Thu, 28 Aug 2003

Lack of telephone lines to hamper poll result delivery

Andi Hajramurni, The Jakarta Post, Makassar, South Sulawesi

Most eastern parts of Indonesia still do not have telephone lines, which will likely hamper General Elections Commission (KPU) plans to relay results from the 2004 elections via the Internet.

Telephone lines had not been installed in at least 80 percent of the 1,215 subdistricts in Regional Division VII of PT Telekomunikasi Indonesia (Telkom), which covers the eastern regions.

Armin Ali, Telkom's public phone manager for the eastern regions, said that only 247 subdistricts had been equipped with telecommunication facilities.

"So, the plans to send online data on the election results from the subdistrict level will not be able to be realized," he said.

Speaking in the South Sulawesi capital of Makassar on Tuesday, Armin said telephone lines did not exist in half of the regencies and cities across the country's eastern regions, covering the islands of Sulawesi, Maluku, Papua and Bali.

Only 69 of 142 regencies or cities in 11 provinces across the region had telephone facilities, he said.

He said the limited access to telecommunications was due to the fact that the eastern regions consisted of separated islands.

However, Armin said that in order to address the problem, a satellite system could be applied to provide telephone lines in the region.

"But it will cost a lot of money -- around Rp 75 billion (US$9 million), while the government has sufficient funds to meet the need," he added.

He said his company had reported the matter to the KPU but was still waiting for a response.

PT Telkom could help provide Rp 2.3 billion to install additional facilities if the government wanted to use the proposed satellite system, Armin said.

The KPU has decided to require that election results from subdistricts or regencies be sent to Jakarta online in an effort to prevent vote rigging and manipulations.