How ‘Silicon Bali’ Can Transform the Remote Work Landscape


Why on earth would anyone leave their comfortable 9 to 5 job in America, surrounded by familiarity, to go and live alone abroad on an island in Southeast Asia, with an unknown language, unknown cuisine and culture, for work abroad ?

Indonesia is calling!

Located in one of the small Sunda Islands, the province of Bali has been a major traditional Indonesian tourist center since the 1980s. For example, Canggu, the city best known for its remote working community, offers a plethora of activities. ‘attractions for different types of visitors: white sandy beaches, luxury resorts, street food, vibrant 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. Various entrepreneurs, especially from Europe and the Americas, continue to arrive in droves, and local governments have started to take notice. Sandiaga Uno, Minister of Tourism and Creative Economy recently announced plans for a long-term visa which he hopes will attract digital nomads in the long run. The islands of Indonesia are certainly prepared for this transition. From its friendly local culture to the fact that most establishments now offer quality WiFi internet connection, the general standard of living has made Bali the perfect substitute for a cold and unfriendly office.

Olumide Gbenro is a popular digital nomadic leader who has lived in Bali for three years and founded Summit of digital nomads create a dialogue between the government and the expatriate population. He admits that Bali is not a perfect formula and sees much greater potential for Indonesia’s many islands. “Indonesia has more than 17,000 islands. Bali is therefore just a place where digital nomads can thrive while providing tremendous value to the Indonesian government. Places like Lombok are starting to see more of us living and contributing to the local economy. ”

Indonesia wants to become the next digital technology hub

In 2019, the Indonesian government changed the name of the Ministry of Tourism to the Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy. As part of a 2019 national plan, its objective was to optimize the financing of its digital industry; optimize e-commerce operators, improve human resource development and education, as well as its technological infrastructure.

Digital nomads adapt quickly

The origins of the term digital nomad probably come from the academic work of computer scientist Dr. Tsugio Makimoto and writer David Manners in 1997. The couple envisioned a world where mobile technologies would become widely available and affordable by the population and this would facilitate work while traveling. They were right.

With the global advent of massive internet use in the coming years, the digitization of global work has become inevitable. This technological breakthrough is what allowed many highly skilled workers to settle in a place like Bali, and in recent years remote workers have gone from just observing their laptops to creating a culture. starting.

Gbenro explains: “Many people imagine digital nomads with their faces buried in their laptops, sitting in a cafe or restaurant; but things are changing and many business owners, investors and startups are starting to form. Serious nomads with their feet firmly planted here and those with more solid business are still here in Bali.

A good example is Thomas Despin, an island developer based on Buka Buka Island in Sulawesi, who developed Reconnect, a professional getaway for digital nomads and Indonesian entrepreneurs. He says the trend is only going to grow: “Here at Reconnect, we’re seeing a ton of people working online coming in now, not just foreigners, but young remote workers from Jakarta and Bali. “

Olumide says startup culture is starting to emerge from coworking spaces like Tropical Nomad, co-founded by Ichi Yamada and located in bustling downtown Canggu. “Over the past few years, I’ve seen coworking spaces go from a group of people sitting alone on their laptops to lots of meetings where knowledge, information and collaborative energy are held at Tropical Nomad. That’s why we call it now Silicon BaliHe says insolently, “but when the time comes for the sunset and the coconuts, we all forget the internet, meet our group of friends and watch that beautiful sun go down.” “

A digital nomad visa may be the answer

According to nomadlist.com (a website specializing in information for digital nomads), Canggu, a mid-sized city in Bali, has remained among the top-rated global destinations for remote workers, even during the pandemic, but no legal status exists. exists for online workers living in Indonesia. This gray area became much more evident after the onset of the global pandemic. Olumide describes the situation before the pandemic:

“When I first arrived in Bali, I realized that everyone is shopping for visas with tourist visas, which means that every one or two months they would have to leave the country and come back the next day. to renew their tourist visa. “

He says he realized at this point that digital nomads weren’t really able to stay in Indonesia for the long term, so he decided to offer new options to the government.

“Based on this new knowledge, I, along with academics and young Indonesian leaders such as Wahyu Taufiq, created an official document that he physically submitted to the president’s office in Jakarta, as well as a online petition addressed to the Indonesian government, to request the review of a special visa for digital nomads ”.

Digital nomadic visas are nothing new, as several popular destinations for remote workers already have similar programs, such as Barbados, Cayman Islands, Dubai, and Estonia. An official digital nomadic 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 local communities and foreigners, who seek to reap the benefits of tropical living.

“This would not only provide legal certainty for digital migrant workers, but could also represent millions in revenue for the local government, to which we would be extremely happy to contribute, as a thank you for such a unique and ideal place to work,” says Gbenro.

Currently, the project is under consideration by the said government, and “as soon as there is important news, I will share it with the community on our social networks” announces Gbenro, and concludes: “it will change the life for the best of locals and foreigners. “

Impacts of COVID-19

During the global pandemic, with travel restrictions and closed borders, many digital nomads returned to their home countries, and many did not return 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 primarily dependent on the tourism industry. Without an innovative solution, Indonesia’s iconic tourist destination could continue to suffer for years to come.


About Andrew Miller

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