How "Silicon Bali" May Transform The Landscape Of Remote Work – ForbesMarch 17, 2022
Why on earth would anyone leave their comfortable 9-to-5 job in America, surrounded by familiarity to go live abroad by themselves on an island in Southeast Asia, with an unknown language, unfamiliar food and culture, to work remotely?
Indonesia Is Calling!
Diamond beach is one of most beautiful and pristine beach in Bali Indonesia
Located in one of the Lesser Sunda Islands, the province of Bali has been an important traditional Indonesian tourist center since the 80s. For example, Canggu, the city most known for its remote work community, offers a multitude of attractions to different types of visitors: white sand beaches, luxury resorts, street food, lively nightlife and proximity to nature.
In recent years Indonesia has also become a place where skilled workers continually migrate from different parts of the Western world. Diverse entrepreneurs particularly from Europe and the Americas continue to arrive in droves, and the local governments have started to take notice. Sandiaga Uno, the Minister of Tourism and Creative Economy recently announced plans for a long term visa which he hopes will attract digital nomads long term. The islands of Indonesia are certainly prepared for this transition. From it’s friendly local culture, to the fact that most establishments now offer quality WiFi Internet connection, the overall standard of living has made Bali the perfect substitute for a cold and unfriendly office.
Olumide Gbenro is a popular digital nomad leader who has been living in Bali for three years and founded Digital Nomad Summit to create a dialogue between the government and the expat population. He admits that Bali is not a perfect formula and sees a much wider potential for Indonesia’s many islands. “Indonesia has over 17,000 islands, so Bali is just one place digital nomads can thrive while providing tremendous value to the government of Indonesia. Places like Lombok are starting to see more of us live and contribute to the local economy.”
Indonesia Wants To Become The Next Digital Technology Hub
In 2019, the government of Indonesia changed the name of the Ministry of Tourism into the Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy. As part of a 2019 national plan, it’s goal was to optimize its digital industry financing; optimize e-commerce operators, improve human resource development and education, as well as its technological infrastructure.
Digital Nomads Are Adapting Fast
Digital nomad leader, Olumide Gbenro.
The origins of the term digital nomad likely comes from the academic work of computer scientist Dr. Tsugio Makimoto along with writer David Manners in 1997. The pair imagined a world where mobile technologies would become widely available and affordable by the populace and that it would facilitate work while traveling. They were right.
With the worldwide advent of massive internet use in the coming years after, the digitization of global work became inevitable. This advance in technology is what allowed many highly skilled workers to relocate to a place like Bali, and in recent years remote workers have grown from staring at their laptops to building startup culture.
Gbenro explains: “A lot of people imagine digital nomads with their faces buried in their laptops, while sitting in a cafe or restaurant; but things are changing, and many business owners, investors, and startups are starting to form. The serious nomads with their feet firmly planted here and those who had more solid businesses are still here in Bali.”
One great example is Thomas Despin, an island developer based on Buka Buka Island in Sulawesi who has been developing Reconnect, a work getaway for digital nomads and Indonesian entrepreneurs alike. He says the trend will only get bigger: “Here at Reconnect we see a ton of people working online arriving now, not just foreigners but younger remote workers from Jakarta and Bali.”
Olumide says startup culture is starting to rise out of coworking spaces like Tropical Nomad, co-founded by Ichi Yamada and located in the busy hub of Canggu. “Over the past few years, I’ve seen coworking spaces go from a bunch of people sitting by themselves on their laptops, to now a lot of meetups where knowledge, information, and collaborative energy are being curated at Tropical Nomad. That’s why we are now calling it Silicon Bali”, he mentions cheekily, “but when it’s time for a sunset and coconuts, we all forget about the Internet, meet with our group of friends, and watch that beautiful sun come down. “
A Digital Nomad Visa May Be The Answer
SAN FRANCISCO – JUNE 14: Counterfeit passports are shown at San Francisco International Airport … [+]
According to nomadlist.com (a website specialized in information for digital nomads), Canggu, a medium-sized town in Bali, has remained in the top rated global destinations for remote workers even during the pandemic, yet no legal status exists for online workers living in Indonesia. This grey zone became much more evident after the global pandemic began. Olumide describes the situation before the pandemic:
“When I first arrived in Bali I realized everyone was doing visa runs on a tourist visa, meaning every one or two months they would have to leave the country and return the next day to renew their tourist visa.”
He says he realized at this point digital nomads were not really able to stay in Indonesia long term, so he decided to propose new options to the government.
“Based on this new knowledge, myself along with academic and young Indonesian leaders such as Wahyu Taufiq, created a formal document that he physically submitted to the President’s office in Jakarta, as well as an online petition addressed to the Indonesian government, to request the consideration of a special visa for digital nomads”.
Digital nomad visas are not new, as several popular destinations for remote workers already have similar programs, such as Barbados, The Cayman Islands, Dubai, and Estonia. An official digital nomad visa for Indonesia would be the first for the entire Southeast Asian region, and it is an important race that could inspire others due to the benefits for both local communities and foreigners, looking to enjoy the benefits of tropical living.
“This would not only provide legal security to migrant digital workers, but could also represent millions in revenue to the local government, to which we would be tremendously glad to contribute, in gratitude to this unique and ideal place to work,” says Gbenro.
Currently the project is under review by said government, and “as soon as there is important news, I will share it with the community on our social networks” announces Gbenro, and finishes: “this will change lives for the better of both local and foreign.”
During the global pandemic, with travel restrictions and closed borders, many digital nomads returned to their countries of origin, and many have not returned to their workplaces. In the case of Indonesia, the impact this has had on the local economy has been devastating, with Bali being an island mainly dependent on the tourism industry. Without an innovative solution, Indonesia’s iconic tourist destination may continue to suffer for years to come.