Indonesia’s AI Moment for Southeast Asia: Powering Innovation and Accelerating Digital Economy

 |   Ajar Edi, Director of Government Affairs, Microsoft Indonesia & Brunei Darussalam

people on stage

A man smilingLast Friday (19 January), Microsoft shared its voluntary commitment to the implementation of AI ethics values outlined in the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology (MoICT/Kominfo)’s Circular Letter (SE) No. 9/2023. The Circular Letter, while non-binding, is a progressive milestone. Not only does it mark Indonesia’s journey as one of the first countries in Southeast Asia to kickstart AI regulation framework, but it also precedes the ASEAN AI Guidelines by the Digital Ministries of ASEAN member states, thereby cementing Indonesia’s leadership position in supercharging AI innovations.

Through this voluntary commitment, Microsoft is working alongside the Indonesian Government, civil society, academia, and other industry leaders to ensure people remain at the center of every AI effort. Microsoft is also joining hands to ensure the development and implementation of AI are beneficial and sustainable for people and the environment.

As the Indonesia’s Coordinating Ministry for Economic Affairs stated, Indonesia is the largest digital economy in Southeast Asia. This is, therefore, strategically positioning Indonesia on the frontlines as an enabler of AI’s force for good power. Putting in place the necessary legal corridors for the responsible advancement of AI would be another breakthrough initiative from Indonesia for Southeast Asia, following the country’s successful stint as the host of the 2023 ASEAN Summit, which also highlighted the Digital Economy Framework Agreement (DEFA).

Collaboration is the cornerstone of success

Embodying the spirit of gotong royong (unified effort), a deeply-rooted culture of Indonesia, stakeholders from both private and public sectors must continue working together toward a stronger Indonesia and Southeast Asia.

Microsoft is humbled to be among the first few organizations in Indonesia’s private sector to voluntarily adopt the AI ethical values outlined in the Circular Letter and put them into practice.

We will also continue to adhere to our Responsible AI commitments in leveraging AI innovations – aligned with the Circular Letter – supervised by the Office of Responsible AI established in 2019. We are ready to share our expertise, resources, and best practices for Responsible AI as well, for the greater good of the country, in line with our mission of empowering every individual and organization on this planet to achieve more.

Infographic of the alignment of Microsoft Indonesia's voluntary commitment to the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology on AI Ethics

We believe AI systems must always remain subject to human control, and those who develop and deploy AI are subject to the rule of law. Above all, we want AI to be a force for good that can create new economies and improve the livelihoods of millions of people. Helping people to solve the world’s most pressing problems. From healthcare, education, climate change, and cybersecurity, to many other areas.

The journey ahead

A man and a woman giving a speech in a podium with a microphone
(L-R) Legal & Government Affairs Regional Director of Microsoft ASEAN Jasmine Begum and President Director of Microsoft Indonesia Dharma Simorangkir at the National AI Symposium on Friday (19/1)

Moving forward, there is potential for MoICT to issue a Ministry Regulation (Permen) on AI within this year, according to Vice Minister of Communication and Information Technology Nezar Patria. Not only will it reinforce the commitment to human oversight, but it will also set a stronger groundwork for the next administration in governing AI technologies responsibly.

While the Government is exploring a more binding regulation, public and private sectors can look forward to a National AI Sandbox Policy, which is expected to create a conducive environment for safe AI innovation and experiments in Indonesia with regulatory oversight. Within this sandbox, researchers, developers, and business owners can test their AI systems for certain use cases to determine the correct high-risk mitigation approach, to safeguard its operations and incubate innovation. As a result, the public can be reassured of their data privacy and confidence in AI, for potential risks such as inaccuracy and bias have already been mitigated to foster trust.

We look forward to seeing Indonesia unlock even greater opportunities in this AI era and continue empowering Southeast Asia as the AI Hub for sustained economic prosperity, resilience, and competitiveness in the region and globally.

Top image: President Director of Microsoft Indonesia Dharma Simorangkir (third from the right) together with representatives of several companies in Indonesia shared a voluntary commitment to the Circular Letter regarding AI Ethics, witnessed by the Vice Minister of Communication and Information Technology Nezar Patria (fourth from the right)