New IT council plans an information-based society

Tony Hotland, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono launched the National Information and Communication Technology Council on Monday in an ambitious bid to turn Indonesia into an information-based society by 2025.

The council, directly under the President, will draw up a blueprint for the development of information technology (IT), eying a communications network connecting key cities as its top priority.

The council, Yudhoyono said, was essential in order to coordinate activities by stakeholders, given the country's limited resources both in terms of financing and human skills.

"The rapid development of IT will benefit our performance, as it is widely used in many sectors and is borderless," he said at the launch ceremony at the Bogor State Palace, where he will receive U.S. President George W. Bush on Nov. 20. "It will be a shame if IT is developed with no synchronization, or if it does not give its optimum contribution."

The council's daily operations will be run by the communication minister with several other ministers as members.

Its advisors are experts from the University of Indonesia, Gadjah Mada University, Bandung Institute of Technology and Surabaya Institute of Technology. The council will team up with IT associations, IT vendors and the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce.

Apart from drawing up a plan, identifying solutions to IT problems and evaluating the efficiency of projects, the council is also authorized to approve or disapprove an inter-departmental IT program.

"The bid to create an information-based society will be a long haul since we first must establish networks for 43,000 villages, 31,173 schools and 2,428 universities, 28,504 community health centers, and governmental agencies," said Yudhoyono.

More important, he added, would be enhancing the public's ability to use sophisticated IT in their work.

Several programs targeted for implementation between 2006 and 2009 are the Palapa Ring Project, e-procurement, a so-called National Single Window, and the promotion of legal software.

The Palapa Ring Project, which was offered to investors at last week's Infrastructure Summit, aims to build a 36,000-kilometer fiber optic network connecting some 400 major spots in the country.

It is expected to create a wireless network for telephone and broadband Internet.

E-procurement will provide an online system of administrative services, such as paying one's taxes and electricity or telephone bill. It will also offer a more efficient and transparent system for government procurement.

The National Single Window would create an integrated online location for all inter-departmental services. To accelerate investment, export and import tools would be in one place, including customs and excise, shipping, bank transfers, insurance and licensing.

The government will work to provide open source software to governmental agencies in order to fight Indonesia's status as the world's third-highest user of pirated software.
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