Google expands its public Wi-Fi program for emerging markets to Indonesia

Google is launching its public Wi-Fi program, which offers free connectivity at railway stations and other locations such as universities, in Indonesia, the company announced today.

The Indonesia launch is the first expansion of ‘Google Station’ — as the program is called — since it debuted in India some 18 months ago.

The project is quite simple, it offers a free way to get online with a decent quality internet connection. The idea is that beyond making it easy to get public Wi-Fi — because let’s face it, it is usually a struggle — Google Station offers connectivity those who might otherwise be unable to afford it, or perhaps even unaware of it entirely.

Google works with a range of partners that include ISPs, venue owners and system integrators on the project. It also enlists the help of ISPs and device makers to help get support and optimization for the networks on phones/phone connections themselves and reduce costs.

The project in India began with Mumbai Central station in January 2016, and last September it expanded beyond public transportation to include stations across the country, shopping malls, bus stops, cafes and more. Google claims the service is in over 150 stations, which helps it enable “millions” to go online each day. Interestingly, it claims 15,000 people in India go online for the first time using the public Wi-Fi service each day.

The Indonesia roll-out is targeting “hundreds of venues” across Java (hope to capital city Jakarta) and Bali over the next twelve months. Google said it is working with service providers CBN and FiberStar to bring the idea to life.

In addition, Google also expanded its data-friendly YouTube Go app, which was previously only available in India, to Indonesia.

Indonesia is increasingly a focus for technology companies that see the internet as a game-changer for the country’s 260 million population, that’s the world’s fourth highest. Whether it is fintech, e-commerce or taxis on-demand, the internet has the potential to change daily lives and enable new services, but getting decent access is the critical component.

India has been a key market for most tech companies in recent years, but lately Indonesia, Southeast Asia’s largest economy, has also begun to command attention in its own right. According to a report co-authored by Google last year, Southeast Asia’s internet economy is projected to grow 6.5-fold to reach $197 billion by 2025. Indonesia is expected to represent around half of that value, and that includes key categories like e-commerce and ride-hailing.