- Had to cancel previous trip to Silicon Valley, second attempt to meet tech giant CEOs
- Industry players want govt to facilitate foreign investment, yet protect local companies
DESPITE its largest telecommunication provider Telkom recently blocking Netflix and a quick U-turn on the ban of ride-sharing apps last December, Indonesia’s digital economy diplomatic efforts with the West continues.
After the ongoing US-Asean Summit being held in Sunnylands, California from Feb 15 to 16, Indonesian President Joko ‘Jokowi’ Widodo is going to travel to San Francisco as part of his mission to establish the republic as the largest digital economy in Asean, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA).
“The President is scheduled to meet and have dialogues with the CEOs (chief executive officers) of technology companies,” MoFA said in a statement.
Jokowi is scheduled to give a keynote speech to the US-Asean Business Council (US-ABC) on the morning of Feb 17, to convince businesses that this is the right time to invest in Indonesia.
He will then head out to the headquarters of social networking giants Facebook Inc and Twitter Inc, and also visit the Googleplex – Google Inc’s main headquarters in Mountain View – and startup incubator Plug and Play, MoFA said.
“This time around, I will use this opportunity to meet with the CEOs of technology giants,” Jokowi said in a statement issued by the Ministry of State’s Secretariat.
Last October, Jokowi had made his first official state visit to the United States at the invitation of President Barack Obama.
However, he had to cut the visit short and cancelled his San Francisco trip due to the haze situation in Indonesia. The republic’s delegation to Silicon Valley continued without him, however.
Protection, not protectionism
Industry players from Indonesia were pumped up over Jokowi’s mission, saying the US trip should open up communications and investment flows that could boost the country’s digital economy.
Shinta Dhanuwardoyo, CEO and founder of digital agency PT Bubu Kreasi Perdana and one of the country’s first technology entrepreneurs, said that she hoped to see more concrete action rather than just talk.
“The President really needs to know what he wants to achieve with this trip. He said he wants to see the country’s economy grow by 7% per year – I say two [of those points] should come from the digital economy,” she told Digital News Asia (DNA) in a phone call from the United States.
Indonesia’s digital economy effort needs not just the full support of the Government, but also foreign investment in the sector, according to Shinta.
Two key areas would be to get more small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to go digital and the nurturing of more tech startups, she added.
Shinta argued that Indonesia, unlike China for example, is open to foreign investment and has already been exposed to foreign technology companies. Therefore, there is no need to take protectionist measures.
“Rather, we should come up with a win-win policy as quickly as possible, one that allows and facilitates tech giants to operate legally in the country, yet protects local companies with the transfer of knowledge, for example,” she said.
Shinta is currently in the United States and will accompany Jokowi and Minister of Information and Communication Rudiantara in their dialogue sessions with the tech giants in Silicon Valley.
Voicing similar views was Hendrik Tio (pic), CEO and founder of B2C (business-to-consumer) e-commerce site Bhinneka.com, who argued that Indonesia had already opened its market to foreign players, and therefore local players need to be more innovative.
Having less competition may be good for a business, “but that is not how the world works today,” he told DNA via text messaging.
All local players want is fair play, where foreign companies can play in the market as long as they also pay the same amount in taxes and follow the same rules, according to Hendrik.
“It is not the competition we need to worry about, but it is how the industry can grow.
“By allowing foreign players to come into the country, the market will actually get bigger,” he added, emphasising that regulations and Government support would be essential to the growth of the industry.
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