Indonesian Taxi Company Wants To Beat Uber At Its Own Game

One of Indonesia's thousands of Blue Bird taxis
One of Indonesia's thousands of Blue Bird taxis

JAKARTA â€" Amid violent anti-Uber protests by taxi drivers in the Indonesian capital, the country’s largest taxi company is trying to defeat its app-based American competitor with an innovative approach: uberize itself. Leading Indonesian magazine Tempo reports that the Blue Bird taxi company is seeking to shift its business model to a car-sharing service, competing directly on the terrain of Uber and other local digital upstarts.

Founded in 1965, Blue Bird has more than 32,500 vehicles in its nationwide fleet. Thousands of taxi drivers from Blue Bird and rival taxi services took to the streets last week to protest against Uber, shutting down the Jakarta's main thoroughfares, adding to the capital's infamous traffic jams.

But unlike other legacy taxi companies, Blue Bird management has been swift in reacting to the new kind of competition, becoming one of the first taxi companies in the world to launch its own smartphone app in 2011, which allowed users to order rides immediately or by appointment.

The app since migrated to Android and Apple iOS, but the company wants to go further: building in cashless payment and GPS-based ride sharing to compete against Uber and Grab, a popular Malaysia-based taxi app.

For now, however, Blue Bird is up against government regulations that require cab companies to operate using a meter, whereas sharing apps charge prices based on real-time demand and supply. Taxi companies must also pay expensive business license fees and other assorted taxes.

But if Blue Bird gets its way, it could be a model for taxi companies around the world looking to move into the fast lane of the digital revolution.

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Dutch Cities Have Been Secretly Probing Mosques Since 2013

Revelations of a nationally funded clandestine operation within 10 municipalities in the Netherlands to keep tabs on mosques and Muslim organizations after a rise in radicalization eight years ago.

The Nasser mosque in Veenendaal, one of the mosques reportedly surveilled

Meike Eijsberg

At least ten Dutch towns and cities have secretly used a private agency to probe mosques and other local religious organizations, Amsterdam-based daily het NRC reports in an exclusive investigation.

The clandestine operation — funded by NCTV, the National Security Services, the Netherlands' leading counter-terrorism agency — was prompted by the social unrest and uncertainty following multiple terror attacks in 2013, and a rise in Islamic radicalization.

The NCTV, which advises and financially supports municipalities in countering radicalization, put the municipalities in touch with Nuance by Training and Advice (Nuance door Trainingen en Advies, NTA), a private research agency based in Deventer, Netherlands. Among the institutions targeted by the investigations, which came at a cost of circa 500,000 euros, were the Al Mouahidin mosque in the central Dutch town of Ede, and the Nasser mosque east of the city of Utrecht, according to NRC.

Photo of people standing on prayer mats inside a Dutch mosque

Praying inside a Dutch mosque.


Broken trust in Islamic community

Unlike public officials, the private agency can enter the mosques to clandestinely research the situation. In this case, the agents observed activity, talk to visitors, administrators, and religious leaders, and investigated what they do and say on social media.

All findings then wound up in a secret report which includes personal details about what the administrators and teachers studied, who their relatives are, with whom they argued, and how often they had contact with authorities in foreign countries, like Morocco.

Leaders of the Muslim organizations that were secretly probed say they feel betrayed.

It is unclear whether the practice is legal, which is why several members of the Dutch Parliament are now demanding clarification from the outgoing Minister of Justice and Security, Ferd Grapperhaus, who is said to be involved.

"The ease with which the government violates (fundamental) rights when it comes to Islam or Muslims is shocking," Stephan van Baarle, member of the leftist party DENK, told De Volkskrant, another Dutch newspaper.

Leaders of the Muslim organizations that were secretly probed say they feel betrayed. Hassan Saidi, director of one of the mosques investigated, said that the relationship with the local municipality had been good. "This puts a huge dent in the trust I'd had in the municipality," he told the Dutch public broadcaster NOS.

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