November 4, 2022

Indonesia's Opportunity to Leverage Digital Assets and Wireless Technology Infrastructure to Address the Climate Emergency

If there is any chance of meeting the goal set forth in the Paris Climate Accords, an international treaty on climate change that was signed in 2015 that aims to keep the rise in mean global temperature to well below 2 °C (3.6 °F) above pre-industrial levels, various industries will need to make efforts to employ climate technology help achieve this ambitious goal to substantially reduce the effects of climate change. Having both extensive experience working in Indonesia and within the mobile industry worldwide, a report by the GSMA caught my attention that explores the potential for mobile-enabled technology solutions to enhance Indonesia's climate mitigation and adaptation efforts.

Funded by Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), the report notes, "Indonesia faces a unique set of climate change challenges, from extreme flooding to extended drought, changes in rainfall patterns and temperature and sea level rise." Moreover, "These risks are intensified by a dense population of 270 million people living in hazard-prone areas, and approximately 60 percent living in low-lying coastal cities. Indonesia is the world's eighth biggest emitter of greenhouse gases (GHGs). Forestry and other land use practices, energy and waste are key contributors."

The GSMA, a UK-based organization that represents the interests of mobile operators worldwide, explains that its report "presents an overview of the main climate challenges facing the country and examines the potential role of mobile-enabled technology in unlocking novel and innovative responses to climate change. All this centers around three focus areas for climate action in Indonesia: energy, waste and natural resource management."

What is more, "To create a clear picture of the distribution of climate technology in Indonesia, including where investment is primarily focused, the Mobile Innovation Hub Indonesia team reviewed publicly available literature and compiled a list of 48 examples of technology-enabled climate solutions currently deployed, piloted or in the proof-of-concept stage in Indonesia’s energy, waste and natural resource management sectors." The report also points out that "The highest concentration of climate technology was found in the energy and waste sectors, with just under half of climate solutions relating to waste. Technologies for sorting and recycling in the waste sector, as well as energy management and natural resource management are some of the most prevalent solutions."

"Interviews with stakeholders, including MNOs, mobile infrastructure organizations, government officials and ministries, revealed technical, political and behavioral barriers that are limiting the uptake of mobile-enabled solutions for climate mitigation and adaptation."

Three key barriers that is slowing uptake of mobile-enabled solutions in Indonesia include:

Technical barriers: The availability of mobile and digital infrastructure and access to affordable and connected devices. Although robust government approaches are making strong headway, there are still regional and remote island locations without sufficient connectivity. When it comes to implementing climate technologies these are important considerations.

Political barriers: The political, social and ecological decisions and actions affecting climate change decision-making or uptake of mobile-enabled technologies.
  • Collaborative environment: Limited collaboration between governments, the private sector and communities
  • Data sharing and management: Lack of data integration and reliance on manual data collection processes
  • Policy and regulation: Lack of policy incentives and weak regulations that hinder industry
  • Investor appetite: Investments in Indonesia focus on technology in general rather than climate technology specifically
  • Access to capital: Weak appetite for investment has left innovators with low access to capital
  • Talent: Limited access to talent to develop, roll out and monitor mobile-enabled technology solutions
Behavioral barriers: The individual and collective assumptions, beliefs, values and worldviews on climate change responses:
  • Unclear value propositions: Inability to demonstrate the value proposition to end users, coupled with cultural barriers
  • Digital literacy: A barrier for end users that lead to suboptimal use or the need to embed manual back-up methods when rolling out solutions

To address these barriers, the GSMA recommends an ecosystem approach in which mobile-enabled solutions would provide a clear path to achieve Indonesia's climate goals. This would include:
  1. Investing in mobile-enabled connectivity and digital and climate literacy to reach the most rural areas and offer innovative climate technologies.
  2. Building trust between stakeholders operating in the same ecosystem, creating forums to share lessons, building on successful innovations and developing science-based narratives to strengthen coordination.
  3. Building the capacity of the public sector and communities to implement or use mobile-enabled climate technology to increase uptake.
  4. Using a human-centered design (HCD) approach to ensure climate technology is relevant and the value proposition is clear to end users.

I appreciate how this report explores the potential for mobile-enabled technology solutions to enhance climate mitigation and adaptation efforts in Indonesia. It also presents a useful overview of the main climate challenges facing Indonesia and examines the potential role of mobile-enabled technology in unlocking novel and innovative responses to climate change.

What are you recommendations for how emerging markets like Indonesia can leverage their digital assets and wireless technology infrastructure to address the climate emergency?

Aaron Rose is a board member, corporate advisor, and co-founder of great companies. He also serves as the editor of GT Perspectives, an online forum focused on turning perspective into opportunity.

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