Understanding “Tech for Good” in Southeast Asia: Key Insights from Indonesia

The Tech for Good Institute (TFGI) conducted a series of roundtable discussions across Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam to understand how “tech for good” may be realised in each country. The Indonesia roundtable brought together policymakers, investors, digital economy companies, think-tanks and academics, who contributed their perspectives not just on how to grow the digital economy, but how the digital economy may advance sustainable, inclusive and equitable growth.

The Indonesia roundtable was co-hosted with Ibrahim Kholilul Rohman, a Senior Research Associate at IFG Progress and Lecturer on Digital Economics at Faculty of Economics and Business, Universitas Indonesia (FEBUI) at Indonesia Financial Group. This study is made possible with the support of the AsiaTechX (ATX) Programme Office, Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) Singapore.

On 24 February 2023, the Tech for Good Institute conducted a roundtable discussion with leaders in the Indonesia tech ecosystem to discuss how technology and the digital economy may support Indonesia’s growth and development.

Sixteen (16) participants from the public, private and civil spheres shared their perspectives on what “tech for good” meant to them and their respective organisations and provided action-oriented recommendations to advance it for the country.

The Roundtable surfaced key themes of inclusion through connectivity, digital literacy and capacity building. As participation grows and deepens, building trust in the digital economy and ecosystem are imperative if growth is to be sustained. This can be achieved through evidence-driven, consultative policymaking that takes a holistic and responsive approach to driving innovation and inclusive growth.

Accessible, affordable and reliable internet connectivity must be prioritised to enable digital inclusion

  • Digital inclusion should be emphasised as Indonesia improves the internet coverage of the country. This means expanding the internet access and coverage beyond the major metros such as Java, Sumatra, and Kelantan. Developments of digital infrastructure should include far-flung provinces to ensure no one gets left behind.
  • The digital divide between urban cities and rural communities is still a persistent problem in Indonesia. One of the major barriers to participation in the digital economy is the high cost of internet service. It is important for the government and internet service providers to work together to make online connectivity more affordable, especially for lower income households. Fostering a more competitive internet service industry is a step towards lowering the cost of online connectivity in the country.
  • A reliable Internet connectivity will encourage more meaningful participation in the digital economy. While access is the first step, the quality of connectivity must be raised to a standard that would allow productive use of digital products and services. For example, high-speed internet will enable MSMEs to access e-commerce platforms, fulfil orders in a timely manner, and respond to consumer inquiries more efficiently. Consumers, on the other hand, will have a convenient and positive user experience which encourages repeat usage of the e-commerce service. A reliable internet service can also inspire and encourage more users to take part in economic activities online.
  • Digital inclusion must include the marginalised sectors of the population such as persons with disabilities (PWDs) and the elderly. For example, well-designed digital products and services can be leveraged to address the needs of the elderly. There is also an opportunity for PWDs to participate in the digital economy by using digital platforms. To this end, information and education campaigns on the responsible use of digital technologies can help in digital inclusion.

Fostering trust in emerging technologies will encourage productive digital participation

  • An artificial intelligence (AI) governance framework will help set guidelines on what DECs can do with regards to emerging technologies. There should be a mechanism where unintended consequences of using emerging technologies should be minimised. In addition, there should be measures that will hold DECs accountable and ensure the responsible use of AI. Transparency on the use of consumer data should also be exercised. This would help increase consumer confidence in the digital ecosystem.
  • There should also be a digital consumer protection law in Indonesia that builds on the existing data protection law, to safeguard consumers from fraudulent activities online in Indonesia. This would help foster greater trust among consumers as they participate in the digital economy.
  • Trust in technologies can also be developed through digital literacy. Digital literacy programmes will help users understand how they can maximise their use of digital solutions whilst understanding the corresponding risks that come with it. As technology develops rapidly, such digital literacy initiatives must also be constantly updated to remain relevant.
  • Aside from digital literacy, it would also be helpful for Indonesia to have data literacy initiatives. It is important for consumers to understand the kinds of data they are sharing online, including whether or not they are safe to be made publicly available, and how the data shared is being processed. A data literate population would foster greater trust in the digital economy.

Streamlining policies to create a responsive regulatory environment

  • To create a responsible regulatory environment, governments should not only allocate sufficient resources to support the development of new technologies, but also have a mindset shift of proactively creating spaces where DECs and consumers can help shape regulations and policies. This helps to lend predictability in the regulatory environment.
  • Indonesia’s current regulatory landscape is scattered, with the bureaucratic overlaps over the digital economy. Indonesia has 26 different agencies that look after different pillars of technology and the digital economy. There is a need to create coordination mechanisms so that these agencies do not work in silos, and would allow for knowledge-sharing. A fragmented regulatory landscape affects the ease of doing business for DECs. Regulatory coherence is important for effective implementation of policies to meet its intended outcomes.
  • Governments need to strike a balance between innovation and regulation. The policies need to be agile and fit-for-purpose. Short-sighted policies are restrictive and may not be optimal to allow businesses to innovate. DECs can also play a role, by exercising self-regulation and initiating industry-wide guardrails (e.g. industry codes of conduct) to address risks and unintended consequences to users.

To read the national-level priorities of Indonesia, please click on the link here.

This study is made possible with the support of the AsiaTechX (ATX) Programme Office, Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) Singapore. A consolidated report of the six roundtables will be launched at ATXSG 2023.

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Dr Ming Tan

Founding Executive Director

Dr Ming Tan is founding Executive Director for the Tech for Good Institute. She is concurrently a Senior Fellow at the Centre for Governance and Sustainability at the National University of Singapore. Her research interests lie at the intersection of technology, business and society, including sustainability and innovation.


Ming was previously Managing Director of IPOS International, part of the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore, which supports Singapore’s future growth as a global innovation hub for intellectual property creation, commercialisation and management.


Prior to joining the public sector, she was Head of Stewardship of the COMO Group, a Singaporean portfolio of lifestyle companies operating in 14 countries worldwide. Her portfolio covered sustainability, brand and data privacy. She was concurrently the founding Executive Director of COMO Foundation, the private philanthropy of the owner of the COMO Group.


As a company director, she lends brand and strategic guidance to SuperNature Pte Ltd, COMO Hotels and Resorts (Asia) Pte Ltd, COMO Club Pte Ltd, and Mogems Pte Ltd. In the not-for-profit space, Ming is an Advisor to Singapore Totalisator Board and serves on the boards of Esplanade–Theatres on the Bay, Singapore’s national performing arts centre, St. Joseph’s Institution International and COMO Foundation.


As part of her commitment to holistic education and the arts, she also sits on the Advisory Panel of the Centre for the Arts of the National University of Singapore.


Ming was educated in Singapore, the United States, and England. She obtained her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Stanford University and her doctorate from Oxford.