How Indonesia’s new national strategy aims to accelerate the growth of Southeast Asia’s largest AI ecosystem

By Mochamad Azhar

Indonesia plans to accelerate artificial intelligence (AI) innovation with a new national strategy to nurture the AI ​​ecosystem. GovInsider speaks with the President of the Indonesian Artificial Intelligence Industry Research and Innovation Collaboration (KORIKA), Professor Hammam Riza, to learn more.

The Indonesian government is introducing a refreshed national strategy to accelerate innovation and use of AI in the public sector. Image: Canva

From social media recommendation algorithms to generative AI that can power the next wave of digital innovation, AI has emerged as a cornerstone of digital technology in the contemporary era, with ever-expanding benefits for people. 


"AI capabilities will continue to increase exponentially in the future because it is supported by the abundant availability of data on the internet, sophisticated computing power, and a level of creativity that rivals the human brain," says Professor Hammam Riza, President of the Indonesian Artificial Intelligence Industry Research and Innovation Collaboration (KORIKA), to GovInsider.


Indonesia’s public sector is responding to the rapid development of artificial intelligence with a new national strategy which aims to ensure that the country is not left behind by other economies that are making extensive use of AI technology. This strategy is called the 2045 Artificial Intelligence National Strategy (Stratnas AI).


Nurturing an AI innovation ecosystem in Indonesia’s public sector


Hammam shares with GovInsider that the Stratnas AI plan is expected to guide the government, industry, academia and the community to create leaps and bounds in technological innovation and achieve Indonesia's target of becoming a developed country in 2045.


As one of the AI ​​Stratnas drafters, Professor Hammam shared that the government’s national AI strategy prioritises five key areas that will benefit from AI innovation, namely, health, bureaucratic reform, education and research, food security, and smart city development.


In the health sector, Stratnas AI aims to improve the health service system to become more optimal and efficient, for example, through strengthening telemedicine. AI can speed up the process of diagnosing patients' illnesses and provide recommendations for appropriate action, so that health care facilities can treat more patients at one time, Hammam explains.


For hospital management, AI may also serve to predict patient entry and discharge schedules and analyse the number of inpatient rooms and available health workers in each area, and support healthcare workers in improving efficiency and seamlessness in operations.


"The use of AI in the health sector will work if there is already a qualified digital infrastructure and if adequate medical data is available," Hammam said about the requirements.


In the field of bureaucratic reform, AI is driving efficiency gains in public service delivery. For example, the use of chatbots in public service mall applications will make it easier for people to submit business forms and make transactions.


"In the past, someone applying for a business license had to meet with 3 to 4 officers. With AI, the administrative process can be shortened so that the bureaucracy becomes more efficient and public services improve in quality," said Hammam.


Another example of the role AI can play in bureaucratic reform is to assist in the process of evaluating the use of the state budget. AI can prevent the preparation of budgets that are inconsistent with the references or models set by policy makers.


Sustainability and collaboration are key


Hammam points out that the most important thing in ensuring the success of Stratnas AI targets is to remain focused and sustainable. The commitment to building an innovation ecosystem must be supported by all stakeholders, from industry, community and government across ministries and agencies.


"Policy makers must also be keen to see investment prospects that will support the strengthening of the AI ​​ecosystem in Indonesia, including blockchain, cloud, and data mining, if we don't want to be left behind," he continues.


Hammam says the team had produced a draft Presidential Regulation on the National Strategy for Artificial Intelligence in 2021. This draft will soon become the legal umbrella for regulations related to research programs, utilization and AI business models that will be implemented in Indonesia. The Presidential Decree on Stratnas AI is still awaiting the President's signature.


Stratnas AI also mandated the formation of KORIKA, an organization that embodies collective thinking and collaborative cooperation from four entities, namely, government, industry, academia, and public communities. KORIKA will become a bridge for all stakeholders in expanding innovation, participation and utilization of AI technology nationally.


"KORIKA will ensure that AI-based research and innovation initiative programs run well to have a positive impact on society and the economy," said Hammam.


In addition, KORIKA also plays a role in creating AI talents who will focus on developing new products and creating new industries in a sustainable manner. The membership system is open and anyone can participate, including both individuals and the public and private sectors.


The potential for AI in Indonesia


According to Hammam, whoever controls AI has the opportunity to lead the world. All countries are now competing to strengthen their AI ecosystem. The United States and Europe started first, and now Asia is following. China is famous for China's AI Dream, Singapore with its AI Singapore, and Vietnam has VinAI.


"Why isn't Indonesia there, even though we have great potential to become a world-class AI player?" he says.


Indonesia is the largest digital economy market in Southeast Asia with a growth potential of US$ 140 billion by 2025. Second, Indonesia has a demographic dividend that can be nurtured into a ready-to-use workforce in various sectors of AI utilization and growth.


Third, more and more new generations of Indonesians are pursuing studies in the fields of information technology, science and computational studies, which will be a critical requirement for harnessing AI. Finally, Indonesia has universities across the archipelago, some of which function as world-class centres of excellence for AI development.


According to Hammam, the AI ​​ecosystem in Indonesia has been brewing for some time. However, the development is hindered by sectoral silos and a lack of focus. Research and implementation of AI has also been adopted more quickly by the private sector than the public sector.


"If we don't want to be left behind, Indonesia must focus on policy strategies and collaborate with all stakeholders so that the benefits of AI technology can be used as widely as possible for the public interest," he says.

This article was originally published in Bahasa Indonesia. The original version of the article can be accessed here.