Sun, 28 May 2000

Musings on using the Internet

JAKARTA (JP): If you asked most Indonesian people about whether they have ever lost money, or been victims of fraud, or caught a computer virus on the Internet, you would feel relieved because most would say, "No". Unfortunately, those people would also ask, "What is the Internet?"

Yes, the number of people who know the Internet in Indonesia is still very small compared to the total population. In fact, there are many people here who have not even had the chance to actually touch a computer. But that fact has not stopped people from launching new businesses on the Internet.

It's a little bit surprising to see the number of Indonesian Internet domains. Each of them is designed to attract attention and to conduct business with Internet users -- Martians and Venusians who have more advanced technology than Indonesians.

However, on earth, or Indonesia, there are still many traditional people who are not comfortable with the idea of online business. And you might be one of them; since most of you are now reading this story in a newspaper. If you were a modern "techie", you would read it online, without having to go anywhere and without paying the newspaper price.

If you were a modern person, you would do many things on the Internet because many services are available there, and most of them are free. Isn't that great? What do you say about that? ...Huh? ...What do you mean you still do not care?

Apparently, although the number of Indonesian Internet domains has grown significantly this past year, most people are not too eager to execute online transactions. These are some of the reasons: bad connection, security and too many pages.

If a modern person wanted to read a newspaper, he would dial his ISP (Internet service provider), wait a little, log onto the server, wait a little, type the web site address, wait a little, choose the news that he wanted, wait a little, read it and log out. That simple.

But in Indonesia, you have to understand that when I said "wait a little" I mean "wait for an uncertain amount of time that sometimes seems longer than the time your children needed to get through college". And of course by the time you finish reading one free online article, your telephone bill has reached an amount that is enough to actually buy the newspaper company.

However, our government never stops trying to improve our telecommunication conditions. For instance, next month, to make access for the Indonesian e-community more convenient and to increase the use of the Internet, our government decided to raise the telephone rate by 21 percent.

Once the telecommunication lines are fixed, everyone can enjoy many advantages from the Internet. For instance, if someone wants to buy a book online, he simply fills out the online request form. Within days, he can have the book delivered to his front door. And a month later, he simply pays the credit card bill for that book, along with a refrigerator, and a Honda Accord, and a stealth nuclear bomber, because apparently someone has hijacked his credit card number online.

Yes, Internet security is still a horror in Indonesia. That is an obstacle that makes E-commerce development in Indonesia difficult, although we rarely hear such fraud actually happens here.

Many web companies are not happy about this because they know that they are the ones supposed to suck all the people's money. That's why they moved into the stock market, where everybody is buying their stocks like crazy, despite zero profits.

Nowadays, if you want something from the Internet, you just select a web site that provides what you need. Since there are so many of them, you have to choose one web page that gives the best service.

That is why you should first go to a portal. A portal is a web site that contains links to many other web sites, and has thousands of banner advertisements that you can't get rid of no matter how many times you click your mouse, even when you have turned your computer off. But the problem does not stop there, because now there are also many portals. Will you ever be able to determine which one is the best?

And don't be surprised, if, in the not too distant future, there will be a portal to link many other portals. And then another portal to link second layer portals, and so on until it will take you three days to reach the actual web site.

-- E. Effendi