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A Barcode Unlocks Indonesia’s Billion-Dollar Informal Economy

  • 45 million micro enterprises seen using QR platform this year
  • Cross-border QR transactions will soon be possible in Asean
Customers scan a QR code at a food stall in Jakarta.
Customers scan a QR code at a food stall in Jakarta.Photographer: Dimas Ardian/Bloomberg

From food carts lining Jakarta’s raucous streets to wet markets in Indonesia’s most remote villages, one type of barcode is becoming ubiquitous.

The quick-response code, or QR, lets customers make payments by scanning it with their mobile phones. It’s fast, easy and cheap for merchants — applying for your own QR code costs less than $2 — helping it find widespread adoption among satay stalls and roadside sellers known as warung. Cash is making less of an appearance, and some shops won’t accept it at all.