The first time I was in Indonesia was about 20 years ago. At the time I think the tourism slogan was something like "Amazing Indonesia." And in many ways, the nation lived up to that billing back then. I was working for a travel client and was ensconced in a luxury beach resort in Bali. Needless to say, that was a fun assignment! So relatively speaking, it was easy to deliver an "amazing" experience back then and under those circumstances -- given I was just a 25 year old girl from a small town outside Philadelphia.
But when I was back in Indonesia earlier this month for a World Economic Forum (WEF) Summit, I have to say I found Indonesia more amazing than ever -- "remarkable" in fact, to use the current slogan!
So it just astounds me how little the average American knows about this nation and correspondingly I suppose, how little mainstream media coverage Indonesia seems to get in the U.S. So, I thought I might take this opportunity to share a few "remarkable" things from my most recent trip, just to help folks get a bit better idea about this emerging Asian tiger...
Indonesia brings new meaning to the notion "island nation." In fact, this country is made up of approximately 17,000 islands (Yup I may still be jet lagged but 17,000 is not a typo!)
- While you may not know much about it, Indonesia is the 4th most populous nation in the world, behind only India, China and the USA, with nearly 240 million people.
- It is also, I understand from my Kraft Foods Indonesia colleagues, the largest Muslim democracy in the world.
- Java, the "main island" where the capital Jakarta is, is home to about 50 percent of the nation's population according to a government official I met with -- making it the most densely populated island in the world. (And yes, the traffic jams there help ensure you never forget that!)
- Indonesia has seen rapid economic development in the past decade and is now considered a low/middle income country. It is also a member of the G20 group of nations.
- Even still, according to my colleagues, about 70 percent of Indonesian households live on 2-5 dollars per day. So, clearly there is more to be done. But, I am happy to report that from our experiences at WEF, the government is taking action in many areas that can really make a difference -- including areas where I am actively involved for my company, namely child malnutrition and sustainable agricultural development.
- I also learned from my colleagues that this is a very social nation, where people like to stay connected. Indonesia has a 90 percent cellphone penetration and is the #2 Facebook market in the world and #3 in Twitter use.