Batam tech park aims to be 'digital bridge' in region

Singapore Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan and his Indonesian counterpart Retno Marsudi (in blue dress) on a tour of Nongsa Digital Park, which was launched yesterday. With them were (from left) Dr Paristiyanti Nurwardani of the Indonesian Minist
Singapore Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan and his Indonesian counterpart Retno Marsudi (in blue dress) on a tour of Nongsa Digital Park, which was launched yesterday. With them were (from left) Dr Paristiyanti Nurwardani of the Indonesian Ministry of Research, Technology and Higher Education; Creative Economy Agency head Triawan Munaf; and Indonesian Ambassador to Singapore I Gede Ngurah Swajaya.ST PHOTO: ARLINA ARSHAD

Island's first large-scale commercial project mooted by Singapore-based Infinite Studios

A new multimillion-dollar technology park in Batam was launched yesterday, and it aims to bring digital entrepreneurs from the region together in an environment where its developers hope they can "work, live and play".

The 100ha Nongsa Digital Park, slightly larger than Singapore's Botanic Gardens, is Batam's first large-scale commercial project. It was mooted by Infinite Studios, a Singapore-based integrated media entertainment and creative services company, and developed by its parent, Citramas Group.

The foreign ministers of Indonesia and Singapore said it was an example of how both neighbours can work together through the private sector for mutual benefit.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said it was "a concrete follow-up" to discussions between President Joko Widodo and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at their retreat last September to develop Batam as a "digital bridge" between Singapore and many of Indonesia's fast-growing cities.

"This Nongsa Digital Park is a beginning, a pilot project of our further efforts to achieve Indonesia's digital economy potential," she told 350 guests at the launch ceremony. "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a first step, and this is a good step."

Singapore Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said the park shows how both neighbours can work together with the private sector for a "win-win outcome". He said: "We are happy to encourage more mutually beneficial projects with Batam. A thriving, confident, creative digital hub in Batam will be good for Indonesia, good for Singapore, and good for our region."

The park is expected to rake in more than US$500 million (S$659 million) in potential investments, its senior director Marco Bardelli said in a statement.

DIGITAL KICK-START

This Nongsa Digital Park is a beginning, a pilot project of our further efforts to achieve Indonesia's digital economy potential. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a first step, and this is a good step.

INDONESIAN FOREIGN MINISTER RETNO MARSUDI

So far, three of nine office blocks have been completed in the first phase, which will create some 1,500 jobs. There are plans for pathways for eco-friendly electric bicycles and buggies, and more retail and food and beverage outlets.

Four main tenants now occupy two office blocks. One is Glints, a recruitment platform which helps to build engineering teams for companies in Singapore and Indonesia. More than 30 Indonesian developers and software engineers currently work out of a 150 sq m open-plan office space in a two-storey bungalow overlooking a lake. Said its chief executive Oswald Yeo, 25: "We can help our Singapore client companies tap a regional and cost-effective tech talent pool."

Ms Ho Semun, executive director of Singapore IT industry association SGTech, said: "There is interest from local companies in the Nongsa Digital Park but work is still in progress."

A spokesman for Singapore's Economic Development Board said the park "provides a valuable digital bridge across the region".

Singapore companies are able to further their opportunities and expand into Indonesia's market, while Indonesian and regional companies are able to co-create new solutions, test new ideas and be involved in joint digital projects in the region, she said.

"The park serves to support companies, not just in the e-commerce sector, but also other sectors that require digital talent, as they grow their businesses," she added.

Mr Lukita Dinarsyah Tuwo, chairman of the Batam Indonesia Free Zone Authority, said the authorities are looking into carving the park into the island's first special economic zone, with more tax allowances and tax holidays.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 21, 2018, with the headline 'Batam tech park aims to be 'digital bridge' in region'. Print Edition | Subscribe