The Mobility Transformation in Jayapura, West Papua

digital technology in West Papua

In big city life, many people use digital technology on a regular basis. From ordering food take-outs to tickets and rideshares, almost everything is just a few clicks away. It is hard to imagine returning to pre-internet era.

How about digital technology in West Papua? As one of the two youngest provinces in Indonesia, of course they are catching up.

A GrabBike Driver Named Meteda Yikwa

digital technology in West Papua

Let’s begin this story with an ojek driver named Meteda Yikwa. (By the way, ojek is an official, Indonesian term for ‘motorcycle taxi’.) This 50-year-old Papuan man used to work as an ojek driver in Jayapura. This was just one of the three part-time jobs he had done to make a living.

Meteda’s other two jobs included delivering catering orders as part of his wife’s home business and being a construction worker. Before he began partnering with Grab in 2017, Meteda recalled the difficulties in mobility back then.

As interviewed by Tempo, Meteda said that it had been difficult to go around if people had not owned their own vehicles. The opang (short for ‘ojek pangkalan’ or unregulated motorcycle taxis) were expensive. So was the angkot (public minivan). Imagine one had to go around quickly in case of an emergency…

The Disparity of Access To Digital Technology and Transportation in Indonesia

digital technology in West Papua

The disparity in terms of gaining access to digital technology has always been serious and real in Indonesia. Based on the findings by the Indonesian Internet Service Providers Association (APJII), Maluku and Papua only had 3% of active internet users. This was ironic, considering that 73.7% of Indonesians have already become active internet users, according to their data.

Transportation is another issue that clearly shows the disparity between urban and rural living. In 2018, The Papua Government reported that only 56,039 land transportations were active in the Jayapura Regency. Only 3% of them were used for public transportation.

Lack of affordable and accessible public transportation did not only lead to mobility problems among Papuans who wished to travel more. This has also hampered the economic development in West Papua and Papua.

The Arrival of Grab in Jayapura, 2017

digital technology in West Papua

When Grab showed up in Jayapura in October 2017, everything changed. Grab offers two types of on-demand mobilities:

  • GrabBike.

Also known as ojol (short for ‘ojek online’ or ‘online motorcycle taxi), this service offers customers to order a motorcycle ride-share through an online application.

  • GrabBike.

This service offers customers to order a car ride-share through the same online application. Imagine renting a private car, plus the driver, even for just one ride.

According to Meteda, his choice to start working together with Grab was not only to make ends meet. Knowing how hard it had always been to go around in Papua, he felt that he had become a part of essential community service to make things easier.

Meteda is not the only GrabBike driver in Jayapura. Derek Norotouw, a 32-year-old civil servant, is also doing his part-time work as a GrabBike driver. He said that working with Grab had helped him to earn more income. His income is later used to support his family’s orphanage called Air Mata Mama (A Mother’s Tears).

Before working as a GrabBike driver, Derek stated that his family’s orphanage had relied mostly on donation. Now, the orphanage is more financially independent.

The Covid-19 pandemic had hit many people hard, especially in terms of work and income. Andreas Juan Rahawarin, a 35-year-old culinary business owner for a school cafeteria, had been driven to unemployment because of that. Thankfully, having signed up to partner with GrabBike in May 2020 had turned his life around.

A couple of months after joining GrabBike as partner, Andreas said that he could finally afford to buy a motorcycle. Not only that, his savings were enough to help his wife to start her own culinary business. Knowing that Grab also offers GrabFood – a food-and-drink delivery service, Andreas’ wife also registered her culinary business there.

In short, Andreas believed that – although the pandemic had hit him and his family pretty hard before, the development and implementation of digital technology in West Papua helped them to get back on their feet.

Meteda, Derek, and Andreas were just three examples of success stories regarding the use of digital technology in West Papua. According to Neneng Goenadi, Grab Indonesia’s Managing Director, the digital economy benefits should not only be experienced by city people. Other remote areas in Indonesia, like West Papua and other places in Eastern Indonesia, deserve the same access and opportunity.

Once the disparity gets overcome, the goal to become the Southeast Asia’s largest economy in 2030 might be possible for Indonesia. Grab is one of the key players to make that possible. Not only for economy recovery after the Covid-19 pandemic, digital technology like Grab can help Papuans to maintain their livelihood.

Let’s hope there is more improvement in digital technology in West Papua. That way, their economic development will improve too.