While Internet connections are still a rarity in Wamena, the capital of Jayawijaya district in Indonesia's easternmost province of Papua, Roni Haluk from Papua's Dani tribe has been using one to spread the word about honey harvested from his apiary.
The money he makes from his bee yard, which can produce up to 300 one-litre bottles per month, has enabled him to send his son to study at a university in Makassar, on the neighbouring island of Sulawesi.
"I have been doing this apiary business for about ten years, and I used to promote it locally only through commercials on local TV stations. But since the Internet became available in Wamena in 2009, I have been using it to promote my honey produce to a wider market outside Papua," Roni told Khabar Southeast Asia on May 25th in Medan, the provincial capital of North Sumatra.
Roni was part of the Papua delegation at National Information Week 2013, held at Merdeka Square in Medan, and organised jointly by the Ministry of Communication and Information, the province of North Sumatra, and the city of Medan.
A key goal of the annual event is to inform Indonesians about development of the country's information and communication technology (ICT) sector, and more generally, to increase information technology literacy, especially in outer provinces.
The effort to forge a more connected society is part of preparations for the ASEAN Community in 2015, officials say. Along the way, it will enable many more Indonesians like Roni to tap into the benefits of e-commerce.
Putting more provinces online
For now, the government is focusing on westernmost island, Sumatra, which stands on the cusp of cyber-readiness, officials say.
Minister of Communication and Information Tifatul Sembiring said the ministry plans to set up 10,000 free wireless Internet hot spots in Medan, as part of a move to develop North Sumatra as a cyber province that uses ICT to help promote its tourism, natural resources, fisheries, and human resources potentials.
With 67% of Indonesia's population concentrated on Java and Bali, he noted that all of the provinces on the two islands have already become cyber provinces with solid ICT infrastructure.
"North Sumatra, South Sumatra, and West Sumatra have all the potential to be developed into cyber provinces since they already have good fibre optics networks for the Internet," Tifatul told reporters in Medan.
In his opening remarks on May 25th, North Sumatra Governor Gatot Pujo Nugroho said ICT infrastructure could accelerate investment in North Sumatra.
"But we still have hurdles with human and financial resources to develop ICT infrastructures that could serve our gateway to provide information about our potentials. Therefore, mastery of ICT is essential to rise to the occasion [of economic growth]," he said.
Accelerating Internet use
Data from the Indonesian Internet Service Providers Association (APJII) shows that the rate of Internet penetration in Indonesia reached 24 % of the population – or 63 million users – in 2012. APJII estimates the number will more than double by 2015, to 139 million.
The data comes from a survey APJII conducted last year of 2,000 respondents ranging in age from 12 to 65, in 31 provinces.
At vocational high schools in North Sumatra, students are already using the Internet as a marketing tool.
Usman Lubis, the principal of SMK Negeri 3 Medan, which specialises in chemistry, said the school uses the Internet to display products the students made such as carbolic floor cleaner, soaps, and perfumes.
"The Internet is like an electronic window display for our students' products," added Saprudin Nasution, the principal of SMK Negeri 3 Pematang Siantar, also in North Sumatra, which specializes in hospitality, fashion, and culinary arts.