Indonesia Crunch | Not as simple as Silicon Valley vs China

"We aspire to be as apt in content filtering as Beijing, as stern with tax collection as Europe, with the free-spirited entrepreneurship of Silicon Valley. " Graphic: DEALSTREETASIA

The Southeast Asian internet market can be seen as a battlefield between Chinese and US tech firms. We have Google and Alibaba. We have Facebook and Tik Tok.

But we’re also our very own beast. At least in Indonesia, we have Go-Jek. We have Airbnb and Spotify – but not Vimeo and Reddit. We aspire to be as apt in content filtering as Beijing, as stern with tax collection as Europe, with the free-spirited entrepreneurship of Silicon Valley. It doesn’t always make sense.

It’s definitely a unique situation and even the Economist is taking note. It’s tempting to think of it as a battle between “China” and “Silicon Valley” but the front lines are much fuzzier. Google’s recent investment in JD is just one of these alliances that paint a much more complex picture. So is Go-Jek – a company beloved at home as a truly Indonesian, but has investors as diverse as Google, Tencent, and Meituan.

When Go-Pay saves the day

Need further proof of how crazy people in Indonesia are about Go-Jek? Here’s a funny thread that went around Twitter the other day. People are describing the awkward ways in which a little balance in their Go-Pay wallet (and a patient Go-Jek delivery person or another Go-Pay user) saved the day.

The ultimate guide to FB’s mess-up in Myanmar

If you still don’t believe Facebook’s handling of the life-threatening misuse of its platform in Myanmar was(is?) sub-par, please read this: Wired has a very comprehensive account of how observers in Myanmar repeatedly tried to warn the social network about what was going over the years, with little indication that they were taken seriously.

Survival of the Richest

Have tech bros secretly abandoned the idea of using tech to make the world a better place for all, and instead replaced it with a scheme to use tech to get the hell out of here? Douglas Rushkoff thinks so.

What the Moonlight Clan really means

Subscribers to my newsletter, the “Moonlight Clan,” may remember how I picked the name from a google-translated Chinese text that describes Indonesian consumers. I thought Moonlight Clan was just a whacky translation, but it turns out it’s a real thing. It’s apparently the Chinese phrase for people who live from one paycheck to the next, without thinking of saving for the future. Still fits?

WhatsApp research awards


People are seen as silhouettes as they check mobile devices whilst standing against an illuminated wall bearing WhatsApp Inc’s logo in this arranged photograph in London, U.K. Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

WhatsApp says it’s spending up to US$50,000 on individual research programs that help it understand the mechanisms of virality and misinformation on the messenger. It is targeting researchers from Brazil, India, Indonesia, and Mexico specifically, and I hope for some active participation from Indonesia. If anyone knows anyone who’s participating in this, please let me know.

Grab is getting into groceries… one day.

Grab used the Rise conference in Hong Kong as a backdrop to make a big announcement about how its service is going to become more diverse and well, more like Go-Jek’s. For example, it announced a new feature for groceries shopping, for which it will partner with HappyFresh, and a revamp of its app. Only, it’s not clear when those updates will roll out. I’m not seeing any change just yet. Somewhere it says the HappyFresh thing will be “trialled” only in Indonesia sometime this month.

Go-Jek is testing electric scooters


Go-Jek motorcycle drivers and bajaj drivers wait for fares in Jakarta, Indonesia. Photographer: Dimas Ardian/Bloomberg

A consulting firm called Solidiance is working with Go-Jek to test the economic feasibility of electric scooters versus petrol-powered scooters this month. According to the firm, a number of Go-Jek drivers are using electric scooters in their daily work to submit them to a sort of stress test on Jakarta’s streets. But with fuel prices still subsidized to some degree, I’m afraid it’s a long road before electric scooters become a common sight.

Nadine Freischlad is a Jakarta-based journalist, writing about technology, business, culture, and other things.

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