For people in villages like Mambi in West Sulawesi, Indonesia, people have been traveling as long as five hours from home merely to get a mobile signal so they can make a telephone call. The same is true for many remote places in the world, but Indonesia boasts some particularly difficult terrain that makes mobile penetration a definite challenge. Yet where mobile reaches, immense opportunities open up for people who own cell phones. Not only can they communicate with relatives, they can access both economic and healthcare information for just a start.

Challenges for Mobile in Indonesia

In big cities, it’s easier for populations to integrate mobile technology. Yet for remote regions where there are pockets of just a few thousand–and fewer–people, it is far more difficult to lure investors to install networks. Moreover, for many years the cost of a mobile phone, a phone that could access the internet, was far too expensive for many villagers to purchase. Then, of course, there remains the problem of charging those phones; how do you charge a smart phone in a village that has no electricity? Thus far, well over thirty million Indonesians still lack access to the internet. Yet in spite of the challenges, improvements are on the way allowing Indonesians to look forward to a mobile future with great confidence.

Cheaper Phones and Helpful Programs

One helpful development for remotely-based Indonesians is the decrease in the cost of smart phones. As these prices drop, more people and even families can better afford the investment in such a device. In addition, various battery manufacturers are working to develop cost-effective batteries that can retain their charge for a week. Solar powered charging devices may also help where there is no electricity for miles around. Of course, networks must be built too. While many companies may not find it profitable to extend their networks to remote regions, Indonesia, like other governments, is considering how to invest in bringing mobile technology to poor and isolated regions or regions where there is great need for this technology.

Recently, the nation’s Ministry of Agriculture partnered with Mercy Corps to launch a platform for about 400 smallholder farmers. The program affects some thirty districts in Karawang and allows farmers to use mobile phones to access agricultural information they need to grow and thrive in their occupation. As individual farmers achieve greater success, the economy receives a boost as well. The farmers receive training so they can master their devices and learn what information may be of use to them. Merely being able to access global prices for their crops is an immense benefit for even small-scale farmers in remote places. As the government works to create more programs like the Karawang platform, more remote Indonesians may benefit too.

Establishing More Base Sites

As Indonesians continue to witness the benefits of mobile technology, there will be increasing demand for more base sites where mobile networks can be accessed. For the people of a village like Mambi, for instance, it would be a drastic change if they could access a signal only an hour or two away instead of five hours away. Already, some companies are investing in diesel-powered generators to run mobile base stations in parts of Africa, so it may merely be a matter of time before such developments happen for Indonesia. It will likely require more government involvement to pave the way for this improved access to mobile.

The Benefits of Greater Mobile Access in Indonesia

While many of Indonesia’s farmers are benefitting from their mobile access, there are other ways aside from agriculture that can benefit life in remote areas. For instance, if remote villagers could access healthcare information, for instance, lives could be saved. This has already proven true in nations like Bangladesh where programs that provide pregnant women with mobile phones are helping save the lives of women and their babies. Having the capability to access the world of information benefits people’s lives in countless ways. For this reason, every new mobile base and mobile program launched in Indonesia is a step in the right direction, a step toward a more connected future.

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