Here’s a sad fact about how bad Indonesian mobile signals can be in remote areas. It’s not unheard of for someone to climb a hill to get a better phone signal (it has happened to me before) in certain villages. But how about people who need to row their boats from one island to another just to send an SMS? Yes, this actually happens on two remote islands, Pasi and Mbromsi Islands in Aimando District, Biak Numfor, Papua. The following story was reported in Bahasa Indonesia over on Detik.com, but it’s so amazing that we’d like to share it with you as well.
Public transportation is hard to find in both Pasi and Mbromsi. The only choice is to use small boats for island hopping. From Biak, it takes 1.5 hours to get to either island. But besides the challenge of transportation, there’s also the problem of communicating with the outside world.
A villager from Pasi Island, Meltianus Rumboryas, shared his story of how hard mobile communication is his area. Just to make a mobile call or send an SMS, he has to cross the sea to go three kilometers to reach Karabai Island. This island is the only nearby place that can receive mobile network coverage. Meltianus said:
Over there the signal is good. After I’ve finished communicating, we then come back here (Pasi Island). We need to communicate with our sons and daughters who have schooling in Biak or any other places. It’s really hard to do here.
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Villagers try to find a mobile phone signal on small boats called “jonson.” There are two types: row boats and motor boats. If you go with the latter, it will only take five minutes; if not, you will have to row your boat for a whole hour.
Your telecommunication budget will be stretched if you opt for a motor boat, because then you run into fuel costs which can be around Rp10,000 (over $1) per liter. For one round trip, villagers will need about three liters of fuel. So when considering calling, that cost has to be factored in. To save money, Meltianus does not call everyday.
Due to the lost of phone signal, Meltianus’s cellphone can not be reach most of the time. The record of SMS and incoming phone calls streak when he was on the island of Karabai. At once, he was busy replying SMS and call people to contact him.
Not only is it a huge struggle to get coverage – the island where he lives lacks a store that sells top up credit. They can only buy it in Biak. After receiving his salary in the city, Meltianus will fill up his phone credit and buy food supplies for a month. He will spend three days to a week in Biak each and every month.
Meltianus hopes the government will build up infrastructure for the island’s villagers soon, just like in the Seribu archipelago near the capital city, Jakarta. In Seribu, all mobile networks are available, and with good service quality, so that communication with the outside world actually runs smoothly.
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