Earlier this week, we heard more details about Indonesia’s plans to complete a national artificial intelligence (AI) strategy. The development spotlighted the Southeast Asian state’s ongoing efforts to move forward with its approach to AI, including the areas concerned as well as the opportunities and challenges therein.
Like other countries in Southeast Asia and the wider world, Indonesia has been part of a growing conversation about artificial intelligence and its impact on government and wider society. While officials themselves have acknowledged that the country has been lagging behind in the AI field, there have been discussions about how to move forward in a range of contexts, ranging from e-commerce to smart city plans for Indonesia’s new capital. This is despite the structural challenges that Jakarta has to keep in mind as well, including the shortage of talent with respect to AI and the difficulties in designing a policy and legal framework to move forward with new measures.
One aspect of Indonesia’s AI approach is the adoption of a new AI national strategy. The strategy, which was initiated by the Agency for the Assessment and Application of Technology (BPPT), with inputs from a range of state ministries and other institutions and organizations from various areas, was designed to set out an overall approach for the country in the field, with a focus on developing AI for public services that could have a major impact on society. Earlier this month, BPPT’s director of information technology and communication, Michael Andreas Purwoadi, told a workshop on artificial intelligence that the goal would be to complete it by July 2020.
This week, we saw another set of comments on the state of the strategy and Indonesia’s approach to AI. In comments to the media, Bambang Brodjonegoro, Indonesia’s minister of research and technology, delved into a few areas that the AI strategy would focus on, including those in the defense domain.
Per comments published by state-owned Antara news agency on February 24, Brodjonegoro indicated that the focus of the strategy would be to support capability development in technologies related to artificial intelligence, including advances in specific sectors in Indonesia such as the national defense industry. The focus would be on various areas, including policies to support local industrial integration of technologies in fields such as big data analytics and data sciences.
Unsurprisingly, Brodjonegoro did not provide much in the way of additional details about the strategy publicly, with the document itself still in the works. And, to be sure, a true assessment of Indonesia’s AI strategy will have to await not only the release of the document itself, but how it is implemented, operationalized, and institutionalized within the Indonesian government more broadly, especially in light of the structural challenges mentioned earlier.
Nonetheless, the comments suggest that Indonesia is trying to make inroads in its thinking about a significant domain in its wider defense capabilities. As such, how this defense strategy document plays out will continue to be among the indicators of how the Southeast Asian state manages the opportunities and challenges in AI on the security side in the months and years ahead.