Editions : April-June 2012

JOURNAL | INDONESIA 360 By: Ilham A Habibie

Like other developing countries, Indonesia is engulfed by a non-stop cell phone revolution that will reach virtually all Indone­sians within a few years. Just as wireless has “leapfrogged” over fixed-line telephony, many expect this wireless boom to be quickly followed by a corresponding massive leap into broadband internet. The convergence of internet and personal devices in the mass mar­ket is highly anticipated by both business and government. A growing chorus of experts now considers universal broadband to be the 21st century’s most hopeful platform for restoring equity and environ­mental balance in the global economy. Some countries, such as Fin­land, have even declared that access to broadband is a human right.

But this expectation is not being fulfilled. On a global level, broadband remains stuck at the 1 to 3 percent penetration level in most developing nations even as their cell-phone rates reach 100 percent (See Chart 1). This broadband gap within and between countries is now in its infancy and may result in an in­delible separation between broadband-enabled and broadband-deprived citizens. Indonesia is a good example of the problem. Despite the high uptake of BlackBerry and Facebook among Jakarta’s educated youth, broadband internet is limited to about 3 percent of the national population. Surrounded by more broadband-enabled neighboring countries, Indonesia has been unable to address the complex obstacles that are required for broad­band to be accessible to the mass market.

This problem explains the significance of a framework for broadband deployment called “Meaningful Broadband,” which is designed to reverse the broadband gap and align broadband deployment with socioeconomic reforms. Meaningful Broadband is a frame­work and a model for achieving the techno­logical, public policy, financial, managerial and ethical innovations that would quickly bring “broadband ecosystems” to Indonesia’s mass market. Born in Indonesia, the con­cept has become an international movement centered among ASEAN nations (see www. digitaldivide.org). “Meaningful Broadband is a promising new model for bringing the benefits of broadband to developing nations that is being seriously considered by several Asian nations,” notes Andrew Harris, senior analyst at The Economist Intelligence Group.

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