As anyone who has turned on a TV or opened a newspaper knows, the world has been suffering a spate of conflicts and challenges of late. So it was a nice change of pace to hear Fareed Zakaria hold up progress in India, reforms in Mexico and the recent election in Indonesia as global “success stories.”
But although we all hunger for good news in the face of grim headlines, Indonesia’s political reforms are still inchoate and the nation’s economic success is not broadly shared. Yes, economic growth in Indonesia — one of the world’s most populous nations — has been rapid in the last decade. According to the Asian Development Bank, Indonesia’s GDP averaged 6.3% over the past three years. But, at the same time, over 100 million people across the country — about half the population — don’t have access to clean water and sanitation.
Even in Indonesia’s capital city of Jakarta, nearly 25% of people live without consistent piped water. Given that there are nearly 10 million people in this megacity, this means that several million people are forced to buy water at high prices from local vendors. Although local utility Palyja and French-firm Suez Environment created a joint venture in the late 1990s, a large proportion of the city is still not served reliably. Joko Widodo, the governor of Jakarta and now the president elect, has proposed buying back Suez’s share and investing in local infrastructure, but negotiations have stalled and service for many poor areas of the city continues to languish.
Given all this, we are very hopeful about the prospects of improving service in Indonesia—but we firmly believe that the only way poor areas of the city will gain their fair share will be through collective action and greater national and international attention. And that is the goal of our organization and mobile app.