WhatsApp and the Opportunity for Local App Rise in Indonesia

Since WhatsApp updated its terms of conditions (ToC) policy, news and movement to switch instant messaging apps have spread. On several online news sites, a lot of information about the differences between one instant messaging application and another, as well as on social media Twitter, the pros and cons of netizens for using WhatsApp have emerged. In the latest news, Recep Tayyib Erdogan asked his people to use an instant messaging application made in Turkey: BiP.

WhatsApp itself has responded to this. It is said that the data that affects the new policy is the interaction of business accounts. These interactions are used to process segmented ads for users. This change has been predicted since Mark Zuckerberg acquired Instagram and WhatsApp, the vision of the Facebook founder is indeed business and profit-oriented. However, some people have switched and are not sympathetic to WhatsApp. The use of Telegram and Signal increase significantly.

Instant Messaging in Indonesia

WhatsApp is one of the most popular and most used platforms in Indonesia. People use this application very intensively for daily purposes: sending private messages, discussing office matters, and even being used as business contacts. Interestingly, in pandemic situations today, WhatsApp can be an alternative media for online learning, especially in lack of network infrastructure support areas. Although the effect is not very good.

The high use of instant messaging applications in Indonesia for various needs also raises several problems. First, WhatsApp is too full of information. When one application contains a variety of different information from many chat rooms, its effectiveness will decrease because our daily focus is limited. Second, WhatsApp becomes a ‘nest’ of misinformation and disinformation. This phenomenon is often found in family WhatsApp groups. Third, the potential to be exposed to cybercrime is getting higher. Once someone’s WhatsApp account got hacked, it risks all their contacts and groups related to cybercrime.

The problem of vulnerability to cybercrime above boils down to the habits of the Indonesian people. People are not used to differentiating between personal and other matters such as office purposes. But it’s a tricky habit. Using different numbers for different needs or using different platforms for different purposes sometimes helpful, sometimes not. Unfortunately, for some people, mixing up a lot of things at once in WhatsApp is easier.

Government Roles, An Opportunities

Reflecting on the WhatsApp case, our government has the potential to strengthen the local messaging application ecosystem in Indonesia. When WhatsApp’s popularity is shaken by changes in privacy policies and people are starting to think about switching platforms, this could be an opportunity for the government to introduce and popularize local messaging applications. There are actually many local messaging applications available, but the best one can be chosen and then fully supported by the government.

The growing use of local messaging applications also benefits the government because it can integrate digital services in the future. The government should take an action to build the application development ecosystem in Indonesia and reduce dependency on external applications. For example, Naver services in South Korea or Line in Japan accommodate various people’s daily needs.

The community also needs to support this based on the spirit of nationalism. Using locally made applications also has an impact on increasing local income. On the other hand, the government needs to actively promote this. The government also should build and improve the national infrastructure, especially in rural areas, to keep the local application ecosystem runs and ensure its sustainability.

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