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Indonesia Adopts Digital Tech Policies for an Inclusive Future

While Indonesia has one of the fastest-growing digital economies in Southeast Asia, more action is needed to ensure that all Indonesians, particularly the most vulnerable, have access to and reap the benefits of various digital technologies and services, according to a new report. Although the accelerated adoption of internet-enabled services during the pandemic is likely to boost digital economy growth, the benefits of such growth may be unequal.

There are a whole host of opportunities to use digital technologies for promoting better healthcare delivery and improving access among the underserved but these need to be built on a base of reliable and interoperable data systems.

Minister of Health of the Republic of Indonesia.

The pandemic has generated an unprecedented urgency to make this a reality and has also created momentum to expedite the adoption of digital technologies. OpenGov Asia reported that COVID-19 has forced Indonesia’s local governments to quickly adopt digital methods of providing public services. Some agencies and service providers have shifted quickly and successfully, while others are still experimenting to discover what works best for their users.

With the pandemic still ongoing and the number of cases in Indonesia predicted to continue rising into 2021, digital service provision and tech adoptions will need to remain a key focus area to keep vital services flowing while reducing the spread of the virus as much as possible.

The new report emphasises three policy priorities for Indonesia to leverage digital technologies for greater inclusion:

  • To boost digital connectivity and universalise access to high-quality internet through efforts such as improving the clarity of regulations around the sharing of telecom infrastructure.
  • To ensure that the digital economy works for all. This can be supported by better logistics and greater investment in relevant skills for the digital era.
  • Using digital technologies to provide better public services, improve the quality of citizen-and-state interactions, and build trust in the digital world.

Despite progress in expanding internet access over the last decade, the basic connectivity gap in Indonesia remains a major impediment. Almost half of the adult population still lacks access, and the urban-rural connectivity divide has not narrowed.

“Addressing the digital divide goes beyond efforts to reduce the connectivity gap,” said World Bank Country Director for Indonesia. It will be crucial to help citizens develop the skills to maximise digital opportunities, especially for better jobs. At the same time, it is equally important for the government to address the challenges related to regulations and business environment to enable firms to innovate and compete effectively.”

Nevertheless, data fragmentation and the untapped potential of building a comprehensive digital ID framework on top of the existing ID system are some of the major challenges preventing the government from embarking on a broader digital transformation.

The report recommends the establishment of the national digital ID framework to allow Indonesians to securely prove their identity online, as well as a personal data protection law backed by an independent oversight body. It advocates a shift away from a narrow focus on e-government and toward a more comprehensive national digital transformation agenda.

As per a report, in emerging economies, basic digital ID alone could unlock up to 50%-70% of total economic potential, assuming 70% adoption rates. The Philippines and Thailand are among the countries that are making significant progress in laying the infrastructure and regulatory foundations for digital IDs. Others, such as Singapore and Indonesia, are in the process of integrating facial recognition into their national identity schemes. As the vaccination campaign gains traction, governments must recognise and fully utilise the importance of a national digital ID.

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