July 31, 2019

Two Australians held in Bali over cocaine trafficking

Two Australian nightclub promoters have been arrested in Bali by police investigating an alleged cocaine-trafficking ring, with raids taking place on homes and businesses over the weekend. The duo have been named as Will Cabantog, 35, and David Van Iersel, 38. They are in custody in Denpasar. They were arrested by Balinese police on Saturday, but have not been charged with any offence. Mr Cabantog promoted or managed popular Melbourne night spots Club 23 and Boutique Nightclub. The Australian is not suggesting the men had any involvement in the alleged drug-trafficking ring, only that they are being questioned by police.

The Department of Foreign Affairs is believed to be looking into the matter. “The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is aware that two Australians have been arrested in Bali, Indonesia,” a DFAT spokesperson said. “We stand ready to offer consular assistance, in accordance with the Consular Services Charter, to any Australian citizen, should they request it.”

A family member of Mr Van Iersel, who recently arrived in Bali, declined to comment this afternoon. Mr Cabantog is believed to have relocated to Bali in October, and has been involved in nightclub promotions since arriving there. In an Instagram post from October 23, he said: “it’s been a hard landing into the Balinese scene. This place is sick!” In February, he said he had no regrets about his move there. “Holidays are made for people who need to escape from work,” he said in the post. “When my work is like this everyday … a holiday and moving to Bali was the best life decision ever.”

Balinese police have been investigating a major cocaine trafficking syndicate in Canggu, a popular seaside local on the Indonesian island, and reported seized CCTV footage from a venue where one of the men worked as a promoter. It’s been reported the two men were questioned by police on Sunday. If charged with drug possession the men face a maximum penalty of 12 years’ jail. If charged with trafficking, they could potentially face the death penalty. [The Australian July 23, 2019]

Indonesia plans cloud seeding effort to avoid crop failure

Indonesia is preparing to carry out cloud seeding in an effort to trigger rainfall to prevent harvest failure and forest fire, the disaster mitigation agency’s spokesman said on Monday. The agency’s data shows that on July 22 about 20,269 hectares of agricultural land were at risk of harvest failure because of drought. Spokesman Agus Wibowo said an estimated 3 trillion rupiah ($215 million) loss could occur if the drought problem is not addressed and harvests fail. Indonesian president Joko Widodo last week ordered cabinet ministers and regional heads to take action to avoid crops failure.

Authorities plans to carry out cloud seeding from this month, shooting salt flares into clouds in an attempt to trigger rainfall in dry areas. “Our priority is to maintain stability of food supply in Indonesia and avoid a drastic drop in production, which could result in a huge amount of imports,” Wibowo said. The government will establish two bases for the operation, in the country’s capital Jakarta and in Kupang, East Nusa Tenggara. The operation will be focused on Java Island, Bali, West Nusa Tenggara and East Nusa Tenggara. This year’s dry season is affected by a mild El Nino weather pattern, said Fachri Radjab at Indonesia’s meteorology and geophysics agency. Peak of dry season is expected to occur from mid-August to mid-September. [Canadian Cattlemen July 22, 2019]

Google-backed Bali start-up tackles waste crisis with AI

Unlike most local start-ups, Gringgo Indonesia Foundation targets neither consumers nor small and medium enterprises; instead, it targets the hundreds of informal trash collectors in Denpasar, Bali. The foundation was first established in late 2014 under the name CashForTrash, and then evolved into a tech start-up that coordinates city-wide waste collection through a mobile app. These informal trash collectors – who are mostly men – go from door to door gathering recyclable and reusable waste, earning about Rp 4 million (US$283) per month by charging a small collection fee and selling the recyclable waste to companies.

The problem, explained Gringgo cofounder and president Febriadi Pratama, was that the trash collectors were uncoordinated and thus, inefficient in their waste collection. Their collection routes often overlapped, and they did not have the know-how to identify recyclable and reusable items like diapers and coconut shells. “A lot of trash collectors are like, ‘Oh, we know that plastic has value. And cardboard. And all this paper stuff,’ but they don’t know about coconut shells,” said Febriadi. “There are a lot of coconut shells in Bali and there’s actually a market for it,” he told reporters at the Google “Solve with AI” conference in Tokyo, Japan. “So we tell them, ‘If you collect coconut shells – and we know you can collect several kilograms every day – and [sell them for] this much money, we can help sell them and you’ll make extra money for what you do,” he said.

Gringgo currently made its income from reselling the collected waste, but Febriadi said that going forward, the foundation planned on changing its revenue model and was testing several different models across the city toward this end. To tackle the problem of overlapping collection routes, Gringgo partnered with around 15 trash collectors to develop an app that tracks their movements and allows users to order a waste pick-up service. These efforts have enabled the foundation to map informal waste collection in the city. Febriadi said the 15 collectors had increased their monthly income to Rp 9 million since they partnered with Gringgo.

As for improving the trash collectors’ ability to identify recyclable and reusable waste, Gringgo has been working this year with Singapore’s Datanest – a data science start-up – to develop an algorithm they call Ocean Plastic Prevention AI that will automatically identify recyclable waste and its sales value. “The idea is that [trash collectors] take a picture [of the waste] before they sort it and [the AI shows that] there’s a plastic bottle here and a diaper there. We show the value [of each item] and eventually, where they can sell it,” said Datanest cofounder Thibaud Plaquet. He told The Jakarta Post that Datanest was currently compiling thousands of photographs of trash and labeling each recyclable or saleable item using the human eye. The labeled photos would then be fed into a machine learning algorithm for automating the waste identification process. Plaquet expected to have an operational algorithm by October. Gringgo’s website currently prices aluminum cans at Rp 11,000 per kilogram, newspapers at Rp 3,000 per kg and clear plastic bottles at Rp 4,000 per kg. It also displays a map showing over 300 trash collection and selling points in Denpasar.

To fund its expansion, Gringgo raised $50,000 from angel investors and $25 million from Google’s Impact Challenge, part of Google’s AI for Social Good initiative Plaquet said that Gringgo had budgeted $500,000 for developing the algorithm. The foundation has plenty of room for growth, as the Indonesia Plastic Recycling Association (ADUPI) estimates that its members process 400,000 tons of plastic each year – less than 1 percent of the 3-4 million tons of plastic produced annually. “The recycling industry has grown rapidly in Indonesia, especially for high-value plastics such as PET and PP. Their recycling rates are over 50 percent,” said ADUPI chairwoman Christine Halim, as quoted by several media outlets. Gringgo is also looking to expand its operations to other cities that are demographically similar to Denpassar. Febriadi said these cities would have a population range of 500,000-700,000 and modern urban environments, and that Makassar in South Sulawesi was one potential expansion destination. “Jakarta is not on our radar at the moment,” he said. “Why? Because Jakarta is even bigger than Singapore. It’s [like] a whole country on its own, so it’s much more complex. We need more resources. With our current capacity, it would be suicide to enter Jakarta,” he said, laughing. [The Jakarta Post July 12, 2019]

Garuda Indonesia ridiculed for attempting to ban social media on their flights

Recently, a vlogger from Indonesia had uploaded a video about his flight experience on Garuda Indonesia from Sydney to Bali. His business class experience was less ideal as the in-flight menu was provided on a handwritten note and they had run out of wine. Of course, bad experiences do happen once in a while and you would expect the airline to offer an apology for the shortcomings. Instead, the airline was initially reported to have sued Rius Vernandes, the vlogger, for what claims to be defamation. To make matters worse, Garuda Indonesia even issued a memo to its crew informing them that passengers are not allowed to document their travel in both photo and video form. They also emphasised that the cabin crew must use assertive language in conveying the restriction. The way Garuda Indonesia handles a negative review was shocking and it appears that they are making the situation worse by preventing people from sharing their experiences online.

Eventually, the Indonesian flag carrier had retracted their photography and video recording ban after they have been mocked by the public. According to Garuda Indonesia, the directive was an internal document which has been revised to appeal to passengers to respect the privacy of other passengers and flight crew on duty. A spokesman said that the appeal was based on reports and suggestions from passengers who feel uncomfortable and disturbed by the shooting and documentation of activities without permission.

As usual, with anything that goes viral on the internet, other companies have taken the opportunity to make fun of the ban. This includes Grab and other Indonesian brands. At the moment, it appears that Garuda Indonesia had managed to settle the issue with the vlogger. The police summons was withdrawn and it was clarified that it was issued by Garuda Indonesia Labour Union, and not by the airline. Rius had even posted an Instagram update today and it appears that both parties have reconciled. If you do plan to vlog your flight experience, do be mindful about the privacy of other passengers and cabin crew members. Different airlines may have their own policy about taking photos and videos. It is best to consult with the airline or ask permission if you’re going to record a moment that’s going to be more than just for personal use. [soyacincau.co July 20, 2019]

Go-Jek and Go-Food takes steps to reduce single-use plastic

The popular motorcycle-based food delivery service from Go-Jek, operating as Go-Food, is working to limit or eliminate single-use plastic in its services. Two plastic-reduction initiatives were announced by the founder of the successful start-up, Nadiem Makarin, in detik.com.

Customers will have the choice of ordering recyclable materials at an additional cost of Rp. 1,000. Currently, there are more than 750 venders joining the environmental sustainability initiative in the Go-Jek operational areas of Jabodetabek, Bandung, Surabaya, and Bali. Participants joining the green initiative are shown on the Go-Food application. To avoid the use of plastic bags by drivers when delivering food, Go-Jek is also redesigning new drivers’ backpacks with compartments suitable for the transport of food.

Continually seeking to become greener, Go-Jek and Go-Food are collaborating with the Indonesian Ministry for the Environment and Forestry (KLHK) and the World-wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Indonesia. KHLK is assisting Go-Jek in creating carrying bags for food to be used by drivers and helping to educate vendor to avoid single-use plastics. Meanwhile, WWF-Indonesia is also preparing educational materials for drivers, vendors, and the public regarding the threat posed to the environment by single-use of plastic. KLHK estimate that Indonesia produces 175,000 tons of rubbish each day. This total is extrapolated on the assumption that every person produces 0.7 kilograms of trash each day, 15% of which is comprised of single-use plastic. According to the Chief Food Officer of the Go-Jek Group, Catherine Hindra Sutjahyo, her company is pledging to continually seek new ideas and initiatives to preserve and protect the natural environment. [Bali Discovery July 23, 2019]