An Indonesian bank has transformed a boat into a mobile bank outlet, providing services to residents living on remote islands of the sprawling archipelago. Officially launched in August by President Joko Widodo, the service is the first of its kind in the south east Asia nation, and is hoping to make banking services more accessible to people living on the country's many sparsely populated islands.
The service offered by Bank Rakyat Indonesia (BRI) is in a trial period and currently serving five islands in the Thousand Islands regency, a chain of islands off the coast of the capital Jakarta. The boat takes off every Monday from Jakarta to visit five islands, one each day, and returns on Friday.
Equipped with three service desks and an ATM, the boat allows islanders, who used to have to travel to Jakarta, a one-stop shop for services such as personal banking and loans. One resident on Pramuka Island, which is about a two-hour boat ride from Jakarta, said it used to take days to complete her business transactions.
"[It takes] one day go to the [main]land, and another day to return, [and] it takes about two to three days if we need to go to the bank. Although this service is provided once in a week, it helps a lot," said Hudreya.
Since the arrival of the boat bank, more local businesses have been given small loans to expand – an important change on the islands that mainly rely on the tourism industry. Ferdinand Tahamata, an assistant manager for the bank who has overlooked the operation, said the ultimate goal of the programme is to provide all residents with a bank account and the funds they need.
Tahamata, the assistant manager of the Micro-business Department at the BRI Jelamber branch in Jakarta, said: "We'll continue the operation until we think we've garnered enough support from the people, which means everyone on the island has a bank account and can gain access to the capital they need, then we'll establish a branch on the thousand island regency to serve the people here. Then our boat can move on to other parts, like eastern Indonesia, or the other islands."