Facebook wants drones to boost Indonesia’s access to internet

The government and social media giant Facebook are seeking cooperation to boost internet access for small and medium enterprises (SMEs), Vice President Jusuf Kalla said on Saturday after a meeting with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on the sidelines of an APEC summit in Lima.TheJakartaPost

Better internet access could help thousands of Indonesian SMEs in remote regions of the country that so far have not been able to promote their products domestically and internationally.

Kalla said Zuckerberg had offered Indonesia to use Facebook’s Aquila drone, a solar-powered unmanned aerial vehicle, to beam the internet to remote parts of Indonesia. He added that the government welcomed the plan and had assigned the Industry Ministry to work on the details.

He said better connectivity could help SMEs in the regions grow their business. “An online system provides information about the market and products. This system could unite markets and protect the quality of products being sold in the market,” Kalla said. Facebook’s offer to Indonesia is part of the company’s effort to help small businesses tap the potential economic benefits from around 4.2 billion people around the world who have yet to get access to the internet.

“Mark [Zuckerberg] in his speeches cited Indonesia as an example where regions could be connected through the internet to produce economic benefits,” Kalla said. Under President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s administration, Indonesia’s vision for the digital economy foresees local companies valued at a total of US$130 billion and the birth of 1,000 so-called technopreneurs by 2020.

Jokowi has issued a number of policies to implement its e-commerce road map, including economic stimulus packages and greater access to financial support for SMEs and IT-based companies.

Kalla said the government had given financial support to SMEs across the country, which would be supplemented by an agreement by APEC members to help each other in conducting training to support SMEs. “When we talk about SMEs, we are talking about the SDGs [Sustainable Development Goals]. With strong SMEs a country can alleviate poverty, as demanded by the APEC,” Kalla said.

On Saturday, the first day of the two-day APEC summit, Kalla joined the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC) along with 21 leaders of APEC member countries, including outgoing US President Barack Obama, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, to discuss a theme titled “Growing Global MSMEs and Promoting Sustainable Development.” Kalla said that during the forum Indonesia had proposed that APEC member countries cut import tariffs on what he called Indonesia’s development products, such as crude palm oil, coffee, cocoa, rubber and rattan. “The development products must be accepted without tariffs in those countries, because that is one of the ways to support agricultural products in a developing country like Indonesia. If such products are prevented [from entering foreign markets] it will create a new kind of poverty,” Kalla said.

Meanwhile, Deputy Foreign Minister AM Fachir said Indonesia welcomed the adoption of APEC’s Education Strategy and the APEC Baseline Report on Current Education Status during the APEC Ministerial Meeting (AMM), which had “Developing Human Capital” as its theme. “Indonesia is committed to creating an education community that is strong and cohesive at the APEC,” said Fachir.