JAKARTA (THE JAKARTA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - The number of Internet users in Indonesia has increased by 14.6 per cent to 196 million people last year, from 171 million in 2018, despite persistent challenges in unequal access and digital literacy, a nationwide survey found.
The survey by the Indonesian Internet Providers Association (APJII) revealed that the country's Internet penetration rate has gone up to 73.7 per cent from 64.8 per cent in 2018.
This means that the country is catching up with neighbouring Brunei, Singapore and Thailand, each with Internet penetration rates exceeding 70 per cent last year.
Indonesia has a population of about 270 million people spread across a vast archipelago.
APJII secretary-general Henri Kasyfi Soemartono said that since the survey was conducted in the second quarter of 2020, the figures also reflect Internet usage during the coronavirus pandemic. Its survey is generally assumed to reflect the figure from the previous year.
"We saw a lot more people accessing educational websites because students have to study from home during this time," he said during the study dissemination on Monday (Nov 9).
However, despite having more Internet users, connectivity is still highly concentrated in Java, the country's most populous island.
This was followed by Sumatra, Sulawesi, Kalimantan, Bali and Nusa Tenggara, and lastly, Maluku and Papua, the survey finds.
This unequal access to the Internet has kept Indonesia in 56th place in the digital competitive index, the same as last year, as the country continues to struggle to provide Internet connection in remote areas.
Meanwhile, the Communications and Information Ministry's informatics director general, Mr Ahmad M. Ramli, said the biggest challenge ahead would be to provide Internet for the country's approximately 12,500 villages with no 4G connection.
"We will start to develop Internet infrastructure in the country's blind spots, mostly next year," he said, adding that the government was planning to provide Internet access to around 4,000 villages and sub-districts in the outermost, underdeveloped and frontier regions by next year.
In August, President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo announced that his administration would allocate 30.5 trillion rupiah (S$2.84 billion) in the 2021 state budget for information and communication technology development to accelerate digital transformation for governance and to push for connectivity inclusion.
The lack of knowledge and the availability of proper devices to access the Internet are also among the obstacles hampering people from going online, APJII's Mr Henri said.
An overwhelming 95 per cent of Indonesians access the Internet through smartphones with mobile data, with less than 10 per cent using a fixed broadband connection at home, offices or public spaces, the APJII survey also shows.
"This is a challenge for Internet service providers to increase fixed broadband penetration in the future," he said.