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Facebook founder presses Indonesian leader on web access

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Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg pressed Indonesia's incoming leader Monday to improve Internet access in the sprawling archipelago saying that his social media network and other sites can help boost the economy. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

[Jakarta] Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg pressed Indonesia's incoming leader Monday to improve Internet access in the sprawling archipelago saying that his social media network and other sites can help boost the economy.

Zuckerberg met president-elect Joko Widodo at his office in the capital Jakarta, before both men - still dressed in their suits - made a tour through the cramped alleys of a bustling textile market, mobbed by an enthusiastic crowd.

Such impromptu visits are a trademark of Widodo, known by his nickname Jokowi, whose man of the people image helped him win power at elections in July. He will be inaugurated next week.

The Facebook founder said their conversations "focused on how big the opportunity is just to get everyone on the Internet, and on to basic services that they can use to communicate with people, like messaging and things like Facebook".

"If we do that then I do think we can help grow the economy in a big way, which is one of the primary priorities that (Widodo) has," he added.

Experts believe that improved web access could greatly help businesses struggling to operate in Indonesia, which is spread across around 17,000 islands and three time zones.

In 2013 only 28 per cent of Indonesians had Internet access, according to the country's association of Internet providers. However a huge number of those with access to the web are on Facebook, which is wildly popular in Indonesia.

Zuckerberg was visiting Indonesia to promote the internet.org app, which allows people in underdeveloped areas to access basic online services.

Facebook launched the app earlier this year in cooperation with several partners and trials are taking place in several developing countries, including Indonesia.

Zuckerberg also spoke enthusiastically about Indonesian culture, saying he hoped better web access would help to increase interest in the subject.

He was pictured at the weekend at the famous Hindu temple of Borobodur on the main island of Java.

"There are all this different parts of culture and innovation that the world can have from Indonesia that we are currently being robbed off because a lot of people don't have a way to share that and communicate that to the rest of the world," he said. AFP