For mass adoption of EVs, Indonesia first needs to fix its e-bikes

Ride-hailers GoTo and Grab, with their massive motorcycle taxi fleets, were meant to lead the way towards motorbike electrification in Indonesia. But the few drivers who have made the switch report sobering results. Most available e-scooters simply can’t keep up with real-world needs. For heavy users, neither battery swapping nor plug-in charging works smoothly. There’s also no real cost-saving from going electric in the ride-hailing system.

Jakarta’s once-booming electronics market is a ghost town

It was a dry, hot Friday afternoon in August when Rest of World visited Glodok, the formerly bustling outdoor electronics market in Jakarta. It was eerily quiet. The narrow alleyways that used to be filled with endless rows of bootleg VCDs and DVDs were mostly empty, save for a few stalls. There haven’t been many customers since the pandemic began, according to shop owners and workers. In fact, that day, Rest of World couldn’t find a single one. On the third floor of Pinangsia Plaza, a shoppin

The dirty road to clean energy: how China’s electric vehicle boom is ravaging the environment

This March, a group of women gathered under the roof of a modest wooden shop in the Kurisa fishing village on Sulawesi, an Indonesian island east of Borneo. They held iced drinks in their hands and babies to their breasts. It was a hot, dusty afternoon, and some of the older children were playing tag. The women were gossiping, but mostly, they talked about how there were no fish for their husbands to catch these days. “Making a living from the sea isn’t enough anymore,” said one woman. “Kurisa

As GoTo slashes 12% of workforce, massive tech layoffs hit Southeast Asia

Citra had only joined GoTo Group, the massive Indonesian ride-hailing and e-commerce decacorn, in early October 2022. So it was a shock when, a month and a half later, she discovered she’d been fired as part of mass layoffs. On November 18, the Alibaba and SoftBank-backed company, valued at some $15 billion, announced it was laying off 12% of its roughly 10,500-person permanent workforce. “I was on sick leave, so I found out about the news from Instagram,” recalled Citra, who requested a pseudo

Malaysia built a WFH paradise. Now it just needs people to turn up.

“It’s your meal! Be careful, it’s hot,” a robot server at a resort restaurant in Malaysia’s Langkawi archipelago chirped. “Thank you, bye!” it exclaimed, as guests took plates of scrambled eggs and toast from its shelves, scooting to the next table where another group waited for breakfast. Meters away, the calm waters of Pantai Tengah beach lapped at the shore. The glossy white robot, made by the Chinese company Pudu Technology and purchased by Camar Resort, is symbolic of the Malaysian governm

Global Twitter employees describe chaos as layoffs gut their teams

Since last Friday, Anupam’s mother has been popping in and out of their room with a question: “Laptop chal raha hai kya?” — Is your laptop working? As an Indian Twitter employee, Anupam was one of the 7,500 workers around the world waiting with bated breath to see whether they would be fired last week. It’s estimated that half of Twitter’s employees have now been laid off, losing access to their corporate accounts, many with absolutely no notice. “To her, if my laptop is working, then I’m not f

Meet Indonesia’s Joe Rogan — part YouTube star, part magician, all controversy

“If anyone compared me to Joe Rogan, I’d be flattered,” Deddy Corbuzier, one of Indonesia’s biggest YouTubers, told Rest of World with a smile. Corbuzier was in the studio, wearing his signature tight black T-shirt — Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson-style — and tinted glasses, slowly smoking an e-cigarette, as he often does on his show. I sat on the chair where his guests usually sit — only this time, I was the one asking questions. On June 23, singer Widy Soediro Nichlany had sat in the same chair, r

Forget Netflix and Disney: A local streaming service is king in Indonesia

In late October, football fans across Indonesia roared from their living rooms as rivals Chelsea and Manchester United clashed in the English Premier League. They were watching through the Jakarta-based streaming service Vidio — the only way to access the high-stakes match. If you’re not a sports fanatic, Vidio has you covered, too. Not with global blockbuster TV series like House of the Dragon or Succession, but with hyperlocal, Bahasa Indonesia-language escapism. Viewers have been tuning in b

Sick of data leaks, Indonesians are siding with a hacker who exposed 1.3 billion SIM card details

On August 31, a user named Bjorka posted an entry on a little-known site called Breached Forums, with the bland title: “Indonesia SIM Card (Phone Number) Registration 1.3 Billion.” Those few words signaled a vast data hack into 1.3 billion SIM registrations — one that revealed national identity numbers, phone numbers, names of telecommunications providers, and more. Indonesians woke up to the breach in confusion, which quickly turned into anger. The Ministry of Communication and Information Tec

Why a coal company created an EV startup in Indonesia

One day in 2019, Pandu Sjahrir found himself being scolded by his wife. “The air quality in Jakarta is getting bad,” she said. “What are you going to do about this?” Sjahrir was one of the few Indonesians in a position to take action: He’s vice president director of one of the country’s largest coal-mining companies, TBS Energi. Around that time, Sjahrir had begun investing in the tech sector. He also happened to live in the same apartment building as Andre Soelistyo, CEO of super-app GoTo Grou

The gossip account spilling Indonesian tech’s secrets

At the height of Indonesia’s pandemic restrictions in September 2020, an e-commerce startup employee, who would later take the moniker “Elon Murz,” was confined at home. Bored, as the rest of the world seemingly perfected dalgona coffee and played Animal Crossing, Murz — who agreed to participate in this piece under their pseudonym — figured it was time to shake things up a bit. They reached for the phone and texted their friend group: “Let’s set up a meme account, just for fun. Anyone else wan

This Singaporean space tech startup wants to use lasers to connect the next billion people

Rohit Jha co-founded Transcelestial in 2016 with researcher Mohammad Danesh. Transcelestial’s device, CENTAURI, was designed to deliver high-speed internet via laser beam, eliminating the need for wires. Having raised $14 million from investors like Wavemaker Partners, 500 Global, and Y Combinator CEO Michael Seibel, the firm started manufacturing its shoebox-sized devices in 2021. The company currently operates in 10 markets, including India, Indonesia, and Australia. Transcelestial is built o

Indonesia will enforce laws on content moderation with tight response time and harsh fines, documents show

Less than two years after Indonesia introduced a set of controversial internet laws, officials have plans to deploy new methods to enforce them, including charging what could amount to thousands of dollars in fines to platform companies that refuse to take down content considered “unlawful” by government authorities. The plan, which was detailed in internal presentations given to leading tech companies operating in the country, copies of which were obtained and reviewed by Rest of World, offer

Why delivery drivers tried to sew their lips shut in Indonesia

Blood ran down from Wely’s mouth as he pierced a sewing needle through his lower lip. Wely was one of five on-demand gig drivers who work for apps like Gojek, Grab, and Shopee, who planned to sew his lips shut this week to protest stagnating wages and poor working conditions. But before Wely could continue, a man in a bright yellow shirt approached. Budi Setiyadi, the former director general of land transportation, had been sent down to the event by the Ministry of Transportation. He immediate

How halal e-commerce became a $160 million business in Indonesia

In April, 32-year-old Tiandarinie wanted to buy a few new pieces of clothing for the Eid-al-Fitr celebrations, which mark the end of Ramadan. She was looking for a new hijab, a tunic, and a dress. As a practicing Muslim, Tiandarinie did not want to buy just any clothing. She wanted them to be halal — adhering to Islamic ethics and laws — or at least, as close as possible to halal. “Of course I want [to consume] good stuff, things that have the same values as mine,” she told Rest of World. “I wo

Pegasus was used to spy on protesters, a popular actress, and dozens more in Thailand, new report shows

At least 30 Thai citizens were targeted by the Pegasus phone-hacking software between October 2020 and November 2021, according to a forensic report by the Canadian digital rights organization CitizenLab and Thai NGOs iLaw and DigitalReach. The victims included prominent pro-democracy protesters and their lawyers and supporters. The hack is the latest in a string of documented uses of Pegasus against civil society figures. NSO Group says that it sells its technology only to governments and law

How Asian super-app GoTo got tangled up in a government probe

In late June, an Indonesian government committee called experts to testify in a probe involving one of Asia’s biggest super apps: national tech champion GoTo Group. The probe, which is investigating relationships between officials at GoTo and a unit of state-owned giant Telkom, has gathered momentum over recent weeks. “First, the commission wants to ascertain whether the investment was indeed a necessity for Telkomsel in developing its business, including what benefits Telkomsel would get from

From Mexico to Indonesia, startups are laying off thousands of workers

In mid-2021, Miguel, a 26-year-old living in Mexico City, had been working as a delivery driver for Uber Eats and DiDi when a friend told him that the Colombian grocery startup Merqueo was hiring. Just a few months before, in April, Merqueo had launched 10-minute delivery in Mexico and announced it would be investing $60 million in the country. The job promised stable hours and benefits — something Miguel had never had before with a delivery platform. He started work in January. In early June,

As tech craters, founders find someone to blame: VCs

In late May, as the global tech cooldown began to trigger layoffs in Jakarta, Gibran Huzaifah, the 32-year-old founder of Indonesian startup eFishery, wrote a Twitter thread that quickly caught fire. In it, he took venture capital firms to task, criticizing the growth-over-profit, money-burning model propelled by the region’s investors. He also took a jab at his founder peers who used splashy funding rounds for media exposure — and who would be the ones most deeply affected by a potential fundin

“Soonicorns” are laying off hundreds as investors fear a cash crunch

In the last week of May in Jakarta, the announcements started to tumble out: Tech-company layoffs were beginning. Zenius, a promising edtech platform, abruptly laid off over 200 employees, while fast-growing e-wallet LinkAja also fired “hundreds.” On their heels came a workforce cut by, an upstart e-commerce platform backed by Tencent’s Analysts have been warning that rising interest rates in the U.S. will hit the surging tech sectors of emerging markets, having already prompted i
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