Within its “Digital Economy 2020” vision, the ministry is focusing on education and human resources, funding, logistics, tax, communications infrastructure, consumer protection, and cyber security. How is your sector developing?

To me the role of ICT is not about technology, but much more, we have to position ICT as an enabler of economic development and social transformation. As long as ICT can be used for this, then we should invest in it.

Indonesia is probably one of the few countries in the world where we have had stable economic growth over the past few years. Within the G-20 we are third in terms of growth and believe that we are able to perform even better. But Indonesia spends more than 20% of its GDP on logistics, one of the highest in the world.

We therefore need to utilize ICT to improve efficiency.

We are an archipelago and won’t ever have the logistic costs of the US. We need infrastructure, be it highways, seaports or airports, but equally important is moving information, through ICT infrastructure.

With the Palapa Ring’s eastern project beginning in July, please comment on the Program and its importance.

By 2019, we have to connect all Indonesia’s capitals. There are more than 500, and they will need broadband access. Then we have to cover the people who live in remote areas on different islands. This is why we are constructing our own satellite, purely for internet. In remote areas they have to rely on this satellite. We need to connect almost 10.000 village hospitals, where infrastructure is not adequate; we have for example 300 radiology specialists to serve 260 million. This could be done through teleradiology so that we can diagnose from afar, but for this we need bandwidth.

Enabling this development, you are also heading the sector, which is considered one of the most open in Indonesia, no?

We have to maintain our national identity, but FDI is also needed to grow. When I was appointed I decided to implement a local content rule for cell phones because the country was spending more than $ 5 billion annually importing phones. Blocking imports was not an option as we need this technology, so It became compulsory for 4G cell phones to contain at least 30% local content. Companies can be creative and reach 30% through application software for instance. Apple fulfilled the requirement by establishing their R&D centre here in Indonesia and I’m proud: It’s only the second R&D centre outside America.

In terms of international investment, which kind of investment are you welcoming?

We welcome any investor in ICT or e-commerce, but naturally it’s not only about transactions, but sustainability. This is how we position ICT to indirectly support other sectors. For instance in e-commerce; it was previously forbidden for foreigners to have a stake. We changed this in 2016 and allowed FDI except for marketplaces with a net worth below $800,000 which is reserved for SMEs. Active, but with caution, not to be confused with suspicion. 

  The Indonesian economy was until now driven by commodities, but we are starting to move towards services. For e-commerce we must realise that companies are leaving conventional business behind and embracing digital. To most, e-commerce describes buying goods online, but when you look at airlines and hotels, these services are handled online and are only growing. E-commerce is essential, not only for big business, but for SMEs who can save on costs: 50% of our GDP comes from these businesses.

This development also encourages financial inclusion beyond its current peak, correct?

With current financial inclusion rates of 39%, we are looking at around 100 million people. But we have more than 175 million Indonesians with a cellphone. This is what we as a government also need to focus on, if we are seeking financial inclusion, the cellphone is an ideal distribution channel for financial services.

What would be your message to an international readership?

“Come and invest in Indonesia and we will facilitate your needs: be present in the market and grow with us. This is the message I am sending to Facebook or Google.”

These companies want economic growth and social stability. We all want a stable country from political, economic, security and social perspectives. This is why I say: Invest in Indonesia, let’s grow together!