I’ve frequently traveled to South East Asia since my parents are from Malaysia. The region is notorious for having incredibly bad traffic problems. The most congested traffic I’ve experienced is Bangkok in Thailand. Beijing is fairly bad too but since rules aren’t really enforced, it’s not uncommon to see cars drive on footpaths. Traffic is a huge problem that costs time, energy, emissions and is a main cause of road rage.  Next time I suggest turning up the radio and dancing in your car if you’ve got no other choice.

But a more logical and technologically advanced way of solving this problem is to do what LewatMana in Indonesia is doing a collborative platform for beating the traffic in Jakarta. Lewatmana offers Indonesian drivers a platform for pooling information on traffic conditions in the bustling capital. Users share a network of webcams, tweets and text messages in addition to official cameras. In this way they can manage and plan their journey, helping to reduce traffic and CO2 emissions. For solving such a prevalent and important social problem, LewatMana was one of the top 10 projects chosen at the Net Explorateur competition in France. A prestigious world wide competition where 500 projects applied, then eventually shortlisted to top 10.

So to get some insight into LewatMana and a bit about the start-up environment in Indonesia, I interviewed its founder Hendry.

What is your background?

I have background in Computer Science and have been working in business software industry.

What is Lewatamana?

LewatMana.com is an Integrated Digital Platform which makes it easy to share road traffic information through several different digital media including web, mobile and navigation devices. Everyone can participate. We are working closely with business, institution and individual to participate and to finally form an ecosystem which would benefit everyone who participates.

Why did you make it?

Traffic has been a big problem in big cities in the world, and Jakarta is one of them. So we make this service to help the commuters to be able to get access to the road traffic information easily. We help them to plan their trip accordingly maybe by avoiding certain roads or even postpone their trip so they can make better use of their time instead of being trapped in a traffic jam. We are hoping that the more people knowing more about the road condition and be able to save few minutes of travel times. Imagine if in average people can save only 5 minutes of their travel time per cars and that saving comes from 100,000 or 500,000 or 1,000,000 cars, that would be 500,000 to 5,000,000 minutes worth of gasoline being saved and carbon from vehicles emission can be reduced

How does it work?

Currently there are 3 platforms that we currently operate:

  1. CCTV Networks, it is a collection of CCTVs installed in several locations through out the city
  2. Short text, allow user to have 2 ways interaction where they can easily ask, contribute and check information through sms, mobile web and twitter.
  3. Digital data, these are the data that we collect from floating sensors on the vehicles.

How many users/downloads?

Since launching mid 2009 there are more than 1,200,000 unique users have used the service, monthly about 25%-30% of them is active. There are probably more uncounted users who access the information from our partner site which we do not have the statistic number. We partner with Indonesia largest news portal (detik.com) and Indonesia biggest telco operator (Telkomsel), in addition we also partners with Google maps.

Is it invested into?

Currently this is a self funded

What is the start-up environment like in Indonesia?

The start-up environment in Indonesia in general is currently still in infancy. There is no support from government yet at the moment. The community of the internet and mobile projects (often refer as start-up) is growing rapidly in past 2 years.

What is the investment market like?

There are several VC’s that are starting to put an eye on good prospective projects/start-up in Indonesia. Recently a local based VC just funded Indonesian biggest community site (forum) and through their incubator company also have housed about 6 local start-ups. There are also another VC which is backed by some Japanese VC who funded few (6-8) interesting start-ups. So in general things are still at a very young stage and due to Indonesia’s market size the VCs definitely do not want to miss any action in Indonesia.

What did it mean for you to get short-listed in the top 10 of the Netexplorateur competition?

Firstly it gave great encouragement to the team. Secondly the recognition will definitely bring more positive impact toward our service and solution.

Vision for Lewatmana?

To become the one stop solution for traffic information solution and location based service especially in the area of local commuting.