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Indonesia publishes AI strategy

The Indonesian government has introduced a national strategy that will guide the country in developing artificial intelligence (AI) between 2020 and 2045.

The country is to focus its AI projects on education and research, health services, food security, mobility, smart cities, and public sector reform. The news follows a surprise announcement by Indonesia’s president Joko Widodo late last year in which he said he had ordered government agencies to replace top civil servants with AI during 2020, though there has been no news since on whether that agenda is progressing.

At the launch of the AI guidelines last week, research and technology minister and National Research and Innovation Agency (BRIN) head Bambang Brodjonegoro said the government is determined to create an independent, advanced and prosperous Indonesia. The development of AI is one of five areas of focus for the agency, along with advanced robotics, the Internet of Things, augmented reality and 3D printing. “Let us successfully reform Indonesia from being a natural resource-based country to an innovation-based country,” Brodjonegoro said.

To do this, it proposes focusing the country’s efforts on AI research and industrial innovation, improving data and related infrastructure, ethics and associated policies, and talent development.

The country has already made some progress in AI. A 2018 International Data Corporation survey found that Indonesian companies had the highest rates of AI adoption in Southeast Asia; a number of state projects employ AI, to anticipate state fires for example; and some government agencies are promoting AI development and technology-based tools at schools and other learning institutions.

However, the guidelines cite data misuse as a hurdle and note that the country has neither the provisions to regulate AI, nor an official agency to oversee AI development. They recommend establishing a data ethics board that would set national standards for AI innovation.

Fairness, accountability, and transparency

According to The Jakarta Post, AI providers and experts have lauded the move to establish a foundation for AI development while urging the government and other stakeholders to improve on the strategy, fix current flaws and anticipate risks.

University of Indonesia AI and robotics professor Wisnu Jatmiko described AI as an “extraordinary challenge”. He told The Jakarta Post that the country needs to nurture high-quality talent in the field of AI and to bolster infrastructure, including fixing internet connection issues and developing its own cloud computing system to prevent the leak of confidential information.

Big Data and AI Association chairman Rudi Rusdiah and Institute for Policy Research and Advocacy researcher Alia Yofira Karunian said the national strategy should uphold principals of fairness, accountability and transparency as pillars of AI implementation.

Karunian called on government to detect and iron out biases in automated decision-making through human intervention, and to ensure people have the right not to have AI make decisions about them. “We must learn from the mistakes of other countries,” she said.

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