Jakarta. The government is now focusing on developing telecommunications infrastructure as speeding up its pace becomes a prerequisite for digital acceleration, according to Communications and Informatics Minister Johnny G Plate.
But this will be no easy task for the Communications Ministry which has to handle the infrastructure development from the upstream to the downstream levels.
"Now there has been a technological disruption and the acceleration of digital transformation and so on, in which telecommunications must become enablers. The two major issues are not only in the ICT infrastructure but also in enabling it. This is what all of us must work on in a collaborative manner,” Johnny told an editor-in-chief forum in Labuan Bajo over the weekend.
Johnny said the upstream sector was not connected with one another. The ministry’s Telecommunications and Information Accessibility Agency (Bakti Kominfo) is in charge of building the upstream ICT infrastructure. This includes providing internet access, base transceiver station (BTS), fiber optic network Palapa Ring, and multifunction satellite.
According to Johnny, digital infrastructure development is underway in the downstream sector, including the construction of the national data centers. He added, “downstream infrastructure would include data centers for cloud computing such as the government data center.”
At a previous meeting, Johnny revealed the inefficiency of existing data centers.
The central and local governments have about 2,700 data centers, of which, only 3 percent are cloud-based. The rest are servers and ethernet that operate individually. This poses a challenge to the data interoperability for a one-data system that will become the cornerstone of data-driven policies in Indonesia.
Johnny said that the central and local governments were also using 24,400 different apps.
For better efficiency, the Communications Ministry is currently working on integrating all those apps into a single public services super-app. The ministry will gradually shut down the 24,400 said apps and make the switch to the super-app.
Also, the government plans to construct four cloud-based national data centers in Jakarta, Batam, Labuan Bajo, and the yet-to-be-built new state capital Nusantara.
“Everything will fall apart if we do not have them all. [When it comes to] cloud computing data, we talk about cross-border data. To be honest, this is a geostrategic battle between producing and consuming countries. We are actually the bridge to the consumer country,” Johnny said.
Johnny added that Bakti Kominfo was not only in charge of the infrastructure. The massively built BTS towers would need activation by giving mobile operators spectrums to turn on the signal. But there is still the challenge of the signal intervention between Bakti Kominfo’s system and that of the mobile operator.
“Like how the mobile operators build. There are calculations, similar to the frequency spectrum given to them with the task of building the telecommunications infrastructure across Indonesia,” Johnny told the forum.
But the obstacles to telecommunications infrastructure development are not only limited to technology and the funding mix.
The ministry’s partners have to navigate tough terrain. The infrastructure production process may be the same, but its installation can be challenging.
It takes years to build an infrastructure. But acceleration demands have forced many infrastructure works in remote areas to be built within a year.
“This is a problem. Please understand that this is multi-year work, and the installation can be arduous. But because of the demands, [the infrastructure] is built within a single year. The production is complete, even with the supply chain disruptions,” Johnny said.
As for the supply chain disruptions, Johnny was referring to the global chip shortage and the distributions of satellites, which often would have to go through land routes and eventually could be more time-consuming.
Deciding on where to construct the BTS tower that has an ideal signal coverage can be challenging. The BTS tower must be at a location that meets the people’s signal needs. And this is closely related to the development planning of villages, subdistricts, and districts.
Adjusting the signal coverage with regional planning can take a long time if the location is far from the ideal coverage. This is why coordination with the local government is crucial, according to Johnny.
“[Imagine] if we build a BTS, but the hospitals, schools, government offices are in other places and then it will be another blind spot. We must not let that happen,” Johnny said.