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The Future is Now: Collaborative Governance to Achieve Indonesia's Ambitions

Last month marked two years since the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 pandemic. As countries pivot from reactionary mitigation to recovery policy actions, we must not forget to prepare for the future to come. 

Before COVID-19, the world had already experienced a myriad of structural shifts – from Industry 4.0 and the widening digital divide, to climate pressures and the rise of the green economy, to geo-economic tensions and the relocation of supply chains. Left unaddressed, these challenges could risk global recovery efforts and future longevity. 

Governance must not return to business-as-usual, but rather chart a way forward that accounts for the now and future. This means two things. First, addressing economic, environmental, social, and technological concerns in an integrated manner. Second, a meaningful alliance of public, private, and community groups working to transform minds, markets, and policies. The key? Future-fit leaders working for collaborative governance, characterized by inclusion and innovation.

Global Concerns About the Future
The World Economic Forum’s 2022 Global Risks Report reflected a turbulent global landscape, with 84% of respondents voicing ‘concern’ or ‘worry’ about the future. Planetary health was cited as the primary issue, in a similar vein to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Sixth Assessment Report. Outside planetary health, technological and geo-economic risks were also highlighted.

While it is difficult to predict every possible future disruption, one thing is clear: the world has changed dramatically since before COVID-19. Economic, environmental, and people health and welfare risks are, and will increasingly be, inseparable.

Indonesia’s Challenges and Future Ambitions
Indonesia does not operate in a vacuum, and is no exception to these global, systemic changes. Located in the Pacific Ring of Fire, Indonesia is inherently among the most natural disaster-vulnerable countries. But Indonesia is now seeing an uptick in such disasters. The National Disaster Management Agency (Badan Nasional Penanggulangan Bencana, BNPB) recorded 3,035 disasters in 2021, compared to 2,925 in 2020. And this year, between January and March alone, BNPB already recorded over one thousand natural disasters.

Amid environmental and non-environmental challenges, Indonesia aspires to be the world’s fifth largest economy by 2045 (its 100th Independence Day) and reach net-zero emissions by 2060. Indonesia has also committed to successfully realizing the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

While Indonesia has recorded progress over the past decades, fundamental challenges persist. Low competitiveness, skills shortages, and youth unemployment were already large concerns pre-pandemic. And now, pre-pandemic progress is also jeopardized by the pandemic-induced economic havoc. The World Bank recently downgraded Indonesia’s status into ‘lower-middle income’ from ‘upper-middle income’, among others due to reversing gains in poverty reduction and unemployment rates.

Future-Fit, Collaborative Governance: Inclusion and Innovation
As it sets eyes on big ambitions, Indonesia too must ensure an appropriate governance mode that optimizes digital advancements to address economic, environmental, and social concerns.

While there is no one-size fits all governance, the pandemic generated two lessons learned. First, the shortcomings of traditional, government-centric problem-solving. Governments alone cannot solve societies’ problems – instead, stronger public, private, and community partnerships are the way forward. One powerful evidence is the COVID-19 vaccination campaign, enabled by the consolidation of policymakers, companies, scientists, security convoys, community figures, and many others. In Indonesia, the campaign has generated a 76% primary dose national vaccination rate. 

Second, the need for more actions to improve digital inclusion. As digital and green economies increasingly become the norm, our human capital must be digitally literate and understand the interlinkages between economic, environmental, and social concerns. Benefits must be felt across societal levels – no one must be left behind. 

To establish a strong foundation for a more equitable, sustainable future, there is urgency for public, private, and community leaders to coalesce meaningfully for inclusion and innovation. A kind of governance where all groups have proportional access to resources, responsibilities, and solutions.

Collaborative governance’s penultimate goal is not only better policies and solutions, but a stronger, more resilient system able to embrace future challenges and transform them into opportunities. This may mean future non-COVID-19 pandemics, climate-induced disasters, and other things yet imaginable.

Catalytic Enablers as Key
Collaborative governance requires a catalytic enabling environment. It requires a host of transformational forces reshaping minds, markets, and policies in an integrated manner. Such efforts cannot operate in silo.

Closing the gap between academia and industry is one important policy objective – it has been identified as a pillar to Indonesia’s Vision 2045. To this end, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Research, and Technology has aptly launched ‘Kampus Merdeka’ program, allowing University students to undertake meaningful internships at private companies, including in tech and consumer goods giants.

Now is the time to build upon this kind of initiative to catalyze faster, more massive changes.

One path forward is to extend Kampus Merdeka for civil servants. The annual National Resilience Institute (Lembaga Ketahanan Nasional, Lemhanas) training can be elevated to include short-term private sector placements or extended on-site industry visits. This would provide civil servants with first-hand experience on private sector agility and live, multi-sectoral networking opportunities across seniority levels.

Another idea is to replicate efforts seeking to scale innovative hubs, namely ‘Solo Technopark’. The Technopark is a living hub for networking and knowledge-exchanges between industry and community actors across digital economy spheres – e-commerce, cybersecurity, and financial technology. This effort bridges local wisdom and future trends, as well as the Solo community with the global ecosystem.

As we venture into the future and all its unknowns, we can no longer afford business-as-usual practices. Indonesia can and should turn its future ambitions into an immediate reality – the future is now. Public, private, and community governance leaders must form a robust, living network of strategic players to guarantee the future health of our planet, prosperity, and people – no matter how challenging it may look today.

This article was originally published by the Jakarta Post.

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