
The finance minister will allow the MoU to fully take effect by issuing two ministerial regulations — on import tariff waivers for Palestinian products and on the technical direction for customs offices to execute the policy.
Pambagyo said these regulations will be circulated to all ports of entry so that customs officers can identify products from Palestine and exempt them from any import duties.
Lukita said this policy was part of Indonesia’s unwavering support for the Palestinian issue, which has always been the focus of its foreign policy.
Indonesia has been a staunch supporter of Palestinian independence and has pledged to focus on voicing support for Palestine during its tenure as a non-permanent member at the UN Security Council in 2019-2020.
Clothing outlets in Tanah Abang Market in central Jakarta have been cashing in on the trend for koko shirts inspired by a garment worn by T’Challa, the main character in the movie “Black Panther,” which made history in Saudi Arabia as the first to open in a cinema in 35 years.
The long-sleeve, low-collar koko shirt, which is normally worn by Indonesian Muslim men when they go to mosque, attend Qur’an recital or on other special occasions, is in high demand these days as Indonesians go on a shopping spree during Ramadan and ahead of the Eid celebration at the end of this week.
Garment manufacturers in the busy textile market have been quick to grab the opportunity by producing koko shirts displaying a similar silver motif to the black attire that T’Challa, played by Chadwick Boseman, wore in the movie. T’Challa, aka Black Panther, is the leader of the African kingdom of Wakanda.
When asked if the Black Panther-inspired koko shirt was in high demand, Didi, a vendor of Muslim clothing in Tanah Abang Market, said: “Check out the Internet and you’ll see how it’s trending.”
“It started to become a trend before Ramadan after the film was screened, so we have been producing the shirt in our garment factory,” he said.
Since then his store, which is located in Block A of Southeast Asia’s largest textile and clothing retail market, has been selling and shipping Black Panther koko shirts in large quantities.
A quick browse through the market, with its throngs of shoppers and bulk buyers, showed that some vendors who sell Muslim clothing were displaying the Black Panther koko shirt in its original color, black, along with other colors such as white, blue, grey and light green — although the motif emblazoned on the shirt was the same.
Vendors said they had prepared large quantities in stock ahead of Ramadan, but claimed that they had run out of stock earlier than expected as people began to shop for Eid festivities this weekend.
One vendor, Juanda, said other koko shirts carried slightly different motifs, but were still inspired by T’Challa’s attire. “Garment factories in Surabaya, Bandung started to produce the shirts after the film hit the theaters,” he said.
The shirts are now also widely available through online marketplaces such as Tokopedia, Shopee, Lazada and Instagram.
Some retailers on Tokopedia, however, have put up notices telling buyers they have run out of the Black Panther koko shirts.
Ikram Putra, a 35-year-old social media specialist, was quick to grab one ahead of Eid. “It’s trending, happening, inspired by a popular movie and affordable. I bought it for 80,000 rupiah ($5.70) in one of the online marketplaces.
“I like it because the motif is different and more hip than the usual dad koko shirts.”
The Black Panther-inspired attire is not reserved for men only. The motif is also available on a children’s size shirt, with matching peci or traditional head cap for children, and on a black gamis (dress) for women.
Sumiyati and her 8-year-old son Heru Prakasa had to scout several stores in Tanah Abang before finding the shirt that Heru wanted.
“Other stores we asked earlier only had other colors available, but Heru wanted to have the black one, just like in the movie,” she said.
Lenni Tedja, a fashion observer and director of Jakarta Fashion Week, said while fashions can come from anywhere, trends can be particularly widespread when inspired by a movie.
“Especially if it is a box-office movie, so it has a big impact to generate trends and boost demand for items related to that movie,” she said.
Jakarta city administration’s recent raid on 80 high-rise buildings along the Indonesian capital’s main business thoroughfare, which showed that 37 buildings are not equipped with infiltration wells and are alleged to have failed to comply with regulations on the use of groundwater, is another confirmation of what experts have warned that the city is well on its way to become an underwater metropolis.
The 2017 World Ocean Review, which was published in November last year in Berlin, reports that Jakarta is currently the fastest sinking city in the world, subsiding at a rate much faster than other coastal metropolis of over 10 million inhabitants in Southeast Asia such as Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh and Manila.
According to the report, Jakarta, which is partly built on peaty soils, is an “extreme example of a sinking city” with many of its high-rise buildings and the commercial center are sinking in the soft subsurface by up to 10 centimeters annually.
The abstraction of groundwater for drinking water supply is also contributing to this effect and it is feared that the sinking will accelerate. Groundwater normally acts as a natural abutment that counterbalances the weight of built-up areas bearing down on the substrate, while another factor that contributes to Jakarta land subsidence is compaction of the ground.
“Without countermeasures and a reduction of groundwater abstraction, by the year 2025 parts of Jakarta are likely to have sunk by a further 180 centimeters,” the World Ocean Review reports.
To come up with resolutions on how coastal metropolis can adapt to the land subsidence and sea level change, scientists at Leibniz Center for Tropical Marine Research (ZMT) and University of Bremen’s Institute of Sociology in Germany are working on research projects in Jakarta, Singapore and Manila.
Chief sociologist Dr. Anna-Katharina Hornidge, who is one of the scientists behind the World Ocean Review, said they are seeking to find answers on how policies and standardized practices for living with sea level rise, which are communicated by international donors can be translated into local context and are politically legitimized.
“Our recent findings so far are that the relative sea-level change serves as a floating signifier to justify investment in infrastructure to transform the coastal areas and acculturation to living with water,” Hornidge told a group of international journalists during a visit to the institution in Oct. 2017.
The evil twin of global warming: ocean acidification
But sea level rise, which is rising by around 3 millimeters annually according to the World Ocean Review, is not the only problem faced by people living in coastal areas. Those that are driven by climate change, such as ocean warming and ocean acidification, are adding to the coastal inhabitants’ woes.
Ocean acidification or the rising acid in seawater because the ocean partly absorbs the carbon dioxide that humans pump into the atmosphere, poses another threat to ocean life and marine ecosystem, impairs life in the ocean, and compromises important ecosystem services it provides to humankind, such as fish, which serve as the primary source of protein for a billion people, mainly in developing countries, and the fisheries industry that provides jobs for millions of people, especially those living in coastal areas.
Scientists have coined the terms “the other carbon dioxide problem” or the “evil twin of global warming” for ocean acidification, which has increased by 30 percent since 1850, according to Dr. Ulf Riebesell, a marine biologist at GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research in the northern German seaside town of Kiel.
Riebesell, who led more than 250 scientists from a network of 20 German research institutions to conduct an eight-year research on ocean acidification called Biological Impacts of Ocean Acidification (BIOACID), said the changes in seawater acid is happening 10 times faster than it would have been if it was happening due to natural process.
Findings of the research, which was conducted from 2009 to 2017, were presented at last year’s United Nations climate change conference COP23 in Bonn. Some of the findings show that many organism are able to withstand ocean acidification but may lose the ability if also exposed to other stressors such as warming, loss of oxygen or pollution. Ocean acidification and warming reduce the survival rates of some fish species’ early life stages, which will likely reduce fish stocks and yields. Climate change also alters the availability of prey for fish and as a consequence may affect their growth and reproduction.
Scientists involved in BIOACID research found that ocean acidification reduces the ocean’s ability to store carbon and will change the distribution and abundance of fish species. The change will have a significant impact on economic activities such as small-scale coastal fisheries and tourism. This calls for therefore, the scientists said it is crucial to consider ocean acidification and warming in fish stocks and marine areas management.
Hans-Otto Portner, co-coordinator of BIOACID and marine ecophysiologist at Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI), Helmholtz Center for Polar and Marine Research said for scientists to be able to project the steady level of ocean acidification based on historical events would depend on political decisions.
“The oceans are warming, just like the rest of the planet. They are losing oxygen and acidifying. The overarching trend is marine life now is being depleted,” he added.
Riebesell said the global community needs to understand the many ways in which humans depend on the ocean and its services and it will be for humans’ own benefit if carbon dioxide emissions are reduced that it could limit global warming to less than 2 degree Celsius.
“The future of this planet depends on us. Wouldn’t it be a great achievement if the age of human dominance on earth goes down in history as an era of rethinking and changing behavior?” Riebesell added.
Portner said all countries need to reduce their carbon dioxide emissions drastically by the middle of the century if they want to meet the Paris climate targets.
“The current world climate report indicates that net-zero emissions are a precondition for limiting global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius. However, reducing carbon dioxide emissions alone may not be sufficient,” Portner said.
Coral reef restoration
Keeping global warming further down to below 1.2 degrees Celsius with limited concentrations of carbon dioxide emissions could help to preserve about half of the tropical coral reefs, the BIOACID research found, adding more attestation on how ocean acidification will impact humans.
“Coral reefs provide habitat for millions of species, coastal protection, revenues from tourism and biodiversity heritage for the future,” Riebesell said.
According to Marine Policy journal published in August 2017, coral reefs around the world is one of the most notable examples of nature-based tourism spurred by a single ecosystem, which attract tourists and generate revenues in 100 countries and territories, including Indonesia.
Coral reef tourism is estimated to generate roughly US$35.8 billion dollars globally every year or over 9 percent of all coastal tourism value in coral reef countries around the world. Indonesia ranked second among the 10 jurisdictions in the world that have the highest total reef tourism value, amounted to US$3,098 million annually, while neighboring Thailand and the Philippines ranked fourth and seventh, generating US$2,410 million and US$1,385 million per year respectively.
Dr. Sonia Bejarano, head of the reef systems workgroup at Leibniz Centre for Tropical Marine Research (ZMT) in Bremen, said coral reefs are biodiversity treasure in need of science for sustainability.
Bejarano and a group of scientists at ZMT has been conducting research projects on coral reefs in various parts of the world, including in Indonesia, where they found that a receding destructive fishing practice in an Indonesian marine park has led to a rise in herbivorous fish.
“There is a high social and economic dependence on coral reefs,” Bejarano said, adding that their research is directly applicable in coral reef restoration.
The northern coastline on Indonesia’s main island of Java is sinking annually at a fast rate, causing land subsidence and threatening residents of communities living near the shore.
Experts say economic developments and land conversion from mangrove forests to industrial or residential uses are among the factors causing the sea level to rise and water to creep farther inland.
But in Jakarta, the nation’s capital, groundwater extraction remains the main culprit behind land subsidence, as up to 65 percent of its residents rely on underground water sources. Land subsiding is anywhere from 3 to 18 cm annually in various parts of the city and a lack of mitigation would lead to 30 percent subsidence in 2050, Abdul Malik Sadat Idris, an official from the National Development Planning Agency, warned in February.
“Land subsidence is obvious along the northern coastline of Java at a rate of 1 to 25 cm annually,” said Dr Heri Andreas, a geodesist from Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB) in West Java. “This trend is a warning for us that land subsidence will continue to happen unless we do something to stop or withhold it, since land subsidence is like a silent killer that will affect our communities as it causes inundation and land to erode.”
Indonesia’s 54,700 kilometer coast line is the second-longest in the world after Canada, and its mangrove ecosystem is the largest in the world, covering 3,489,141 hectare or 23 percent of the world’s mangrove ecosystem, according to data from the Ministry of Environment and Forestry.
These mangrove forests are part of an estimated 30 million-hectare coastal area ecosystem along with peatlands, wetlands, lagoons, river deltas, sea bank, marshes and evaporation ponds, many of which are located close to human settlements that are less than 30 meters above sea level.
They support to a wealth of life as a natural habitat for various species, and also serve as a buffer to seawater intrusion. At the same time, they store fresh water and contain high carbon reserve that help mitigate climate change. A mangrove forest that extends at least 100 meter inland could suppress rising tide by 13 percent to 66 percent.
“But most of our wetlands and 52 percent of our mangrove forests have been destroyed. We have lost 85 percent of the mangrove areas on the northern coast of Java as they have been converted to human settlements or man-made fish ponds. In some areas, the sea level has even risen,” said Agung Kuswandono, a deputy minister in charge of natural resources coordination at the Coordinating Ministry of Maritime Affairs.
Nyoman Suryadiputra, director of Wetlands International Indonesia said the only course of action now is an immediate halt to wetlands conversion.
“Many of us don’t realize the fact that Indonesia’s largest fresh water reserves are in peatlands instead of lakes or rivers,” he said, adding that at the same time, climate change also causes sea level to rise and these two situations are increasing the risk of further calamities along the coastline.
Jakarta is not the only city in the region suffering from land subsidence. Other Asian mega cities such as Tianjin, Shanghai, Tokyo, Osaka, Manila, Bangkok, Dhaka, and Bombay also have some areas that have slipped below sea level, said Dr Athanasios Vafeidis from Department of Geography, Coastal Risks and Sea-Level Rise of Kiel University in Germany.
According to Vafeidis, calamity could be prevented if people are willing to adapt to the sea level rise and prepare for it by looking at data and historical facts. Planning based on such knowledge is less costly compared to the damage that could result from ignoring the facts, or having to take action after the fact.
“Adaptation costs are generally lower than direct damage costs. If we include indirect impacts, benefits are even larger,” Vafeidis told a group of visiting international journalists to the institution in late 2017 organized by
“The costs depend on the timing of adaptation but proactive adaptation pays,” he said.
Dr Vafeidis added that the rise in sea level has been accelerating for the past decade and will continue to do so. The rates the same but some regions could see acceleration three times faster than others. Without adaptation, he said, many areas will become unviable by 2100.
“A better understanding of adaptation and decision-making under certainty is essential, especially for vulnerable regions such as deltas and small islands,” he said.
Klaus Schwarzer from Institute of Geosciences, Sedimentology, Coastal and Continental Shelf Research at Kiel University, cited the Mekong in Vietnam, Chao Praya in Thailand and Mahakam in Indonesia’s Kalimantan island as examples of deltas that are vulnerable, based on current estimates of the relative sea level rise to 2050, including land subsidence in the deltas.
If no adaptions are in place, the number of people displaced from the Mekong delta would be extreme at more than one million, while anywhere from 5,000 to 50,000 people would have to flee their communities along the Chao Praya and Mahakam.
Schwarzer said more research on coastal zones would be essential to provide knowledge that could be applied in drafting potential future scenarios so that people can continue to make use of the coastal environment. However, such usage must be sustainable with better management of coastal ecosystem resources, given that some 2.8 billion people in the world now live within 100 km of a coast.
Mangrove forests that help to keep the tides at bay continue to be cut down, but very few people are talking about the loss of this essential element of coastal protection, said Martin Zimmer, a professor for mangrove ecology at Bremen’s University of Bremen.
Zimmer said researchers are developing an approach mangrove spatial conservation that focuses on humans needs while also maintaining biodiversity.
“It is an ecosystem design that focuses on what people in the area need. We implement an ecosystem that functions for them, not just to make the areas look beautiful. To protect coastal areas, we can’t just build dykes or other structures, but we do that with something that is naturally there, which is mangrove,” Zimmer said.
Coastal zones serve as an essential lifeline for much of the world’s population, Schwarzer said, given 95 percent of international trade involves marine transport, which ends up in harbors.
Oceans are also important sources of food with 90 percent of the world’s fishery activity is carried out in coastal zones.
“There is an increase in extreme storm surges and predictions of sea level rise. Coastal erosion already endangers about one-third of the world’s population,” Schwarzer said.
Indonesia is gearing up to host the 2018 Annual Meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank Group (AM 2018) in Bali in October, and despite the looming threat of volcano Mount Agung erupting, the government is convinced that all contingency plans are well in place as it looks forward to hosting up to 20,000 participants.
The volcano’s alert status has been lowered to level three or the second highest level, which means that the danger zone is reduced to a two-kilometer radius from the crater. The government also launched in August the official website for the event: www.am2018bali.go.id. Indonesia is the fourth Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member country to host the global meeting, after the Philippines (1976), Thailand (1991), and Singapore (2006).
Tasked to chair the organizing committee of the AM 2018 by President Joko Widodo is the Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs and Resources Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, whose office oversees ministries and government agencies crucial to playing host to heads of governments, finance ministers, senior bankers, global CEOs and foreign journalists.
Dr Safri Burhanudin, the Deputy Minister for Human Resources, Sciences and Technologies and Maritime Culture at the Coordinating Ministry for Maritime Affairs and Resources, who is in charge of supervising the preparations go as planned, explained the latest updates on the plan.
How are the preparations going so far?
Preparations in terms of venues in Nusa Dua are all ready. We are going to have a meeting with the organizer in February to evaluate the preparation. There will be a team from the IMF and the World Bank that will come to check and evaluate everyting. We are also finalising side events. Indonesia is only hosting and providing the venues, but the main organizer is the IMF and the World Bank, so they are the ones that develop the event program. We will be in charge of hosting and ensuring security for the VVIPs and servicing them.
How many VVIPs will attend the meetings?
All finance ministers from 189 countries will attend, and 32 of the ministers also serve as prime ministers so the treatment will be different for finance ministers and heads of government. We also plan to welcome leaders of ASEAN countries. There could be a meeting of ASEAN leaders on the sidelines but it is still being discussed, and we are waiting the final decision. We hope the ASEAN leaders will attend the opening session, and prior to that they would be meeting the managing director of the IMF and the president of the World Bank.
How many participants do we expect to welcome in Bali?
About 17,000 participants are expected to come, but there could be more if they bring their spouses and their families, about 20,000 people. We’ve heard that since the event will be in Bali, their families will come along later for a vacation. There are 21 official hotels appointed in Nusa Dua, Tanjong Benoa, Jimbaran and other areas outside Nusa Dua. There are 4,000 rooms available in Nusa Dua hotels for this event, while we are going to welcome 17,000 participants. We also heard that Bank of America already booked 200 rooms in The Mulia in Nusa Dua.
Why is the Coordinating Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Resources in charge of the event, instead of the Coordinating Ministry of Economic Affairss?
President Joko Widodo appointed Coordinating Minister Luhut as the head of the organizing committee, because we focus on the tourism part of this event, while the main program is already handled by the IMF and World Bank. We want to benefit the most from the annual meetings as a platform to promote Indonesia’s tourism and the tourism ministry is under the Coordinating Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Resources. That’s why we launched the Voyage to Indonesia (VTI) drive as a promotional program with a number of activities such as seminars, public discussions and art exhibitions underway. We also offer the participants seven main tourist destinations that they can go to after the meetings, namely Lake Toba in North Sumatra, Mandalika in Lombok, Labuan Bajo in East Nusa Tenggara if they want to see the Komodo dragons, Banyuwangi in East Java where they can choose to go to Mount Ijen for example, Yogyakarta and the Borobudur Temple, Toraja in South Sulawesi and of course Bali itself.
What about concerns regarding Mount Agung’s volcanic activity?
There were initial concerns regarding the volcano but it was because we didn’t communicate about it the right way. It made the public think that if the volcano erupts, the whole of Bali will be closed. So, we explained that technically if Mount Agung erupts, the farthest area affected will be 10 kilometers away from the crater, while Nusa Dua is 70 kilometers and the airport is 68 kilometers away. Even if there was some volcanic ash, the wind patterns would be mainly blowing to the east, not to the airport which is southwest of the volcano. If it erupts, it won’t affect the airport’s operations much.
What are the side events that Indonesia will organize?
There will be an economic forum that the Investment Coordinationg Board will coordinate and events to promote investment and the ease of doing business in Indonesia. Some of our main agenda will be to set up the Indonesia pavilion at the Westin Hotel and organize the Indonesia Gourmet and Food Festival, cultural performances, ASEAN Leaders Retreat and Host Country Reception at the Garuda Wisnu Kencana Cultural Park. The final rundown, however, will be released in April, as it is still now being discussed and will be evaluated during the spring meetings in Washington, DC.
Indonesia is footing the huge bill with Rp 868 billion to host this event, how are we going to benefit from it?
The cost we bear, including to organize major events such as the welcoming party and other promotional events, is not much compared to what we are going to get, which is a lot more. The participants are paying for the hotels, at least 17,000 hotel rooms and the increasing foreign exchange reserves through participant visits. We will be taking back most of the costs we spend for playing host.
What other special preparations are taking place, and is there any special infrastructure being built for this event?
The infrastructure we built for this event is the underpass at the airport intersection before the entrance to the toll road, Tanjung Benoa cruise terminal, and Suwung landfill. The latter is already finished and it doesn’t emanate a stench anymore. We are also expediting the completion of the Garuda Wisnu Kencana statue. It should be finished by September. If all goes well, it will be the largest event we have ever hosted.
The Indonesian military is expected to welcome two Sukhoi Su-35 “Flanker-E” to its combat aircraft fleet in October, after signing a contract to buy the fighter jets from Russia.
A spokesman for the Defense Ministry, Brig. Gen. Totok Sugiharto confirmed that the contract for 11 multirole combat aircrafts was signed in Jakarta on Feb. 14.
Rear Adm. Agus Setiadji, head of defense facilities agency at the ministry, signed on behalf of the Indonesian government with a representative from Russia’s state-owned defense product broker, Rosoboronexport.
The first two fighter jets are expected to arrive in early October, said Totok, in time to take part in the TNI parade to celebrate armed forces day on Oct. 5. TNI is the Indonesian acronym for the Indonesian Armed Forces.
“The Sukhoi jets would replace the existing F5-E Tiger jet fighters fleet,” he added.
The contract, worth $1.140 billion, was finalized following negotiations that started in 2017. It includes the signing of a bilateral deal in Moscow in August to barter coffee, tea, palm oil, cacao, spices and the commodities’ derivatives, processed fish and textiles as well as Indonesia’s defense products with the Sukhoi fleet. Indonesian state trading company PT Perusahaan Perdagangan Indonesia and Russian state conglomerate Rostec will be the agencies implementing the barter trade.
The part-barter deal will allow Indonesia to pay 50 percent of the Sukhoi jet fighter contract by exporting its commodities valued at $570 million, Trade Minister Enggartiasto Lukita said in August at a joint press conference with Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu.
“With this barter deal, Indonesia can export more commodities that we have exported before, as well as the ones that we didn’t get to export previously,” Enggartiasto said.
Under Indonesia’s defense industry law, the procurement contract for defense equipment from foreign producer is subject to at least 35 percent offset requirements. Russia has said that it will provide 35 percent offset from the contract value by providing a training for maintenance and repair of the Sukhoi fleet.
In October, then-military chief Gen. Gatot Nurmantyo said in accordance to request from the air force, that the Sukhoi jets will be equipped with air-to-air missile, air-to-ground missile, bombs, ground support equipment, simulator, spare parts and spare engines.
The Indonesian Air Force already has a full squadron of Sukhoi Su-27 SKM and Su-30 Mk2 jets.
Since the administration of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who is President Joko Widodo’s predecessor, Indonesia has been significantly increasing its defense budget to modernize its aging Armed Forces fleet and equipment and rejuvenate its defense industry.
Its spending on military equipment aims to meet the minimum essential force target by 2024 or the bare minimum of primary defense equipment to safeguard the country’s vast archipelago.
If there’s one thing that Indonesians can agree on when asked what smartphones and the internet are most useful for, it would be to access social media and messaging applications.
A survey conducted by the Indonesian Internet Service Providers Association (APJII) and the Indonesian Telecommunications Society (Mastel) showed that 95.1 percent of respondents use smartphones to access social media applications, while 73.7 percent said they use it to access messaging applications.
The survey was conducted across the country from October to November involving 1,020 respondents, more than half of them are high school and university students, followed by professionals and entrepreneurs.
The most popular social media applications among the respondents are Instagram with 82.6 percent, while 66.5 percent named Facebook and 49.6 percent said they liked Pinterest.
The top chat application is Line with 90.5 percent respondents, followed by WhatsApp and Blackberry Messenger with 79.3 percent and 33.10 percent respectively.
Typical of these users is 19-year-old waitress Andini Sugeha, who says she uses Facebook most of the time but the features she most uses are messaging services.
Uploading photos and chatting with friends are what draws user to these applications the most.
“I use Facebook to upload photos while I also do that on Instagram, and I use WhatsApp as well to chat,” Andini said.
Media professional Ami Afriatni said she has been on Facebook for a decade and still uses it mainly to stay in touch with friends and families living in faraway places, while for her works she finds Twitter is most useful.
“It is helpful to get news updates, personal insights public figures might offer or official statements of some credible organizations. People also often take to Twitter to respond to recent issues and to express their stance,” Ami said.
As a budding photographer, she uses Instagram to sharpen her photographic skills, adding that the entertainment aspect of the photo sharing platform is the main draw for her.
In a reflection to the APJII and Mastel survery, Ami said social media and messaging applications are equally important but agreed that social media platforms have reached maturity while messaging applications are more important.
“I think there are rooms for improvement for this, let’s say creating a messaging applications that are more friendly to elders or communities who are less exposed to technology,” she added.
But the proliferation of hate speech, hoax and fake news on Facebook, especially as they relate to political preference, has made the world’s largest social networking platform no longer as enjoyable as it used to be, she said.
Internet stakeholders in Indonesia are well aware of the problems and in anticipation of regional elections this year, the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, APJII and Elections Supervisory Body have launched a campaign against online hoaxes.
The three agencies, along with local representatives of internet giants including Google, Facebook, Telegram, Twitter, Line, MeTube, Bigo Live and Live Me signed on Feb 7 a memorandum of understanding to curb the spread of hate speech and fake news related to the elections.
ICT Minister Rudiantara said the drive to issue such declaration started in 2016 and every party involved in the online ‘ecosystem’ had an obligation to be part of it.
“So, there is no reason for service provider not to takedown [negative content] when the General Elections Committee and Elections Supervisory Body request for it because they are the independent bodies that organise the elections and are well aware of election rules and regulations,” Rudiantara said.
APJII chairman Jamalul Izza, said application providers and related parties agreed it was time for joint effort to curb negative content, as previous experience during the divisive presidential election in 2014 and Jakarta gubernatorial election last year showed how content that incited hate and misinformation directed at some candidates can flourish and go viral.
“Therefore, as the internet ecosystem in the country we agreed to safeguard the 2018 regional elections to make them free from negative contents and hate speech,” Jamalul said.
An APJII survey released in November showed that there were 132.7 million internet users in Indonesia, out of its 256 million population.
The ICT Ministry has been stepping up its efforts to ensure that the material available online does not breach local standards for behavior and morality. That includes material related to homosexual activity. In January, it asked Google to suspend applications related to LGBT activities from its Google Play Store so that they are no longer accessible in Indonesia.
It also said it has handled 72,407 complaints regarding pornographic content on the internet in January. Earlier in the month, the ministry has begun to operate an artificial intelligence-based censorship system to using keywords to detect and crawl pornographic content online.
The US$14-million dollar machine was installed following years of manual monitoring that failed to curb the flood of illicit contents on the internet, especially pornographic material. A ministry team will evaluate and verify the data crawled and take the necessary measures such as blocking the sites if they are validated to have inappropriate content.
“Global and national internet providers are urged to be active in ensuring the availability of positive contents and suppress negative material from spreading,” ministry spokesman Noor Iza said.