Indonesian Government authorities on Monday, 14 October 2019 announced the completion of its ambitious fiber optic project (Palapa Ring Project) to connect the under-developed regions of the country’s east, including the restive region of Papua. The telecommunication network containing approximately 13,000 kilometers of fiber optic network is intended to deliver high-speed internet services to the downtrodden areas.
The telecommunication network consists of fiber optic cables, Microwave transmitters, and towers. The fiber optic cable goes via land and under the sea on its way towards the eastern region. The total project cost is estimated at 7.63 trillion rupiahs, which is approximately US$540 million. The network was built on public-private partnerships.
A statement issued by the Cabinet Secretariat said that the final leg, called the East Palapa Ring project, consisted of a 6,878 km cable connecting Papua, some islands in the Maluku region and East Nusa Tenggara.
President Joko Widodo said the project should provide “a sense of justice” for Indonesians who live in the eastern part of the country because they will be able to access the internet at the same speed as others in Southeast Asia’s largest economy.
The government completed the West Palapa Ring project covering the western half of the country in March 2018, while construction for similar infrastructure in the center of Indonesia was finished earlier this year.
The new telecommunication network will strengthen the businesses, connecting small and medium enterprises’ products to national, even global networks. Indonesian President Mr. Joko Widodo described the network as the “highway in the sky”.
During the inaugural occasion, the president urged Indonesians not to use the internet to spread fake news and hate speech. Though he did not refer to any particular incident, Papua, which encompasses Indonesia’s two easternmost provinces, has seen an upsurge in protests and unrest for weeks. The government curbed the internet temporarily in response.
Security forces said the most deadly incident, during which 33 people were killed in the town of Wamena on Sept. 23, was triggered by a hoax about racial slurs made against students by a teacher.
A former Dutch colony, Papua was formally incorporated into Indonesia in 1969, after a disputed vote of about 1,025 hand-picked tribal leaders. The result of the plebiscite was overseen and endorsed by the United Nations.
Palapa Ring is a national fiber optic network development project that will reach as many as 34 provinces, 440 cities/districts throughout Indonesia with a total length of submarine cables reaching 35,280 kilometers, and cables on land as far as 21,807 kilometers.