Saturday, May 19, 2007

More telephone services for remote areas, Minister says

Tuesday, April 10, 2007
The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The government is forging ahead with its policy of developing telephone and information technology services in all rural areas in Indonesia by 2015, despite many regions still lacking basic infrastructure such as electricity and water services.

State Minister for the Development of Disadvantaged Regions Saifullah Yusuf said the program was part of the government's mission to provide low-income consumers with better access to telecommunication services.

"In addition to improving quality of life, wider access can have a significant positive impact on health, productivity, education and entrepreneurship," Saifullah said during a round table discussion at Yarsi University to celebrate its 40th anniversary on Monday.

"There will be a positive effect if the program meets the specific needs of the poor population. In theory, three percent of telecommunications development will contribute to one percent of economic growth. At the same time, with telecommunications infrastructure, people will have more choices in building their lives," said Saifullah.

The policy is based on an international program known as Universal Service Obligation (USO) concerning the provision of telecommunication networks by operators so that the telecommunication needs of remote communities can be fulfilled.

In response to the minister's comments, Marsudi Wahyu Kisworo, a telecommunications expert form the University of Indonesia, warned that inappropriate technology has the potential to exacerbate existing social and economic problems due to the diversity of the nation's population and their needs.

"Information and telecommunications are not everything when we talk about Indonesia. The important thing is we must meet the basic needs of the people, which are different in every region," said Kisworo.

He also said that the USO program, which initially aimed to be non-commercial, would eventually become commercial as the government would offer tenders to get new service providers for the program.

When the program commenced in 2004, its funding came from the state budget, but under a 2005 regulation, every telecommunications service provider is obliged to hand over 0.75 percent of their gross income for the development of the program.

Under a 1999 telecommunications law, every telecommunications network operator and service operator is obliged to contribute to the universal service.

Until now, the government has received Rp 80 billion (approximately US$8.7 million) of an expected Rp 500 billion.

"The main problem is the continuity of operations and maintenance of infrastructure because programs are put under the supervision of local leaders. But we hope service providers will take full responsibility of infrastructure to ensure the continuity of the service," said PT Indosat Regulatory Group Head Dayu P. Rengganis.

About 43,000 out of 73,000 villages in Indonesia currently have no access to telecommunication services.(02)

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