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Jakarta Post

Editorial: The Go-Jek effect

  • The Jakarta Post

    The Jakarta Post

  /   Sat, September 26, 2015   /  03:06 pm

What happens after the novelty of smartphone application-based ojek (motorcycle taxi) services wears off? People start to see them as they are: innovations that ease the lives of middle-class customers in a city dependent on the ojek, but not a transportation savior.

It is an innovation, a smart one, even phenomenal, many people must agree. But, it is neither the solution for Jakartans who are weary of the '€œworst traffic in the world'€, nor the ideal cure for the city'€™s unemployment problem.

Since Go-Jek launched its smartphone app in January, the transportation company, established in 2010, has boomed in popularity not only among customers but among ojek drivers as well. For months netizens were in awe of the Go-Jek phenomenon, sharing one fascinating Go-Jek story after another.

The app was later followed by the GrabBike app from Grab Taxi. The competition between the two has been marked by a tough tariff war, but in terms of brand name, Go-Jek'€™s wild popularity in Indonesia has surpassed even Uber, a ride-sharing app from Silicon Valley, in the US, which is similar in system but uses cars.

Go-Jek'€™s CEO Nadiem Makarim has graced many floors and stages to tell his inspiring story. While Go-Jek has become a household name, Nadiem has risen into a respected young public figure. The past few weeks saw the rare sight of long lines of people wanting to join Go-Jek, lured by '€œsuccess stories'€ of drivers who earned up to Rp 10 million (US$685) per month.

But customers cannot remain in an awed state that long. The country'€™s middle classes are known as impressionable yet fickle customers, so when the Go-Jek love fizzles out, problems will start to look conspicuous.

The first problem arose when traditional ojek drivers fought their mobile app-based competitors over '€œterritorial'€ control. Netizens jumped to the defense of Go-Jek, with some venting at traditional ojek drivers who often quoted astronomical prices, compared with Go-Jek'€™s reasonable fares.

But lately, more sinister events have come to the surface: reports of users being harassed by drivers, opening up a question about its privacy policy. A woman got a WhatsApp message late at night from an unknown number that turned out to be that of the Go-Jek driver who had taken her to her destination earlier that day. A man received a text message from a driver who challenged him to fight after the latter was enraged by the passenger'€™s double order as a result of a system error. Both customers have filed reports and Go-Jek has promised to settle the problems.

The incidents merely teach app-based transportation providers a lesson that data privacy is a haunting problem. More complaints, if not lawsuits, will follow unless the companies protect their customers'€™ privacy. There must be technology that can help the companies improve their services.

For now, it is time for Go-Jek and GrabTaxi group to shift their energy from their protracted tariff war and social media advertisements to enhancing the data security of both passengers and drivers.

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