The Cultural Transformation of the Gig Economy through Mobile Apps: The Study Case of Motorcycle Taxi in Indonesia | Maria Auxiliadora Rahaditya

by Critical Asia

by Maria Auxiliadora Rahaditya, Dec. 2021】


In 2015, the early expansion of the app began. GoJek crowed the street of Jakarta and thousands flocked on the road. GoJek embraced the drivers by offering an easy way to be a member. They freely accepted every driver as long as they have motorcycles and driver licenses. This cultural transformation was the hotbed for the black sheep to advocate the tension between GoJek and Ojek. Then, the goals of cultural transformation fail due to the leadership skills. A tension between clan culture with transformation culture is inevitable. Essentially, the organization’s method of conflict resolution is related to the organization’s purpose. For example, the gig economy drives the user perspective in providing the most efficient and convenient taxi ride (Uber) since its international launch in 2011, despite many rejections coming from conventional taxis. In this case, I believe the presence of GoJek brings cultural transformation in society, especially in the way users seeing safety too. Because of the requirements to be GoJek drivers previously, some news has reported that office workers or even students have also become Ojek drivers.

Another transformation in terms of the social relationship between drivers and trips is that the number of Ojek Pengkolan drivers has decreased dramatically since the trips rely on easier options of ride-hailing approach as the safest way of living. They do not have to leave the house to use services or call an in-place driver. They don’t need to negotiate because the rates have been determined by the system, even cheaper with the promos offered. On the drivers’ side, they do not need to wait long to get customers especially with the many decisions the app is regulating.

GoJek drivers create new communities that are no longer based on the same cultural identity, but rather on common identity through uniforms. So, how the Indonesian society act in response to this transformation? Humans are fundamentally hard to swallow the pill especially in changes, so the obvious outcome of this transformation is the clash and protests towards GoJek. Massive demonstrations took place in all major cities in Indonesia such as Jakarta, Surabaya, Malang, Medan, Bandung, and many more, which carried out by the conventional ride-hailing vehicles (Angkot, Metro Mini, Ojek) that refusing the existence of Ride-hailing online vehicles (GoJek, Uber, GrabBike). The demonstration blocked out the main roads headed to the airports, train stations, and bus terminals causing serious injuries to both parties and vehicle damage. The clashes were driven as an excuse of the conventional transportation’s demands towards the governments about the 2009 regulations that should have prohibited two-wheeled vehicles from becoming mass transportation. 

Even though the Ojek itself has been around since the 1960s, the existing culture of indigenous Ride-Hailing offline thrived to prevent the occurrence of this cultural transformation in all provinces in Indonesia as the source of livelihood. The difference is that GoJek dominated the market because they offer simplicity and convenience, and there is a huge income gap, where people are starting to use GoJek because of the cheaper rates, the guarantee of safety, and the promotion.

Cultural Transformation of Gig Economy: Ride-hailing Vehicles

As cultural cycles have continuously arisen free, social and financial structures have become complicated and interdependent, and globalization is shifting past the field of economics to immerse different elements of life, especially the way of life. It has influenced all societies and economies, and political frameworks, making the reality and our point of view of it change radically by the significant changes in media communications and the coming of the globalization and the internet.

So, what does culture mean? How does the cultural transformation raise conflicts?

Cultural transformation is the sped-up changes made by parties that concentrate on their organizations’ development through human-centered approach by entrusting their workers and seeing the way they work.  As cultural transformation grows, digital globalization determines social connections through digital platforms. It is critical to discover from wherein the drawback of cultural change is coming. Therefore, we can make a conscious effort to break down barriers to transform. In addition, digital transformation isn’t just about leveraging technology. Even though the brand-new manner can be of greater use to them, human beings characteristically tend to resist alternatives. Therefore, the successful implementation of the cultural change plan needs to be able to effectively attract multiple stakeholders such as employees, customers, and suppliers, even the governments.

Transportation is a key aspect of economic and common tool used for the development of a country. By drawing on the concept of cultural transformation, transportation as the driving economy vehicle raises controversial yet develop transportation transformation. Today, the information in media interaction is quickly getting predominant in all post-industrial, knowledge societies, causing immense sociocultural, sociopolitical, and socioeconomic transformations. Since the invention of the mobile phone and the internet accelerated transportation development where Uber has “stepped up the game” in changing people’s perspective towards public transportation especially taxis, we encounter the emergence of smart cities that has evolved from a disorderly process to a more standardized one. In addition, the emergence of new innovative business models such as mobile platforms in the transportation industry have quickly become a major challenge faced by established operators. During this interaction, urban areas put forth attempts to utilize advanced innovation of digital Intermediation through a mobile-based platform.

The leading global players of the gig economy like Uber, Lyft, or Airbnb make us rethink the normal views on how cultures get created and modified. By turning out to be key go-betweens in the work cycle of outsourcing, these start-apps conceivably foreshadow an extreme change in the scales at which capital can communicate with work. In the culture of the delivery agent, “the runaway apps” have introduced several features and initiatives to bring the cultural transformation that changes the way of the life of both carrier and users. The ride-hailing app immediately connects the driver with the users, obviously providing a reliable journey and preventing the driver from choosing users. As a result, the cultural transformation of the gig economy has shaped people in the services industry to become more personal and connected with trips.

The Old Way of Ride-hailing “Ojek”

Motorcycle taxi, otherwise called Ojek, has been working in Indonesia since the 1960s in Central Java. The word Ojek came from the Dutch expression of “object” which signifies “commodity.”  It began as a common trust-based assistance utilizing bikes where it offered human transportation or merchandise conveyances, and rental administrations which can just covered a little space of neighborhoods. The current circumstance on the small carrier commodity (Ojek) is a low monetary base at present-day prerequisites of value traveler transportation. Because of the absence of framework (like appropriate streets) and public transportation in the distant regions around then, motorcycle was effectively used to help move merchandise and individuals to the closest area. Before long thereafter, Ojek was founded in Jakarta and grew further by utilizing a cruiser in practically all urban communities and country regions in Indonesia.

The idea of ride-sharing was proposed as the cultural clan. Public transportation in Indonesia supported sharing vehicles (numpang: hook in, taking cabin). Back then, vehicles were not possessed by numerous individuals, so everybody that expected to head out needed to stroll for quite a while. Since Indonesians maintain the principle of clan culture, vehicle proprietors effectively offer rides to the individuals who ventured to every part of similar courses as they went or loan their vehicles. Indonesians like to chatter, hang out, or share space, even with outsiders. So, it is usual to discover individuals who leave their vehicles at other’s homes or lend and get vehicles from one another. This social standard likewise reflected in the public authority arrangements to defeat traffic. For instance, through the 3-in-1 approach in 2003, by not permitting vehicles under 3 travelers to pass the street, vehicle proprietors needed to go to work with their neighbors or needed to pay a few outsiders who were at that point looking out for the roadside.

Besides its prevalence, Ojek is as yet illicit in Indonesia as per Law Number 22 the Year 2009 about Traffic and Transportation, which precludes two-wheeled vehicles from being utilized as open transportation for either individuals or products. It is impressively simple to be an Ojek driver since it is unprotected by the law but ensured by the guideline. Likewise, there are no particular necessities for being an Ojek driver. However, one needs to apply to be a part of any based (pangkalan) they are in. As an individual from pangkalan, they just need to store modest quantities of cash once per week or month, and later it will be utilized by all individuals to eat outside, pay for individuals out of luck, and all the other things they’re consenting to. In picking pangkalan itself, individuals who need to join normally will just think about normal personality, like a similar old neighborhood beginning, adjoining home, normal destiny as they are known their identity. What is more, when clients go to their site, they will utilize a queueing framework, aside from ordinary clients who can openly pick any drivers they need with more adaptable installment. These frameworks were viewed as more pleasant for either driver or clients. That is the reason, notwithstanding its lawlessness, why Ojek stands out.

Runaway Apps “GoJek

The city authorities are moving to long haul contracts and the development of a single transport coordinator offering quality types of assistance in the required volume. In the ‘sharing’ transportation business, business operations are aimed at sharing vehicles and sharing users and vehicle owners themselves. By using the concept of the creative economy, GoJek successfully strives to help the development in Indonesia.  It also embraces other services than ride-sharing, such as GoFood, GoMart, GoShop even GoMed.

The service strategy has been adopted to support the cultural transformation by leading the people’s perspective in reliance on GoJek. Breemer (2021) reported that “The transportation service strategy supports the smooth running of customer service with internet services in which there is evidence of good service, attention to customers, can be relied on, responds well to customers and provides safety guarantees to customers which will ultimately increase public trust and satisfaction with online transportation.” While this is a challenge, organizational culture change can lead to improved performance if it optimizes the way a firm’s culture is aligned with its strategy. By addressing this challenge, the GoJek leader successfully seeps through apps to support cultural transformation and support the economic growth.

Ojek has never become the main source of income for its workers. Even though ojek is an illegal job, neither the government nor society can forbid its existence because ojek service is still needed. Ojek is no longer seen as expensive public transportation, or even stereotypes that ojek drivers are ex-criminals, and other stereotypes. Therefore, the distrust of trips increased the cultural transformation of GoJek introduces new features to make rides even safer. Even though the number of the Ojek pangkalan’ sites decline, small numbers can adapt because they carry the characteristic of culture clan. A qualitative study by Fathy described how the situation of one of the Ojek pangkalan in Jakarta has managed to survive the cultural transformation of the ride-hailing online vehicles due to the close relationship between the drivers and users, and their fellow Ojek pangkalan drivers. They enhance the cooperative relationship between one site to another, maintain trust and loyalty with each other, and further ensure safety and comfort for customers.

Why Ride-hailing?

With the spread of “Mobility-on-Demand” platforms, the transport sector is one of the pioneers of the sharing economy revolution with a multitude of new forms of technology-supported mobility for car sharing, ride sharing, shared bicycles, scooters, and shared journeys. The developed ride-hailing recommendation system has been optimized for minimizing the waiting time for taxi services. The number of private cars will remain and will continue to grow, and this poses challenges for authorities on how to manage their stock and integrate it into a comprehensive public transport system. Increasing consumer choice, security, tariff clarity is the main consideration of moving to Ojek online. These ride-hailing firms, all endowed via economic investments, are capable of subsidizing prices and provide a far decrease rate than conventional ojek. In Indonesia, GoJek, the pioneer of the ride-hailing motorcycle since its début, has increased its services for the way of urban life. Even President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) is on the report as a sturdy supporter of GoJek, having invited leading government officers to accompany him to the US to promote Indonesia’s digital potential.

Working conditions is incredibly abundant part of GoJek’s foundational narrative. Ranging from up to 50-year-old, two helmets, a jacket and an android phone, the company’s medical and accident insurance, and million for lost items sent by a courier that the benefits for the drivers who choose to work for GoJek. Other mechanisms attract the platform’s business model, such as bonuses, dynamic prizes, rewards, and additional benefits (including increased visibility of personal data and priority access to projects). Therefore, drivers and users are creating network effects and added value of convenience in transportation.


As I quoted, “The growth of demand for ride-hailing services has disrupted urban transportation and is changing how people travel”. The existence of GoJek has something to do with the dynamic of social relationships between drivers (as a worker) and service users (as a client) as well as between drivers (in-group communities). Both conventional Ojek and online Ojek brought different approaches in engaging with their business. Conventional Ojek emphasized mutual trust to get customers and prioritized the principle of brotherhood (or asas kekeluargaan) to build their in-group community. On the contrary, GoJek relies on profit and company perks by finding many customers. and their in-group community was formed with the use of uniforms or attributes. Therefore, conventional transportation drivers developed a feeling of being threatened and anxiety that the old dynamics of social relationships that they have long formed will disappear and be replaced by new ones. Ultimately, these feelings drove the protests herding in Indonesia.

Maria Auxiliadora Rahaditya, National Yang Ming Chiao Tung University, Taiwan

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