An employee of Telekomunikasi Indonesia (Telkom) at the service outlet of the Telkom headquarters in Jakarta in this June 11, 2010 file photo. (Reuters Photo/Supri)

SOE Minister Rini Reported to Police for Plan to Host Government Data on Singapore Server


JUNE 17, 2015

Jakarta. An NGO has filed criminal charges against State-Owned Enterprises Minister Rini Soemarno for authorizing Indonesian communications provider Telkom to build a data center in Singapore, partly owned by a Singapore parastatal, that would host Indonesian government data.

In its report to the National Police in Jakarta late on Wednesday, the watchdog group Indonesia Club said it had no issues with the data center serving corporate clients, but that its proposed hosting of Indonesia’s e-government services violated state intelligence and electronic communications laws.

“What we’re reporting about is the sale of state secrets,” Gigih Guntoro, the director of the Indonesia Club, told reporters at the police headquarters in South Jakarta.

“What we question is the cooperation between Telkom and Singtel. In the context of business-to-business, it’s fine, but there are a lot of violations in this [joint venture].”

Telkom owns a 60 percent stake in the joint venture, called Telecom Indonesia International Singapore, or Telin Singapore. The remainder is held by Singtel, Singapore’s biggest telecommunications company, whose majority shareholder is Temasek, an investment company owned by the Singapore government.

On June 5, Telin Singapore kicked off the construction of the $115 million Telin-3 data center in Jurong, Singapore, with Rini present at the ceremony along with Telkom’s chief executive, Alex J. Sinaga, who is also named in the Indonesia Club’s police report.

In a press release covering the event, but since removed by Telkom from its website, the state-owned telecommunications company makes clear that the joint venture “is ready to work on [the] e-government market in Indonesia.”

The release, in a cached Web page that Google dates at June 14, says Rini met with her Singapore government counterpart to discuss the matter.

“In the meeting [the] Singapore government approves [the joint venture], because Singtel has been a partner in Telkomsel,” Rini is quoted as saying in the release.

Singtel holds a 35 percent stake in Telkomsel, Indonesia’s biggest cellular operator, while Telkom controls the remainder.

Rini said in the release that she believed the cooperation with Singtel to host Indonesia’s e-government services was the right thing to do, because the Singaporean company had more advanced technology and experience on the matter.

Violating data laws

Gigih of the Indonesia Club argued that allowing Singtel, majority-owned by a Singapore government agency, to run a data center in the city-state hosting vital data for the government of Indonesia violated the 2013 State Intelligence Law and a 2012 government regulation on the operation of electronic systems and transactions.

The latter regulation stipulates that data servers for public services must be located within Indonesia.

Rini did not respond to the Jakarta Globe’s requests for comment by phone call or text message on Wednesday night.

There has been no statement from the Cabinet Secretariat that Telin Singapore’s server will host any of President Joko Widodo’s planned e-government programs.

Telkom, in a press release on Tuesday, said the data center in Singapore “is focused to draw revenue from corporate customers in Singapore.”

“It is expected those [potential] clients can be offered mirroring of services to Indonesia, so that later, they can be served from Indonesia [...] so that Indonesia one day can become [an] international hub for Internet communications,” the company said.

Telkom also said it was increasing its data centers in Indonesia under a subsidiary, Telkomsigma, which operates a combined 70,000 square meters of data center facilities in five cities.

Danger of a data breach

Observers have echoed the Indonesia Club’s concerns about the joint venture in Singapore. Nonot Harsono, a former member of the Indonesian Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (BRTI), told the Globe that e-government data would include “government data, information and all state secrets.”

“The data will be in Singapore and they can know everything about us, even details about Indonesia’s military forces. There’s a danger of a data breach,” he said.

He added that Indonesia already had sufficient data center capacity in the country to host e-government services.

Major players in the domestic data center market include Indonesia Comnets Plus, or ICON+, a subsidiary of state-owned electricity company Perusahaan Listrik Negara (PLN), which previously told the Globe that its data centers “were not being fully utilized.”

In the private sector, Supra Primatama Nusantara’s flagship Biznet service runs one of the biggest single data centers in the country just south of Jakarta, the Biznet Technovillage Project.

Sukamta, a legislator on the House of Representatives’ oversight commission for telecommunications, defense and foreign affairs, warned of “a bigger chance of asymmetric warfare” if Singapore, with access to Indonesian government data, ever got into a conflict with its southern neighbor.

“The government should prioritize capitalizing domestic technology use and use local programmers instead,” he said.

Sukamta also questioned President Joko’s “integrity” in protecting national security and reminded him of a campaign promise last year to nurture the domestic IT industry.

“Didn’t the president once say that he could just call up programmers from across the country to develop the e-government program and it would be done in just two weeks?” Sukamta said.

“Why are we now partnering with Singtel?”