Musk and Indonesian health minister, launch Starlink in Bali for health sector

Indonesian Minister of Health, Budi Gunadi Sadikin (second from left) and Elon Musk (second from right) pose after signing an agreement on enhancing connectivity at a public health center in Denpasar, Bali, Indonesia on Sunday, May 19, 2024. Elon Musk arrived in Indonesia's resort island of Bali to launch Starlink satellite internet service in the world's largest archipelago nation. - AP

DENPASAR (Reuters): Elon Musk and Indonesian Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin launched SpaceX's satellite internet service for the nation's health sector on Sunday, aiming to improve access in remote parts of the sprawling archipelago.

Musk, the billionaire head of SpaceX and Tesla, arrived on the Indonesian resort island of Bali by private jet before attending the launch ceremony at a community health centre in the provincial capital, Denpasar.

Musk, wearing a green batik shirt, said the availability of the Starlink service in Indonesia would help millions in far-flung parts of the country to access the internet. The country is home to more than 270 million people and three different time zones,

"I'm very excited to bring connectivity to places that have low connectivity," Musk said, "If you have access to the internet you can learn anything."

Starlink was launched at three Indonesian health centres on Sunday, including two in Bali and one on the remote island of Aru in Maluku.

A video presentation screened at the launch showed how high internet speeds enabled the real-time input of data to better tackle health challenges such as stunting and malnutrition.

Asked about whether he planned to also invest in Indonesia's electric vehicle industry, Musk said he was focused on Starlink first.

"We are focusing this event on Starlink and the benefits that connectivity brings to remote islands," he said, "I think it's really to emphasize the importance of internet connectivity, how much of that can be a lifesaver."

Indonesia's government has been trying for years to lure Musk's auto firm Tesla to build manufacturing plants related to electric vehicles as the government wants to develop its EV sector using the country's rich nickel resources.

The tech tycoon is scheduled to meet Indonesian President Joko Widodo on Monday, where he will also address the World Water Forum taking place on the island.

Communications Minister Budi Arie Setiadi, who also attended the Bali launch, said Starlink was now available commercially, but the government would focus its services first for outer and underdeveloped regions.

Prior to Sunday's launch, Starlink obtained a permit to operate as an internet service provider for retail consumers and had been given the go-ahead to provide networks, having received a very small aperture terminal (VSAT) permit, Budi Setiadi told Reuters.

SpaceX's Starlink, which owns around 60% of the roughly 7,500 satellites orbiting earth, is dominant in the satellite internet sphere.

Indonesia is the third country in Southeast Asia where Starlink will operate. Malaysia issued the firm a license to provide internet services last year and a Philippine-based firm signed a deal with SpaceX in 2022.

Starlink is also used extensively in Ukraine, where it is employed by the military, hospitals, businesses and aid organisations. (Reporting by Stefanno Sulaiman; Writing by Kate Lamb; Editing by Lincoln Feast and Raju Gopalakrishnan)

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Indonesia , Elon Musk , Arrival , Starlink , Major Launch , Bali


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