When entrepreneurs expanded to Indonesia, most of them would prioritize setting up their office in the capital city of Jakarta. On paper, that makes sense. Not only does the capital host the largest number of startups in the country, it is also where a lot of business deals are made. But now the neighboring city of Bandung wants to get in on the action.
Ridwan Kamil, the new Bandung mayor, wants to change the capital-first mindset and convince people that Bandung can be a better destination than Jakarta for a number of reasons.
Kamil came to speak at an event in Jakarta a couple days ago about his vision for Bandung. Here are the five points the mayor made in favor of his city:
1. Bandung has ample human resources for tech companies
With over eight million residents, Bandung is Indonesia’s third largest city, behind Jakarta and Surabaya. What makes this place even better is how young and tech-savvy the population is. According to Kamil, 60 percent of Bandung citizens are aged below 40 years old, which makes them the optimum age to work. Bandung is also Twitter’s sixth biggest city user-base in the world.
A lot of people come to Bandung to study. The city holds more than 80 higher education institutions including Indonesia’s biggest tech university, the Bandung Institute of Technology. These young people can be great talents, the mayor said, as well as good potential users for any tech companies opening shop in Indonesia. Bandung’s minimum wage is also a bit lower than Jakarta’s.
2. Startup friendly
Being an entrepreneur himself (Kamil is a master’s graduate from University of California, Berkeley, who then set up Urbane Indonesia, an architecture, urban design, and project visioning consultant firm), he understands how hard it is for startups to make it in their early years. Though it’s not yet official local government policy, Kamil wants to help out the startups that make Bandung their home. He cited an example of how he leased one startup an abandoned building as a free office for their first year. The mayor is also open to giving incentives to new companies, such as lower tax.
Some notable Bandung-based tech startups are game developers Agate Studio, Digital Happiness, Nightspade1, and Tinker Games, as well as mobile developer Dycode, tech outsourcing company Walden Global Services, and property marketplace UrbanIndo. Telkom’s Bandung Digital Valley, women-focused tech community IDGeekGirls, and Bandung tech community FOWAB also reside there.
3. The government is very supportive of tech initiatives
Kamil may have just taken office eight months ago, but in that short tenure he has made significant changes in terms of government attitude towards technology use. He mentioned five ‘smart city’ milestones in his work plan: tech infrastructure, tech-oriented governance, open governance, empowerment, and “teknopolis” (more about this below).
In the last eight months, the Bandung government has installed about 5,000 wi-fi hotspots all over the city. Their target this year is to install up to 40,000 hotspots to ensure more Bandung citizens can get online. The team is also preparing “the Google of Bandung public services”, which lets users access various public services online. That includes Bandung’s online procurement system to help mitigate corruption, and also e-Kelurahan, which allows citizens to download public forms online rather than having to go to the relevant departments to get them.
The Bandung government is very open to working with many parties to develop all kinds of online solutions. One such cooperation is how they are working with Indonesia’s biggest information and communication company, Telkom, to develop e-Puskesmas, an online information system management for health practitioners. The government is also using a student-created visual database which showcases Bandung’s land assets.
4. Next stop – becoming Indonesia’s Silicon Valley
Kamil noted that just like Singapore, Bandung doesn’t have any natural resources to depend on. So they should instead rely on the power of human resources to take the city – and the nation – to the next level. One big project that they’re working on is called Teknopolis, which the mayor hopes can be the Silicon Valley of Indonesia in the future.
Bandung has prepared an 800-hectare piece of land in the Gedebage area. The total investment for this project will be around US$800 million. The government is now seeking investment from a number of parties for this project, and will move Bandung’s central command to Gedebage once the Teknopolis project is completed.
So far Kamil has announced that US-based aeroplane component manufacturer UTC Aerospace Systems is interested to join the cause and is willing to invest up to IDR 9 trillion (US$782 million). The mayor is holding talks with the US ambassador in Indonesia, Robert Blake, regarding the project. Everybody hopes that the project can be completed in 2015.
5. Good food, good weather
Dubbed the Paris of Java, Bandung has a lot of things to offer tourists and visitors from around the world, the mayor explained. It has a wide range of delicious food, lots of fashion boutiques to shop at, and a cooler climate than the capital thanks to its high elevation.
Recently the Bandung government received a ‘healthy city’ award from Indonesia’s ministry of health thanks to the city’s efforts in recycling household garbage into manure compost for farming and other green projects. Bandung is also deemed one of Asia’s most creative cities.
Should you have more questions about Bandung, Kamil – who is a very popular Twitter user in Indonesia with over 530,000 followers – might just reply to your tweet!