Tycoon Musk touches down in Bali for Starlink launch

Tech billionaire Elon Musk (L) walks with Indonesia’s Coordinating Minister of Maritime and Investment Affairs Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan (R) during his arrival at Ngurah Rai International airport in Denpasar on Indonesia’s Bali island on May 19, 2024. Musk landed in Bali on May 19 to inaugurate satellite unit Starlink expected to provide internet services to the archipelago’s remote areas. (Photo by SONNY TUMBELAKA / AFP)

DENPASAR, Indonesia, May 19, 2024 (AFP)
– Tech billionaire Elon Musk launched Sunday his Starlink service on Indonesia’s resort island of Bali as the country aims to extend internet to its remote areas.

Millions of people in Indonesia, a vast archipelago of more than 17,000 islands, are not currently hooked up to reliable internet services.

Musk, making his first visit to the Southeast Asian nation, inaugurated the satellite unit services at a clinic in Bali’s capital Denpasar on Sunday afternoon.

He also signed an agreement on the health sector along with Indonesia’s Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin.

Musk and the officials also attended a presentation by staff members from Indonesia’s community clinics in Bali and Maluku provinces on the acceleration of internet speeds after using Starlink.

The internet services have been pilot-tested in three health facilities in the regions to input various data sets into the national system, such as those on immunisations, child nutrition and diabetes.

“We are very excited to bring connectivity to places that either have no connectivity or, as you saw in the demonstration, very low bandwidth connectivity,” Musk said at a news conference.

“So, this can make a really lifesaver for remote medical clinics. And I think it can be transformative for education as well,” added Musk, sporting a green shirt made of traditional Balinese woven fabric called “endek”.

The Indonesian government is moving the capital from traffic-clogged Jakarta, where researchers say large areas could be underwater by 2050 due to rising sea levels and land subsidence to Nusantara.

After the trial, Starlink, which acquired a permit to operate in Indonesia earlier this month, could be rolled out commercially across the archipelago.

Starlink is already available in Southeast Asia in Malaysia and the Philippines.

Using a network of low Earth orbit satellites, Starlink can provide internet to remote locations or areas that have had normal communications infrastructure disabled.

The Indonesian government has allocated a budget to allow Starlink’s services for 10,000 state-owned clinics across the country in the initial implementation, according to Budi.

However, he did not detail the amount, saying that despite a budget limit, the allocation is expected to be “enough to cover the Starlink’s costs”.

Starlink’s services will be trialled this month in Indonesia’s new capital Nusantara on the island of Borneo, which will open its doors in August, according to officials.

According to the World Bank, about two-thirds of Indonesia’s roughly 270 million people had access to the internet as of 2022.

Besides the Starlink’s launch, Musk is scheduled on Monday to speak at the World Water Forum being held on the holiday island.

He is also due to meet President Joko Widodo during the event.