Expanding Internet Access to Support Economic Growth and Government Service Delivery in the United States and Indonesia

Ambassador Daniel A. Sepulveda
Deputy Assistant Secretary and U.S. Coordinator for International Communications and Information Policy, Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs
Jakarta, Indonesia
July 29, 2015

Thank you. It is a pleasure to be here at @America with all of you. I would like to begin by thanking Charge Kristin Bauer, our moderator Teguh Prasetya of Mastel, and my fellow panelists Ilham Habibie of the National ICT Council, Alvin Tan of Facebook, Shinto Nugroho of Google, and Ruben Hattari of Microsoft Indonesia.

I am here today to talk to you about the global Internet and initiate a dialogue about how we can work together to help it flourish in Indonesia. As you know, more than three billion people and trillions of devices are connected to the Internet today. That connectivity is revolutionizing how we live, work, and govern ourselves. It has shrunk the world, made more information more accessible to more people, and disrupted incumbent power in politics and business alike.

The Internet is rapidly becoming the chief economic driver in our world, and I’m happy to report that its economic and social benefits are increasingly shifting to developing nations. The Internet transforms markets, enables the creation of industries, improves healthcare outcomes, and connects people in ways that would have been unimaginable a decade ago. Internet connectivity helps bridge the gap between talent and opportunity in a manner that is unlike anything we have previously seen.

But despite these promising trends, more than half of our world’s population is still living without access to the internet. The digital divide between the 3 billion people currently online and the 4.4 billion without the economic and social benefits of the Internet is staggering.

As Secretary Kerry said in Seoul this May, the United States believes that the Internet should be open and accessible to everyone. In my office, we view Internet connectivity as an essential component of development, just like electricity and running water. But it will take all of our collective efforts to bridge the digital divide. That’s why we are determined to work with you here in Indonesia, as well as stakeholders from all over the world, to expand broadband infrastructure and create an economic environment that enables affordable Internet connections.

Indonesia can and should harness its impressive economic growth to realize the country’s potential as a regional leader in the ICT industry. This will not only reinforce existing economic development, but will also give more people invaluable opportunities to contribute to political, economic, and social discourse.

Last year’s creation of Indonesia’s National Broadband Plan was an important first step in the process of bridging the digital divide in this country. The plan’s ambitious use of the Universal Service Fund serves as a positive example for the entire ASEAN community, and its aim to connect all public sector facilities like health centers, government offices, and school buildings is of vital importance.

But how can Indonesia continue in this positive trajectory? And who is best positioned to help Indonesia’s ICT industry flourish?

The Internet developed organically, as an experiment by academics and technologists, discovering a new way to facilitate an exchange of ideas and make new connections between people. As the Internet has evolved into the critical resource it is today, governments in particular are grappling with what in some cases boils down to an identity crisis—what is the role of government? And, how much power or control should government be able to exercise vis-à-vis other stakeholders?

The way we see it, governments around the world must make a choice: to enable the Internet’s growth or detract from it. The Internet has flourished because of the bottom-up, consensus based process that allows all stakeholders to participate in its growth and governance. This market-driven, multistakeholder approach has served us well, and it is our strongest tool to help rapidly emerging economies, like Indonesia, embrace all the opportunities that the Internet has to offer.

Projects that combine industry, civil society, and government resources are proven to be the most effective means by which to connect previously underserved communities. Microsoft’s TV White Space project is one such initiative. Because of cooperation between Microsoft, local NGOs, and the U.S. and Indonesian governments, a TV White Space pilot program is already connecting rural areas in Indonesia using previously unutilized low frequency broadband. The project is proof positive that multistakeholder engagement can lead to impressive infrastructure development, and we anticipate more fruitful cooperation on this project and others like it in the future.

The U.S. is also eager to work with Indonesia and all countries to improve spectrum management, regulatory systems, and legal frameworks for adoption of broadband. We look forward to partnering with Indonesia as the country works to reach its ambitious connectivity goals. Together, we can create an environment in which innovation can flourish and connectivity can enrich more lives every day.

Thank you. I appreciate your time and look forward to answering any questions you might have.