The news coming out of Indonesia in recent times has been troubling.
First there was the report in the Jakarta Post that scammers were cheating people out of their mobile credits, tricking them into signing up for premium services which are difficult to unsubscribe to, and then slowly leeching their precious prepaid credits.
Then later the Jakarta Globe carried a report that research showed that Indonesia was one of the world’s worst spammers – not very bad in itself, but a sign, perhaps, that spammers were using Indonesia as the location from which to send spam out en masse.
Most recently, there have been reports that workers at Telkomsel, one of Indonesia’s major carriers, are striking for better benefits. This strike (which was meant to last a month) has been called off, but unhappiness is still rife and there may be more industrial actions to come.
This is not the best news for the telecommunications industry in Indonesia, Southeast Asia’s largest economy. It is particularly unsettling because in so many ways, Indonesia’s mobile space shows great promise and potential.
A recent report from Google, for example, points out that internet use is rapidly overtaking television as the Indonesians’ media channel of choice, a change largely attributed to the availability and high take-up rate of low-cost smartphones. It was only at the end of October when Reportlinker released research that predicted that the mobile market in Indonesia is expected to grow at a CAGR of 7.5% in terms of revenues from 2008 to 2014. Indonesia continues to lead the world in the use of Facebook, with around 45 million users, again attributable to mobile- or mobile-based web use of the service. (India is rapidly catching up, though, with 30 million users.)
Hopefully these are all just growing pains, as Indonesia’s economy continues to grow at an astounding rate. Part of the reason for the industrial action, after all, was the perceived success of Telkomsel, whose star is seen to be rising in the wake of the population’s massive take-up of mobile phones. If the company is doing so well, the logic seems to go that their workers should get some of the benefits, and in fact one of the benefits being asked for was that each worker should get a cellular phone.
The fourth-most populous nation in the world, with a population of 240 million, Indonesia may be Southeast Asia’s sleeping giant, the largest powerhouse economy in Southeast Asia, with untapped resources that could lead to even greater growth. Recently, Indonesia has really come a long way, riding the crest of the new Asian growth spurt. This growing affluence is making itself felt in the mobile space, too, as Indonesia’s mobile penetration rates skyrocketed in the last few years. It seems that these latest troubles are just the signs of Indonesia’s awakening, as its population faces cybercrime as a result of a substantial number of people being online for the first time in their lives.
Hopefully these are only bumps in the road, minor pratfalls as Indonesia makes its way forward. In the mobile marketing space, Indonesia continues to be the hotspot where so many interesting, original and creative campaigns emerge, and its population is uniquely open to the mobile channel. With any luck, cooler heads will prevail, and Indonesia will continue to rise, getting better and better as it finds its feet and joins the world as yet another economic superpower.