With over 212 million internet users, Indonesia’s digital economy has seen vigorous growth in the past decade. The country’s digital economy is projected to hit USD 130 billion GMV by 2025, growing at a 19% Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR). The national government strongly supports this growth with the Digital Indonesia Road Map 2021-2024. The detailed plan outlines a path to developing an inclusive, safe, and reliable digital infrastructure, seeking to elevate the country from a consumption-driven nation to a respected technology producer.
At the heart of the digital economy are local app developers. They are at the forefront driving innovation and providing useful services, which in turn generate economic growth, create jobs and empower consumers to adopt new digital tools for productivity and entertainment. New mobile application downloads in Indonesia reached 7.7 billion in 2022, which is a powerful testament to the impact these developers are creating.
In order to thrive, developers need a supportive digital environment that consists of: i) Access to technical tools and skills, ii) Access to monetization opportunities, and iii) Access to platforms that are safe and secure for both developers and users and that have global reach, enabling developers to connect with larger audiences both in Indonesia and overseas.
One such platform is Google Play, an app marketplace which helps developers organise and promote a wide array of apps and games, provide a safe access to these technologies and simplify new content discovery. Given the magnitude of online threats to Indonesian users, Google Play’s service not only helps connect developers with potential customers but also provides a foundation of trust, fostering a secure environment where consumers feel comfortable making purchases online.
Reaching up to 2.5 billion active users globally, Google Play provides significant opportunities for developers to grow their businesses both domestically and internationally. In 2022, Indonesian app developers generated over Rp 1.5 trillion (US$103 million) in revenues through Google Play, including revenues from both domestic and international markets. International customers generated ~28% (US$29 million) of the total amount, with Southeast Asia and the Middle East as the top export markets.
Building a safe and trusted platform for developers and users
One of the reasons why Google Play has gained the trust of local developers and users alike is its simple-to-navigate, fully-integrated, and secure billing system. This system employs essential safety and security factors that developers need. Google Play Commerce provides buyers in more than 150 countries a platform to transact in their local currency and in their preferred form of payment (such as KakaoPay in South Korea and UPI in India). Built-in security features such as Google Play Protect scans 125Bn apps daily, keeping users safe from malware and harm.
Google Play’s online security system also goes further to combat other threats. Google has successfully banned over 173,000 bad accounts from malicious developers and prevented over USD 2 billion in fraudulent and abusive transactions in 2022 alone. In addition, it has prevented about 500,000 apps from unnecessarily accessing sensitive permissions in the last three years.
Google Play is designed to provide safety for different user groups. As children and teens started turning to gadgets for studies, social life and practical needs, Google Play introduced a specific tab called Kids Space in 2021. This tab contains apps reviewed by teachers to ensure they are age-appropriate. Google Play also includes Parental control options to filter out inappropriate content.
Helping developers grow their skills and businesses
Google Play’s usefulness is clear from the number of developers who choose to use it. To date, more than 10,000 app developers in Indonesia have used Google Play to publish over 42,000 Indonesian apps. Beyond the factors discussed above, Google Play’s popularity amongst developers is also driven by the access it brings to technical tools and upskilling programs.
Google’s tools range from simple-to-use to advanced ones, like coding or user analytics that all developers can use to generate revenue. One of the tools is the Google Play Console, which allows developers to improve their app quality, engage their audience, try out new monetization channels, and look at detailed user insights to make important business decisions.
One developer who has leveraged the strength of these tools is Own Games, founded in 2013. The Bandung-based indie studio developed “Tahu Bulat Stories,” a game that created a considerable buzz in Indonesia last year. The studio utilised Google Play’s simple pre-registration and rewards system, which helped the game shoot to number 1 on Google Play Indonesia’s download charts upon its release in 2022, hitting over 500,000 downloads in just two months.
Beyond technical tools, Google runs various training programs to help developers kick-start their projects. Google invests in growing the talent pool through programs such as the Google Play x Unity partnership which provides students and game developers in Indonesia with various training programs and certification pathways at no cost, allowing aspiring game developers to advance their careers.
Another example is Indie Games Accelerator, a mentorship program that launched in 2018 to grow and promote independent games from promising indie developers. Gaming is an important sector in Indonesia, even more so after the country’s e-sport industry recently catapulted to new heights.
“The Indie Games Accelerator has been very helpful in providing us with the necessary guidance and resources to upgrade the quality of our games. We learned which metrics needed to be improved and which aspects of the game needed to be tweaked to improve those metrics,” explained Gambir Studio CEO Shafiq Husein, one of the three Indonesian studios that have just graduated from this mentorship in December 2022.
Access to the right skills and tools unlocks monetization opportunities for ambitious app developers. As of 2022, more than 150 million Indonesian users are active on Google Play at least once a month, with games, social media, and tools (e.g., cloud storage) driving the most downloads. With secure payment systems, tools and insights needed to grow their businesses, and a platform to reach new audiences, more and more developers have emerged, driving Indonesia’s digital landscape forward and empowering innovation as well as entrepreneurship across the country.
These initiatives from Google, from helping to grow a talent pool to providing mentorship programs, complement the government’s efforts to support upskilling in app development, which has emerged as one of Indonesia’s most sought-after ICT skills. It aligns with one of the big pillars of Indonesian vision for 2045: that of the human development and the mastery of science and technology. With this foundation already in place, the road ahead seems promising.
Enabling jobs in Indonesia’s digital economy
Apps have not only helped make our lives more convenient, entertaining, and productive but also opened up a plethora of job opportunities for Indonesians. The app economy, including Google Play, has played an important role in facilitating job growth in Indonesia by creating direct jobs, indirect jobs, and spillover jobs, as well as jobs in the wider freelance economy. To illustrate this, let’s use a fictional gaming company, “Gaming App X”, as an example.
As an app development company, Gaming App X employs a team of engineers, user experience (UX) designers, artists, and other technical professionals to develop its game, creating direct jobs. Gaming App X also recognizes the importance of marketing and sales to ensure widespread awareness of their product. Hence, they also employ non-technical professionals, such as marketing managers, sales representatives, and content creators, creating indirect jobs. Gaming App X also collaborates with external vendors and service providers, such as cafeteria catering companies and advertising agencies, creating additional spillover jobs.
As a whole, the Indonesian Android app ecosystem contributes to around 36,000 direct jobs across all app companies and supports 36,000 indirect jobs that contribute to the growth and reach of these companies. The spillover jobs created by the ecosystem account for about 90,000 jobs. In total, the Android app ecosystem has enabled a total of 162,000 jobs in Indonesia.
Additionally, the app economy has given rise to a thriving freelance economy. In the gaming app industry, smaller game studios in particular aren’t often able to hire full-time staff with specific skills, and use freelance game testers, translators, or game designers to support specific projects. The studios also work with game streamers and e-sport athletes who livestream their playing or review the games they play on various online platforms like YouTube or Twitch. They also employ marketers, event organiser, commentators, and more.
The flexible and part-time freelance work model extends beyond gaming companies and can be observed in various app-based services, such as ride-hailing apps that employ drivers as independent contractors. Thus, app distribution platforms like Google Play also play a pivotal part in enabling more opportunities within apps across verticals, from e-commerce to food delivery apps among the thousands of varieties. This ecosystem employs at least 8 million Indonesians on a freelance basis, showing a wide-ranging influence of the digital landscape and fostering economic growth on a significant scale.
The mobile app economy in Indonesia is fast-evolving, with a vibrant app developer landscape that caters to users worldwide. This is a testament to Indonesia’s strength as a promising digital nation and a thriving hub of the app ecosystem. This is an exciting new space that is still growing, and partnerships between the government, developers and platforms like Google Play are enabling Indonesia’s app economy to reach its full potential.