Making Money From Indonesia's Internet
There's a review in today's Jakarta Post
, not online, of The Internet in Indonesia's New Democracy (by David Hill and Krishna Sen, pub. Routledge. London 2005. £65)
This is a detailed study of legal, economic, political and cultural practices surrounding the provision and consumption of the Internet in Indonesia at the turn of the twenty-first century. Hill and Sen detail the emergence of the Internet into Indonesia in the mid-1990s, and cover its growth through the dramatic economic and political crises of 1997 and the subsequent transition to democracy.
Conceptually the Internet is seen as a global phenomenon, with global implications, however this book develops a way of thinking about the Internet within the limits of geo-political categories of nations and provinces. The political turmoil in Indonesia provides a unique context in which to understand the specific local and national consequences of a global, universal technology.
Dr. Merlyna Lim
is also mining a similar research field: The Internet and identity politics in Indonesia, Civic Space in Indonesia, the Internet and civil society in Southeast Asia.
According to the Indonesian Internet Service Provider Association
, the Internet has grown at a remarkable rate since 1998 when there were 134,000 subscribers and 512,000 users. By the end of last year they estimate that there were 1,500,000 subscribers and 16,000,000 users.
A 1100% growth rate does not, however, disguise the fact that only 1 person in 150 of the population is a subscriber nor that just 1 in 14 uses the net. I can't find an analysis of why Indonesians use the net, and I don't intend to splash out £65 (= c. Rp.1.2 million) to find out, so you'll have to make do with my educated guesses.
Most of the users will have a Hotmail or Yahoo email account which they access at weekends or in idle moments at work. They may well belong to chatrooms and forums for those moments when they're not busy developing repetitive thumb strain SMS-ing on their cellphones.
Others will be secretively seeking pictures of nubile young ladies such as Indonesia's own playmate, Tiara Lestari
, when they're not using work or school sites.
Very few are seeking news and views such as these
. Only 25% of my visitors emanate from Indonesia and I suspect that a good half of these are expats. Mind you, my stats are significantly lower than many Indonesian bloggers.
So, do any sites here actually generate a significant income? Possibly detik.com
, a valued news portal, but not those sites, such as The Reveller's
, which carry GoogleAds. As he told me this morning, his income barely covers the cost of cat food, let alone his research costs.
The main reasons for the relatively low usage of the net here are firstly that most of the population are struggling to survive and do not, therefore, actually need what the internet purports to provide. More critically perhaps, the main providers of access to hyperspace, Telkom and Indosat, are not particularly interested in improving the telecommunications infrastructure, the classic chicken and egg syndrome.
So, good luck to Messrs. Hill, Sen and Lim. You at least stand to profit from Indonesia's internet.
May your publications sell well, but why are they only available on paper?