After a delay caused by last year’s haze crisis, Indonesian President Joko Widodo – commonly known as Jokowi – finally got to resume his official visit to the Silicon Valley, in which he talked to CEOs of tech giants Twitter, Facebook, Google, and innovation platform Plug & Play.
Indonesia’s national agenda to foster its local tech startup scene is the main focus of the meetings. While the previous visit — led by Minister of Communications and Informatics Rudiantara — introduced Indonesian startups to Silicon Valley top players, and sealed deals for projects such Project Loon, this meeting’s agenda is to introduce nationals plans and – possibly — persuade companies to be involved with them.
Only time will tell what projects come out of these meetings as we do not even yet know whether a yes was given or not. But these talks will be crucial in predicting which direction Indonesia will take next.
Of all the visits President Jokowi did during this trip, the Facebook visit seemed to be the most exciting. Facebook CEO and Co-Founder Mark Zuckerberg wrote a lengthy post about welcoming the President to Menlo Park, and they even shared a game of zero gravity ping-pong on Oculus. (It remains a mystery who won the match).
But the meeting was not all fun and games.
“I hope that Facebook can work together with Indonesia on our vision to become the biggest digital economy in Southeast Asia, which is predicted to reach US$130 billion by 2020,” said President Jokowi as reported by Detik.
“I also hope that Facebook can support Indonesia’s effort to empower digital economy for small and medium enterprises. I also call for Facebook to strengthen the message of tolerance, peace, and modernisation,” he added.
The President also mentioned the possibility of providing Internet access to remote areas all over the world, and the possibility to get traditional markets in rural Indonesia to go digital.
What we say:
Apart from partnership to develop local SMEs, are we seeing the beginning of a project like Free Basics entering Indonesia in the future? Knowing the controversy, e27 would like to raise a red flag here.
Also Read: Indonesia to partner with Google and Alibaba to boost SME sector
Moving on to Googleplex in Mountain View, President Jokowi was welcomed by Google CEO Sundar Pichai, who was wearing a batik shirt. Apart from meeting with Indonesian Googlers and checking out product demos, the President and Pichai also conducted closed meeting to discuss empowerment of SMEs through the e-commerce roadmap.
“We have announced the e-commerce roadmap … in order to pull in investment in the IT sector. We also give ease of funding for SMEs through microcredits, market liquidity policy, and venture capital policy for startup funding,” President Jokowi explained.
“I would like to express my gratitude for Google’s partnership to curb illegal fishing … I also hope that Google would like empower SMEs through IT training and education,” he continued.
Last year, during Minister Rudiantara visit to Googleplex, Google sealed the deal for Project Loon in Indonesia, which will start its test flight this year.
What we say:
Indonesia has been building a positive relationship with Google, with Indonesian startups participating in its Launchpad Accelerator programme.
Google’s past partnership with the government to curb illegal fishing indicated strong possibility for similar partnership in the future. We suspect that President Jokowi’s proposal to empower SMEs will pass along rather easily.
Plug & Play
Accompanied by Plug & Play CEO Saeed Amidi, President Jokowi toured around the innovation platform’s facilities.
Before leaving the premise, President Jokowi left his signature on a wall, completed with his photo and a message that said “Start it up, prosper together”.
What we say:
Jokowi made an effort to visit a startup innovation lab like Plug and Play in the midst of touring around the most important Silicon Valley companies. We hope you had a great time, sir.
After arriving at Twitter’s HQ, President Jokowi broadcasted a 12-minute post on Periscope. The social media-savvy president was seen greeting Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, accompanied by First Lady Iriana and Country Business Head Twitter Indonesia Roy Simangunsong.
The group then proceeded to a closed meeting ‘to discuss Indonesia’s heightening role in security and early detection against terrorism and extremism utilising platforms such as Twitter’, as reported by Detik.
Terrorist groups such ISIS have been known to use social media platforms such as Twitter to recruit members and spread its ideology. Plus, the group claimed responsibility for the recent suicide bombings and attacks in Jakarta.
What we say:
Now this is where things are getting interesting.
Indonesia has never been shy about conducting censorship and blocking sites perceived to ‘provide’ unsolicited contents such as pornography and extremism.
Despite the pressing nature of counter-terrorism, e27 sees Twitter’s willingness to play an active role in forging a partnership as a step the microblogging company might need to prevent its platform from going down the same route as Tumblr and Vimeo, who were condemned for the contents on its platform, despite not taking any role in producing it.