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The op-ed below was published on 11 October 2017 in the Jakarta Globe
Digital economy, the new frontier for SMEs
By Elzbieta Bienkowska
European Commissioner for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs
My visit to Jakarta on 11-13 October, takes place in the context of European economic diplomacy and is meant to enhance EU-Indonesia relations. Indonesia is increasing its status as a global player and is a significant member of the ASEAN regional cooperation. It has shown remarkable growth rates and a complementary economy to the EU, which makes it a natural partner for us. I therefore believe we have a strong basis for partnership between Europe and Indonesia.
During my visit, I will have the pleasure of meeting Industry Minister Airlangga Hartanto having the opportunity to discuss about the importance of the economic reforms and the need for modern industrial policies. Last month the European Commission presented a renewed industrial policy strategy in support of a globally strong Europe addressing innovation, digitalisation and decarbonisation. The objective of this industrial policy is modernising European industry while being a fair partner for modernisation in global supply chains. I know well that SMEs policy is at the heart of our respective economies. For both of us they represent more than 99% of the total enterprises. That is why we can learn from our experiences of providing support to the creation of a better business environment for them, that at the end will result in more jobs and higher growth. The importance of SMEs for the development of our economic relations is well reflected also in our bilateral negotiations for a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (EU-Indonesia CEPA) that will include provisions to allow SMEs to fully benefit of the agreement.
As European Commissioner in charge of the European internal market, industry, entrepreneurship and SMEs policies, one of my major initiatives is oriented at the expansion of the digital economy. Among the actions developed by the European Union to continue improving and modernising its Single Market (that accounts for 500 million consumers and 21 million small and medium-sized enterprises) is the Digital Single Market for Europe strategy. This comprehensive strategy aims to open up digital opportunities for people and business. It will make Europe a good digital partner in the globalised world as it will create a fairer, transparent and more competitive economic environment, where all companies will be subject to the same data protection and consumer rules.
With 338 million mobile telecoms subscribers at the end of 2015, some 98% of which were on pre-paid plans, Indonesia is the fourth-largest mobile telecommunications market in the world. The market is expected to pose further growth in the future. Indonesia is also home to one of Southeast Asia’s most vibrant internet markets with more than 88.1 million active internet users in January 2016, which represents an overall penetration rate of around 34%. Despite the continuous growth, Indonesia continues to face a wide range of challenges to develop its ICT and digital economy. Scattered over 17,000 islands – some 3,000 of which are inhabited – the nation’s geography presents a variety of unique hurdles with regard to the installation and operation of communications infrastructure, something where EU companies are well placed to cooperate. There are many areas of mutual interest. It is in this context that I will exchange views with Communications and Informatics Minister Rudiantara here in Jakarta.
Finally, I need to underline the importance for us of the presence in Jakarta of the ASEAN Secretariat. Connectivity Building regional integration is important for both our regions. Europe continues to offer support to ASEAN's regional integration process politically, financially and by sharing our experiences as I will express in my visit to ASEAN Secretary General, Le Luong Minh.