Indonesia, a country of 260 million people, is not unfamiliar with corruption scandals. Evidence of corruption within civil service was highlighted by external surveys as well as research conducted within the service itself. Some surveys have found that almost half of all civil servants have received bribes, something which costs the country hundreds of millions of dollars every year.
The system is also excessively bureaucratic, claims Indonesian President Joko Widodo, who just began his new five-year term in April. Widodo wants Indonesia to start producing more advanced goods such as electric cars, instead of just exporting raw materials such as coal or bauxite. In a room full of corporate leaders, Widodo said he wants Indonesia to end its reliance on natural resources and transition to a more specialized economy. But in order to do that, he says, corruption and bureaucracy must be reduced.
This is where AI enters the stage.
There are currently four tiers in government agencies regulating business. Those tiers will be flattened and reduced to two, with AI being left to fill in the gaps.
“I have ordered my minister (of administrative and bureaucratic reform) to replace them with AI. Our bureaucracy will be faster with AI,” he said, referring to artificial intelligence.
Widodo’s demands aren’t empty words. Political parties in Widodo’s ruling coalition control 74% of the seats in parliament, which means they will find it very easy to pass legislation.
There were no further details presented. It’s not exactly clear which roles would be removed and how technology would be used to fill in the resulting structures. However, it’s a clear signal: the time where AI is taking human jobs has moved from an indeterminate future to a very pressing near-future. Indonesia may or may not be successful in its attempt to replace civil servants with AI, but the concern that AI might be destroying more jobs than it creates seems more valid than ever.
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