The Go-Jek problem: Congestion, Informality and Innovation in Urban Transport in Indonesia
June 15, 2020
Eka Afrina, Robbie Peters, Victoria Fanggidae, Maria Lauranti


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The Go\u002DJek problem: Congestion, Informality and Innovation in Urban Transport in Indonesia Image

Online ojek has appeared recently as a new breakthrough in terms of public transportation, which can be booked through our smart phone. This online ojek is very different from the conventional ojek system that already existed since the 1960s. In conventional ojek, prices must be agreed between passengers and drivers. However, online ojek offers the use of fares in accordance with mileage.
Since the introduction of online ojek application "Go-Jek" in 2014, this company dominates the ojek market in urban areas. This is influenced by services with relatively cheap tariffs and registered riders. Customers can order ojek and other services through applications on their smartphones. According to Go-Jek (2017), there are currently about 300,000 Go-Jek drivers, in major cities in Java and Bali.

The existence of Go-Jek and other similar transportation application companies, such as GrabBike and Uber in major cities are causing controversy. Problems arising on the high official level, for example, through the cancellation of one of the Minister of Transportation regulations related to the prohibition of online transportation applications. The cancellation is due to the inability the government to provide fast and decent mass transportation for public. Others argue with the contribution to labor absorption despite many opinions stating that these costumers of the new transportation mode are merely moving from a stable public transport provider to a more unregulated provider.

Related to the phenomenon, a research from Robbie Peters (anthropologist from the University of Sydney) conducted in early 2016 in several pockets of poverty in Jakarta and Surabaya shows that many of the men aged between 18-60 years old who were previously unemployed and underemployed have been Go-Jek's drivers in the past six months. While it is natural for informal sector workers to switch jobs when better opportunities arise, the phenomenon of being a Go-Jek driver is significant in terms of the scale of the shift and the rapid time and the political shocks it causes.

Perkumpulan Prakarsa has also conducted a quick survey in the area around Jabodetabek in May 2016 to 250 respondents of online ojek drivers to illustrate the profile of those working in this sector. The current findings from this survey indicate that those who are working as online ojek drivers are men aged 20 to 60 with a majority of high school education background and previously worked as informal and formal sector workers looking for better income.

Based on the previous research, University of Sydney researchers, Perkumpulan Prakarsa and the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (Lembaga Ilmu Pengetahuan Indonesia, LIPI) attempted to conduct research on workers in the online transportation sector in Jakarta and Surabaya in early 2017. It aims to understand the issue of the development of online ojek service in relation to labor issues in big cities, such as Jakarta and Surabaya. In addition, this study also seeks the perception of commuting citizens who use their services. It is hoped that the results of this study will provide arguments to encourage evidence-based policies by looking at online transportation trends in Jakarta and Surabaya.

This study uses case studies conducted with several methods. These methods include interviews, surveys and observations of ojek drivers, as well as a comparison of the prevailing practices and conditions of online transport workers. This study was also conducted by interviewing transport consumers about their perceptions of the use of these transport services as well as interviews with key informants.

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