Apps to the Future
By Ronald Indrawan
Wednesday, September 7, 2016
Indonesia is swarming with an ever-increasing number of local apps. And many believe that the ability of local developers to create and produce social media applications is on a par with global developers. Witness the many made in Indonesia mobile apps hitting the iTunes Store (IOS), the Play Store (Android) and the Internet generally.
However, local apps still face operational challenges, mostly due to a lack of skilled manpower and marketing and innovation capacity.
“Indonesia has so much local talent in terms of development of digital application programs and is definitely able to compete with the ability of other global OTT [over the top services],” said Indira Widjonarko, chair of Sebangsa, a social media platform that aims to create interaction between communities all across Indonesia.
“It is just that they need to be enhanced and developed by the communities as well as the government, and in order to have community and government support, they need to have a clear work plan, vision and mission, and also a long term commitment that is supported by periodic creative innovations,” said Indira.
This optimism is echoed by Pradipta Nugrahanto, chief editor of Tech in Asia for Indonesia, a media, events and jobs platform for Asia’s tech communities.
“Our applications are growing quite high right now and we can see it from the demand of the public in transportation, online stores including food and grocery deliveries, all the ease they can offer to our people,” he said.
Though Indonesia has growing skilled manpower in the app industry, the number of very high skilled developers is still very limited. There have been a few local apps that failed to survive and eventually ceased operation – or survived but ended up with low demand.
For some, the easiest way to move forward is to hire foreign talent to help develop the application. However, Pradipta emphasized the necessity of developing local talent, to avoid over-reliance on foreign skills.
“We are lacking in high-skilled manpower to develop applications,” Pradipta said. “But I think too much reliance on foreign manpower will create a problem for us.”
The ability of app developers to respond to dynamic trends is also a challenge in Indonesia. When something becomes a trend and people are hyped about it, local developers take advantage by creating something based on that trend. But when the hype is gone or it’s not a trend anymore, the application goes the same way. People will lose interest in the app and find another trend.
“Sometimes there are various local applications that are not innovative enough, so they can’t survive,” Pradipta said.
The way ahead
“Local developers should not rely on the [latest] trend since following the trend can be risky,” Pradipta said. “Instead, they should be very innovative in every situation by having multiple plans in case one of those plans does not work out.”
He also believes that good innovation can be executed well if app developers know how to attract users.
“Gaining users’ attention is the main priority for app developers. It’s not going to work, even if you have a good innovation, if people don’t accept it.”
Pradipta added that local developers should figure out how to grab people’s attention and create something that “spoils” them. Following other successful app developers’ steps can also be worth a try but bear in mind, he added, that they need to be ready for the competition.
Indira also spoke about the government’s role in advancing the app ecosystem.
“It’s best for our government to support boosting the development of local applications by creating a conducive ecosystem,” Indira said.
“The simplification of permit processes and tax exemptions are what local developers need from the government right now.”