Street view: A Google Indonesia car equipped with a camera on top traverses National Monument (Monas) area in Central Jakarta to snap street pictures that will be embedded to the Google Maps application. (Courtesy of Google Indonesia)
Major Internet company Google Inc. has increased its presence in Indonesia by putting into motion its Google Maps Street View project, which the Tourism and Creative Economy Ministry expects will open up the visibility of local destinations for global tourists.
Street View is a Google Maps feature that allows users to check out a street-level view landscapes in contrast to the Google satellite feature, which provides a birds-eye view.
The start of the project comes in the same year that Google set up its Indonesian office, followed by the introduction of a local domain name for their video website, YouTube.
Andrew McGlinchey, Google’s senior product manager for emerging markets Asia, said Google would start sending its Google Street View cars — rigged with 15 special cameras taking 360 degree panoramic shots of localities — to Indonesia.
He further said that after a sufficient amount of images were collected, Google would stitch the images together to form a comprehensive panoramic view fit for upload.
“We are going to start with Jakarta and at some point next year, we will publish the first images of Jakarta,” he said.
Andrew said that once Google was done with Jakarta, they would move on to other parts of the country. He further noted that Street View would especially be beneficial for tourists, besides local businesses.
“People will be able to see Jakarta and other parts of Indonesia before they come here,” he said.
He added that Google would partner with the Tourism and Creative Economy Ministry to document and present panoramic pictures of prime tourist destinations in Indonesia.
Tourism and Creative Economy Minister Mari Elka Pangestu said that having integrated images of tourist destinations online was essential, considering that 50 percent of would-be tourists made travel decisions, including hotel and transportation bookings, based on information from the Internet.
“The collaboration with Google in this project will be for the long run, considering Indonesia’s [geographical] size,” she said.
She added that the ministry would capitalize on Street View to promote at least 16 prime tourist destinations, including Kota Tua heritage site and Sunda Kelapa Port in Jakarta and the Borobudur Temple area in Magelang, Central Java.
“Google Street View will add to the existing platforms and [online] infrastructure, which facilitates information search and will also foster the growth of applications based on Google Street View,” she said.
She pointed out that having online content was increasingly essential for Internet users, which had reached 65 million - roughly equal to 25 percent of Indonesia’s population of 250 million.
Aswin Sasongko, the director general for applications and informatics at the Communications and Information Ministry, said that the presence of platforms and applications such as Street View was necessary in ensuring that content coursed through the telecommunication infrastructure of the country.
“We would like to increase the availability of all useful content and application running in this infrastructure,” he said.
However, he pointed out that Street View should heed the privacy rights of people caught by Google cars’ cameras.
“Google should open communication lines with the user to ensure that if the user sees something that needs to be edited or removed, Google could reconsider [the content],” he said.
Meanwhile, Andrew noted that, for privacy purposes, Google would blur all the faces and license plates caught on camera.
He added that users could report problems connected to Street View by clicking on a link in Google’s website, and a global team would process the report within approximately 24 hours before taking action.
He noted that the traffic jams in Jakarta would present a challenge to Google’s cars.
“Another challenge is the mobile access infrastructure,” he said, regarding the broadband network on which mobile phones, the most common way of accessing the Internet in Indonesia, rode on.
However, he added it was worth investing in Indonesia via Street View as Indonesia’s young population pushed Internet penetration rates higher.