Government aims for ‘mass use’ of AI amid spike in research

Around 45% of Indonesian workers – ranging from service providers to government officials, teachers and university academics – already use artificial intelligence-based applications to boost their work productivity and efficiency, according to a recent survey.

Building on this buy-in, the Indonesian government wants to roll out AI-assisted technologies to boost innovation, efficiency and economic growth, seeing this as an opportunity to move from a “natural resource-based country to an innovation-based country”, according to the previous head of the national Research and Innovation Agency (BRIN), Bambang Brodjonegoro.

The latest survey by Populix titled “Unveiling the Revolution: How technology reshapes the future of work”, released in May 2023, found that use of ChatGPT – the text generating AI-powered large language model released by American company OpenAI in November 2022 – is used by 52% of respondents in Indonesia., a content generating app, is used by 29%.

Around three-quarters of respondents said they used ChatGPT because it was a good work tool. The platform also has many templates for exploring ideas, with some companies and universities even ordering the use of specific templates. The survey, conducted in April, involved 1,014 respondents in Indonesia aged between 17 and 55.

While the government recognises the potential of such AI tools, take-up in Indonesia is still behind other AI-literate Asian countries such as Singapore, China and India. To catch up, the government drew up ‘Stranas’ – the Indonesian acronym for national strategy – to develop its own AI regulations to speed up AI adoption by academics, private corporations, research and innovation organisations.

The ambitious AI Stranas include plans for national standards, regulations and an ethics board to ensure AI development is in accordance with the country’s values system. It prioritises five fields: health services, reform of government bureaucracy, research and education, food security, and smart cities where the government will provide incentives and increase investment in AI research.

According to official projections, government investment in AI should place Indonesia among the world’s top 10 in AI by 2030. With the roll-out of AI, the country’s GDP should increase by 10% by 2030 and 22% by 2045.

‘Mass use’ use of AI

In 2021, BRIN held an Artificial Intelligence Innovation Summit to formulate the national strategy in order to achieve what it called ‘Indonesia Emas’ (Golden Indonesia) by 2045, which would involve what it calls ‘mass use’ of AI.

It will include open exchange of digital data in public services and transparent communications systems within government institutions.

Laksana Tri Handoko, current head of BRIN, said Indonesia’s research on AI-related topics has developed significantly since 2010. And Asian countries’ dominance of global research in this area is even more interesting.

“AI is a bit different to other fields of science that are dominated by European and American scientists. AI is dominated by Asian scientists, particularly in East Asia, more particularly China,” Handoko said during a discussion in Jakarta on 3 July, called Digitalisasi, AI dan Masa Depan Kita – Digitalisation, AI and Our Future.

He also pointed to an increasing number of scientific publications on AI from Indonesia. These doubled during 2020-21, from 1,600 publications to 3,500. BRIN also announced that it has secured 150,000 patents for AI-related inventions during the same period.

For example, Lucky Gani, marketing director of Microsoft in Indonesia, noted: “In medical science, BRIN has developed an AI-assisted rapid test kit to detect the potential of cancer, malaria and tuberculosis, much earlier so that medical costs will be much lower than at present.”

Opportunity for global cooperation

Universities are at the forefront of AI development, setting up collaborations with foreign counterparts and private corporations.

On 22 July the University of Indonesia, represented by its Faculty of Computer Science, signed a collaboration agreement with Samsung Research Indonesia (SRIN) on AI and robotics.

Dr Petrus Mursanto, the faculty dean, said the university and SRIN had agreed to adopt AI and robotics technology in higher education. “Our super computer is designed to execute various programmes, from research to lectures and administration,” he told University World News.

“We are entering [a] new [era of] exploration in AI-based technology, and the University of Indonesia is a strategic partner,” said Risman Adnan, head of SRIN.

Similarly, Brawijaya University signed an agreement with Microsoft Indonesia on 11 April to develop AI and digital talent.

Rector Professor Widodo pointed to the move towards a digitised world, noting: “Teaching and learning processes are no exception. To keep our university relevant, we will work together with Microsoft, one of the world’s leading companies in AI.

“We will provide our students with digital and AI knowledge and competency, so they will be more creative and innovative.”

On 5 May the Christian University of Indonesia signed a cooperation agreement on AI development with Irkutsk National Research Technical University in Russia. The collaboration kicked off with an online seminar on ‘Trends and Development in Artificial Intelligence’ on the day of the signing ceremony.

Christian University of Indonesia Rector Dr Dhaniswara K Harjono said during the signing ceremony: “We are delighted to expand international cooperation, especially with institutions and higher education organisations, particularly for teaching, research and community service purposes.” He noted that Irkutsk National Research Technical University was his institution’s first partner in Russia.

Dealing with fear

However, not everybody is excited about the new technology, and this could hamper the government’s plan for mass use of AI.

Microsoft’s Work Trend Index 2023, released in May, surveyed 31,000 people in 31 countries including Indonesia through email, online interviews and chat. It showed that 48% of Indonesian workers were afraid of being replaced by AI.

But more than half feel AI can help them in their work. This group uses AI for administrative work, analysis and creative works, according to Microsoft.

Though 52% at present, the proportion of people in the pro-AI group is growing. “The hope and confidence that AI will make their tasks easy overcomes the fear of being replaced by it. Some 75% of workers said they will be able to delegate their work to AI,” the Microsoft report said.

Microsoft’s Gani said new generative AI “will enable workers to focus more on creative work, so that it will lead to innovation”.

Despite AI’s ability to increase productivity and work efficiency, he stressed that humans should remain the ‘wise controller’.

“AI technology is our co-pilot, not auto-pilot. It should be under our control,” Gani said.

Microsoft’s 2023 research found that 61% of Indonesian workers admitted they did not have the skills to do their jobs. This could soon change as AI-based technology introduces new tools for creative work that include assistance with analytical judgement, emotional intelligence, creative evaluation and intellectual curiosity.

Nonetheless, according to Microsoft, the use of AI does not necessarily mean more productivity and efficient work practices.

Instead, it can draw workers into so-called ‘digital debt’, a term that describes putting workers in constant need to coordinate and communicate at work, which diverts their time from deep thinking, creating and actually working.

In Indonesia, Microsoft found that 76% of workers said they did not have time to get their work done – 12% higher than the global figure of 64%. Indonesian respondents said they spent 57% of their time on communication and 43% on creative tasks. Inefficient online meetings were cited as the most annoying. Gani said this could lead to Microsoft making new adjustments to AI tools.