Bali Gets Wired

By William J. Furney
Managing Editor
The Bali Times
With Bali Editor Rian Dewanto

DENPASAR ~ Seven thousand kilometers of fiber optic cable are being laid across every region of Bali in a US$7.3-million, privately funded project designed to bring the culture-steeped island smack into the internet age, The Bali Times has learned.

So far, cables have been laid throughout Badung regency, including Denpasar, with work in the regencies of Jembrana, Tabanan, Buleleng, Bangli, Karangasem, Klungkung and Gianyar expected to be completed by the end of the year, the firm carrying out the work, government entity PT. Bali Infocom, said.

“We plan to lay 7,000 kilometers of fiber optic throughout Bali,” company director I Nengah Winartha told The Times this week.

The cost of the project worked out at Rp100 million ($10,547) per kilometer of fiber optic cable, he said, adding that developing Bali’s infrastructure was vital to its continued economic success.

“Basically, the idea is to provide an improved infrastructure to meet the increasing demands of information and communications in the next 10 to 15 years,” he said.

It would also serve to improve the island’s tourism sector, he said, as tourists traveling in remote parts of the island would be better able to stay in touch with the rest of the world. Businesspeople could lengthen their stay in Bali without worrying about being out of touch with their home countries.

Businesspeople and investors in Bali would also benefit.

“In the long run, this will enable tourists to stay connected, and businesspeople who are here can keep an eye on things back home, so they can stay longer in Bali.”

The new fiber optic network would be available for any business in Bali, particularly hotels and business centers, and would be offered to information technology service providers such as internet firms and telephone companies, said Winartha.

“We’ll have the infrastructure in place so that businesspeople and telecommunications firms can operate easier in Bali,” he said.

The development comes as the local and central governments work to bolster the country’s infrastructure at all levels in order to attract foreign investment.

In his state-of-the-nation address last month, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono stressed the urgent need for infrastructure development across Indonesia and allocated billions of dollars in spending in next year’s state budget for improvements and construction.

For its part, the Bali government is working on a plan to provide better services and support structures for the more than 1 million foreign tourists who vacation on the island each year. Tourism authorities have devised a program to attract some seven times the number of overseas nationals in the next two years, starting with major worldwide promotions during Visit Indonesia Year 2008.

Being wired is an essential part of doing business in famously laidback Bali, analysts said, and already around a dozen internet service providers are operating on the island, mostly providing high-speed internet via radio signal relay or dedicated lines. While most upmarket hotels and villas have long-since offered internet access, increasing numbers of restaurants and cafes are providing free wireless internet to their clientele.

Said one tourism operator, “Our clients are sophisticated professionals from Hong Kong, Singapore and elsewhere in the region. While they are vacationing in Bali, they need to stay connected. It gives them the ultimate peace of mind and allows them to thoroughly enjoy their time here.”

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