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It's Time for a Closer Look at "Remarkable Indonesia"

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.
These are just a few of the interesting things I think are worth sharing about this beautiful nation. Yes, the beaches are still some of the best in the world (though I sadly didn't have time to get anywhere near one on this latest trip). But I encourage everyone to look beyond the beaches and the things that may not be working 100 percent yet and get to know more about this emerging power. The more we know, the better we can engage! PS: And for those in my new hometown of DC, there's a great opportunity on July 9 on the Mall where there will be a huge Indonesia festival. Check it out if you're in town!

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