Indonesia to provide phone links to all villages by end 2008

Jakarta (Antara News) - The Indonesian government wants to provide telephone links to all villages in the sprawling nation by the end of 2008, Communications Minister Muhammad Nuh said Tuesday.

A total of some 38,000 villages -- more than half of Indonesia's 70,000 -- were still without phone links, the minister was quoted by AFP as telling a lunch with foreign reporters.

"We start with 18,000 (villages) for 2007 and the rest, 20,000, in 2008," he said.

While the infrastructure would initially be used only for voice transmission, he said the equipment would comply with requirements for data and selected points for this in villages would be chosen later.

The minister said telecommunications infrastructure would be improved using a set percentage of funds from the operating expenditures of the country's two main telephone providers, PT Telkom and PT Indosat.

He said that currently 1.25 percent of the companies' expenditure should be reinvested in developing telecommunication infrastructure in the country. While in the past, they invested the money themselves in their own projects, now the money goes to the government, which will spend it instead, he said.

"From this budget we want to expand telecommunication infrastructure in the villages," he said, adding that the government would spend money in areas that would otherwise remain ignored by the companies.

An archipelagic nation of more than 17,000 islands, Indonesia relies heavily on satellites for its telecommunication needs. (*)
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