TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - Before Meteda Yikwa (50) became a GrabBike driver-partner in 2017, he used to be an ojek driver in Jayapura. It was just one out of many other part-time jobs he held to make ends meet, including working as a courier for his wife's business, and sometimes in construction.
He remembers how difficult it used to be to get from one place to another. “Back then, unless you owned a vehicle, the only way to get from one place to another in Jayapura is by ojek pangkalan (unregulated motorcycle taxis) and angkot (minivan). It wasn’t cheap, and people who needed to go to areas that were quite far away often had difficulty finding comfortable and affordable transportation modes. It was also only available at certain hours. If we have an emergency situation, that could be very troublesome,” he said.
As Indonesia's digital economy grows rapidly, the rural-urban digital divide in the country remains a significant challenge. According to data from the Indonesian Internet Service Providers Association (APJII), even though 73.7 percent of the total population of Indonesia is now connected to the Internet, there remains a significant disparity between West and East Indonesia. Maluku and Papua contribute only 3 percent of the total Internet users in Indonesia. Meanwhile, Java Island and Sumatra contribute 56.4 percent and 22.1 percent of total Internet users in Indonesia.
Transportation is one particular area where the rural-urban divide can be obvious. According to a report by The Papua Government, there were only 56,039 active vehicles for land transportation in the Jayapura Regency in 2018, of which only 3% was used for public transportation. This complicates the daily life of Jayapura citizens who do not have private vehicles. But a lack of accessible, affordable transportation options is more than an everyday inconvenience. It impacts the economic and social opportunities that people can get access to, and the economic development of the city.
How Digital Technology Transformed Mobility in Rural Indonesia: A Tale of Jayapura. Doc.:Grab Indonesia
This changed when Grab arrived in Jayapura in October 2017, offering on-demand mobility options through GrabCar and GrabBike. It was the first ride-hailing platform to enter the city, and the impact was immediate.
By offering a platform that connected drivers for hire, with consumers, Grab offered a solution that not only gave Jayapurans a safe, affordable way to get from A to B, but also created new earning opportunities in the city. Within the first year, hundreds had signed up to be Grab driver-partners.
For Meteda, a local Papuan, joining Grab wasn’t just a way to earn a living to support his family. He feels like he is offering an essential community service.
“I’m helping the people of Jayapura go about their activities easily. In a day I can get approximately 30 passengers. That’s how much demand there is for the service," said Meteda.
For Derek Norotouw (32), a Civil Servant (PNS), driving part-time with GrabCar has helped supplement his income and helped him support the family-owned orphanage he runs named Air Mata Mama. “The income as a GrabCar driver-partner allows me to take better care of the orphanage. Previously, we only relied on the donors who visited our orphanage. Now, we are more independent in providing our daily needs for the dozens of orphans and elderly," he said.
How Digital Technology Transformed Mobility in Rural Indonesia: A Tale of Jayapura
Digital platforms like Grab have also offered a respite for those hit hard by the pandemic. Andreas Juan Rahawarin (35), was running a culinary business at a school canteen when it was forced to close due to the pandemic. He signed up as a GrabBike partner in May 2020, hoping to continue earning some income. What he didn’t expect was the success he would find on the platform. By July 2020, he had saved enough money from his Grab trips to start a new culinary business, which he registered on GrabFood.
"Two months after joining (as a GrabBike partner), I was able to buy a new motorbike and have enough savings for my wife to start a small culinary business. By then, I was convinced about the benefits of technology, so the first thing we did was to register this business on GrabFood so that I could reach more customers. The pandemic has been hard. But we’re glad that we still have some income by using technology from Grab," said Andreas.
These stories offer a glimpse of the potential that digitalization can bring to underdeveloped areas in Indonesia, alleviating poverty and inequality, and addressing infrastructure challenges that hinder the growth of the economy.
Neneng Goenadi, Country Managing Director of Grab Indonesia, said that the benefits of the digital economy shouldn’t only be felt by people in the big cities. She hopes that the advantages of the digital economy could also be felt in all remote areas in Eastern Indonesia, including Jayapura.
“Indonesia is poised to become Southeast Asia's largest economy by 2030, yet the hard truth is that not everyone has equal access to opportunity - and the equal chance to succeed off the back of the region’s growth. Our GrabForGood mission guides us in building an inclusive platform, and is our commitment to deliver a positive, sustainable impact to everyone in Indonesia, regardless of their age, physical conditions, background and location,” she said.
The Mayor of Jayapura, Benhur Tomi Mano, also acknowledged the importance of digitalization brought by digital platforms such as Grab. According to him, Grab can support Indonesia on its journey to economic recovery, especially in the new normal era during the Covid-19 pandemic.
"In the end, there is still a lot of economic uncertainty in the future, but we believe that technology will take an important role in maintaining livelihoods," he said. (*)