Indonesia is almost like a vast continent of Islands spanning a greater distance than Europe. A nation of Islands, languages, cultures and religions that is one of South-East Asia’s true melting points. And this nation of over 227 Million people have a culture of communicating with each other by speaking, rather than by emailing.
Aside from the symbols of daily life in Indonesia – the street food stall. There is a new symbol in 21st century Indonesia, the mobile phone store, and phone credit stall – Selling anything from cheap mobile phones to pre-paid credit to mobile phone users.
Then there are the “pimp your phone” stalls, found everywhere in street markets to sophisticated stalls in air-conditioned Malls. Phone users can buy anything from mp3’s to customized casing for their phone. Indonesians express themselves through their phones, and this expression has create employment and business, for over a million people.
From the simple Cigarette stand owner, who has diversified into selling pre-paid phone credits, and numbers, to the mobile phone retailers, who seem to take up sometimes whole floors in a Mall.
Why are Mobile Phones so important to Indonesians?
When the Indonesian Government de-regulated the telecommunications market in Indonesia- What was once a luxury, became accessible for people, needing to communicate cheaply with their families, and friends, who often live all over Indonesia.
De-regulation also created over twelve new mobile phone providers. Providers that competed in a free market, where the cost of calls and sms’s continued to decrease- simply because of the intense competition.
Phones became more sophisticated, and trendy. They were affordable to most Indonesians, and in a country were lobbying is important- essential to business.
People began switching phones as technology advanced, and hundreds of manufacturers from Nokia to Huawei entered the market.
Many made deals with local telephone providers. Huawei linked with one mobile phone provider to create a service linked to making cheap landline calls, across this vast nation of Islands. A cheap phone, plus an inexpensive phone provider meant a booming business for both companies.
Others have turned more sophisticated offering cheap internet services, linked with more heavyweight phone manufacturers like Nokia, and the “creme de la creme”of phone producers – Blackberry.
Internet-based websites like Facebook.com, and yahoo.com work with some providers to offer instant access to the websites, and services. Others provide inexpensive overseas mobile phone services- aimed at loved ones either studying or living overseas.
Mobile Phones have become an essential part of Indonesian life, and the business has created much needed employment in a young country, with no real social assistance programs. Even a street vendor, can hawk mobile phone numbers, casing, and even trinkets to personalize a phone.
In 21st Century Indonesia, a mobile phone user can often call for free, anywhere in the country , or even get hundreds of free sms’s. Whilst the phone itself has become a status symbol, were with such an array of competition, the vast majority of Indonesians, now own and use a mobile phone.
De-regulation and true free enterprise can work as long as the service offered is truly beneficial to people. Many people may laugh at the often faddish nature of Indonesian mobile phone usage, but it has created a bridge for loved ones to communicate, new business, and above all employment.