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Starlink and the Future of Indonesia’s Digital Landscape

Starlink and the Future of Indonesia's Digital Landscape
Starlink and the Future of Indonesia's Digital Landscape

In a game-changing move for Indonesia’s digital future, Starlink recently made its official debut in the nation’s healthcare sector.

With exciting promises of unprecedented speed and connectivity, this development signals a significant shift, not just for medical services but for the broader digital landscape of Indonesia, potentially revolutionising how remote communities access information and services and opening a treasure trove of exciting investment opportunities.

What is Starlink? 

According to the company’s website, Starlink is the world’s first and largest satellite constellation using a low Earth orbit that allows satellites to communicate with designated ground transceivers to deliver broadband internet capable of supporting streaming, online gaming, video calls, and remote working, even in the most out-of-the-way locations.

Engineered by SpaceX, Starlink is the only satellite operator to launch satellites as needed and update them with the latest tech. Around 6,000 Starlink satellites are in orbit as of April 2024 and as many as 42,000 satellites will be part of this so-called “megaconstellation” [source: space.com] when complete.

Just to give this a bit of perspective, Starlink promises download speeds of up to 220 Mbps with the majority of users experiencing over 100 Mbps, a significant improvement over existing options in many remote areas, where laying fibre optic cables is either impractical or prohibitively expensive. And in doing so, this will benefit not just healthcare centres but also schools, Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), businesses, and individual households.

A Nation Divided by Connectivity

According to reporting from Antara News, internet penetration in Indonesia as a whole has risen from 78.1 percent in 2023 to 79.5 percent in 2024. Jakarta and Surabaya have both penetration rates over 90 percent, but, in remote regions, this can drop to as low as 20 percent. Compare this to neighbouring Malaysia, which is at a 97-percent penetration rate nationwide. [source: Meltwater & We Are Social]

This disparity has created a digital divide, limiting access to online education, digital services, and economic opportunities in much of Indonesia. Students in remote areas, for instance, struggle with online learning platforms, while SMEs face difficulties competing in the global market without reliable internet connections.

The arrival of Starlink is also expected to incentivise existing internet service providers (ISPs) in Indonesia to improve their services and offer more competitive pricing plans. This could benefit consumers by driving down overall costs and improving service quality across the board.

The Elephant in the Room

While Starlink promises significant benefits, it’s not without its challenges. The initial hardware and service costs put Starlink out of reach for many Indonesians, particularly in low-income communities, making it necessary for government initiatives to subsidise access or implement community Wi-Fi hotspots.

While internet access increases, bridging the digital literacy gap remains crucial. Programmes to educate citizens, especially younger generations, on effectively utilising online resources and navigating the digital world are essential. This is a primary driving force behind the government’s initiatives to develop millions of digital-savvy workers. Regulatory frameworks regarding Starlink’s operations and potential cybersecurity concerns also need addressing to ensure a safe and secure online environment.

A Glimpse into a Connected Indonesia

That said, the impact of Starlink on Indonesia’s digital landscape goes far beyond just bridging the healthcare connectivity gap. It has the potential to be a transformative force, unlocking a future where:

  • Education flourishes: Remote schools can finally access reliable internet, enabling students to participate in online learning platforms and access global educational resources. This can revolutionise educational opportunities in underserved areas, fostering a more equitable learning environment for all Indonesians.
  • Communication leaps forward: Starlink can facilitate improved communication infrastructure, enabling better connectivity for remote businesses. This can empower local entrepreneurs to participate in the global marketplace, attract investors, and collaborate with partners across borders. Additionally, reliable internet access can strengthen communication between remote communities and government agencies, improving service delivery and fostering a sense of inclusion.
  • E-commerce thrives: Rural communities can finally tap into the potential of e-commerce platforms. Farmers in remote regions can sell their produce directly to consumers in cities, bypassing middlemen and increasing their profits. Local artisans can showcase their crafts to a global audience, expanding their reach and boosting the local economy. This can create new income opportunities and empower rural communities to participate in the digital economy.
  • Telemedicine reaches new heights: While the initial focus was on connecting healthcare centres, Starlink can revolutionise telemedicine in Indonesia. Remote communities can access consultations with specialists in urban centres, reducing the need for long and expensive travel. This can improve access to quality healthcare, especially in areas with limited medical facilities. Additionally, Starlink can facilitate the transfer of medical data and training resources, further strengthening the healthcare system nationwide.
  • Government Services become more accessible: Citizens in remote areas can access government services online, improving efficiency and transparency. This can streamline processes like applying for permits, paying taxes, and accessing social services. Starlink can also empower citizen engagement, allowing for greater participation in local governance and decision-making.
  • Disaster Relief efforts are enhanced: Reliable internet access becomes crucial during natural disasters. Starlink can provide vital communication channels for emergency services, coordinate relief efforts, and disseminate vital information to affected communities. This can save lives, expedite recovery processes, and strengthen disaster preparedness across the archipelago.
  • Innovation takes root: Improved connectivity can spur technological innovation. Local entrepreneurs can develop new applications and services tailored to the needs of Indonesian communities. This can foster a more vibrant tech ecosystem and drive Indonesia’s progress towards a knowledge-based economy.
The Future of Connectivity

The potential impact of Starlink on Indonesia’s digital landscape is vast and the investment opportunities are monumental. Just look at Apple and Microsoft’s recent multi-billion-dollar investments, but realising this potential requires a collaborative effort. The government has a crucial role to play in ensuring equitable access, promoting digital literacy, establishing clear regulations for Starlink’s operations, and harnessing partnerships. It’s worth noting that under Minister of Finance Regulation 130 of 2020, which provides support in the form of tax reductions for selected industries, digital economy data processing, hosting, and related activities are included.

Indonesia offers plenty of scalable digital opportunities for foreign investors and Seven Stones Indonesia is there to help with a range of business services, including market entry, country representation, consultancy, and advisory services as well as tax and accounting packages. If you’d like to learn more, get in touch with us at Seven Stones Indonesia through [email protected].

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