Developing a climate that supports research can drive economic growth. Research activities in various scientific fields not only bring innovations for product development but also provide a foundation for evidence-based policymaking that will have a positive impact on society as a whole.
The connection between research and economic growth was a central theme in a focus session titled “Research: Source of Economic Growth” in the Indonesia Data and Economic Conference series or IDE Katadata 2020, on Thursday (1/30) at the Kempinski Hotel Jakarta. IDE Katadata is an annual activity by Katadata.co.id that discusses various data-based economic and business issues to generate new ideas and thinking to improve the quality of government policies and performance of companies.
Chargé d’Affaires of the Australian Embassy to Indonesia Allaster Cox was present to open the focus session supported by the Knowledge Sector Initiative. The speakers for this session included the Deputy for Social Sciences and Humanities of the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) Tri Nuke Pudjiastuti and founder and President of Bukalapak Fajrin Rasyid.
In his speech, Chargé d’Affaires Cox stated that Australia was very pleased to see the Indonesian Government’s commitment to research and development as evidenced by the ratification of the National System of Science and Technology (Sisnas Iptek), the establishment of the National Research and Innovation Agency (BRIN) and the Research Endowment Fund. “These changes are important for Indonesia’s transition toward research and knowledge-based economy,” he said.
He considered BRIN has the potential to strengthen relations between research institutions, industry and government. Australia has CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization) whose function resembles that of BRIN. Australia is pleased to be able to support CSIRO to collaborate with research stakeholders in Indonesia. In addition, the research endowment will promote an increase in the amount of research and development investment to support the economy.
In the discussion session, Fajrin Rasyid from Bukalapak said that innovation is key for technology-based companies. Such innovation cannot stop or Bukalapak will be abandoned by users. This closely related to technological developments that move so fast, both in terms of hardware and software.
When Bukalapak began operations in 2010, 90 percent of transactions occurred through desktops, laptops, or computers. Hence, the Bukalapak product development features were prioritized for the desktop environment. But with the rapid growth of mobile devices, starting in 2014 traffic from mobile devices surpassed the desktop. In 2020, 90 percent of transactions in Bukalapak occurred through mobile devices so that the development of features and products was prioritized for mobile devices.
Innovation is also needed in the non-technological field. From the beginning to this day e-commerce is one of the core business of Bukalapak. However, the Indonesian market is still small. Research by Google Temasek mentions that by 2018 the size of the e-commerce market in Indonesia was at 18-20 billion US dollars or just 5 percent of the total value of Indonesia’s retail trade. From this data, Bukalapak then launched Mitra Bukalapak (Bukalapak Partners) as its innovation product in 2017. This platform was launched to accommodate small and medium enterprises including traditional stalls. “So, for example, you see people from offline going online, Bukalapak is doing the opposite, from what was online e-commerce, we are going offline. If Bukalapak used to be an e-commerce company before, now it’s just commerce,” he added.
That said, it is important to realize that not all innovation becomes successful on its own. Failure is a risk that must be accepted, and failure must be evaluated to innovate further. He gave an example of innovation in the shipping goods using drones. After testing, there were quite a bit of technical problems in using drones to send goods. From the possibility of prank interference that dropped the drone to regulatory issues and licensing that is not yet clear. “This may be our input for the government. If it’s possible, there should be just one authority to regulate, to give license for innovation,” he said.
To show its seriousness in promoting research-based innovation, Bukalapak employs a number of experts both foreigners and Indonesians who work abroad. Experts needed for e-commerce are indeed more widely available in other countries such as India, Vietnam and the United States. This is mainly because the industry had already developed there earlier. However, for development at the intermediate and beginner level, Bukalapak chose to increase the number of local talents who could be directed to hone their skills to meet the needs of the e-commerce industry.
Tri Nuke Pudjiastuti from LIPI said economic growth has indeed had a big impact. However, it has not necessarily eliminated social problems. Several factors have been blamed for this, including regulations that have not been able to facilitate business, selective law enforcement and corruption. “It means, when the government or all of us see economic growth only from an economic perspective, we will not go anywhere,” she said.
In her view, that is where social studies have a big influence. Social research is not only to develop or produce knowledge but also to influence policy and change the conditions of society. This can be seen from the efforts of research institutions such as SMERU and other non-governmental organizations in providing legal assistance and community empowerment in various regions. “If this is not present or is not mainstreamed, whatever technology that is introduced into an area will not work,” she explained.
She added, there has been plenty of social research done to support the economy, but so far it has not been well socialized. At LIPI there are six national priority research streams for fishermen, one of which was conducted in Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara. The research was conducted to follow up on research from the field of oceanography related to sea cucumber spawns. The potential for sea cucumber spawns has not been utilized well to improve the economy of local communities. Social research is conducted to assess community understanding. Efforts to change the community perspective are made in collaboration with civil society groups. After the local fishing communities understand their potential, they are connected with the government and businesses.
From that experience, Nuke emphasized that social science uses the pentahelix approach that involves researchers, governments, the private sector, civil society elements, and communities. This approach is taken to build a sense of community ownership. Thus, the keyword for innovation is local mainstreaming.
“More than 90 percent of our strength is in society, namely the MSMEs, not large industries. This means that community strengths must be involved. So, to build a sense of belonging for the community is very important. A sense of belonging to innovation is key, so technology or innovation applied from one region to another must consider the local,” she said.
Providing a forum for interaction between policymakers, researchers and industry are one of the efforts of the Knowledge Sector Initiative (KSI) to raise awareness about the key challenges of the research ecosystem in Indonesia. This collaboration with Katadata.co.id is aimed to trigger policy improvements in the field of research and development (R&D) to support the growth of the Indonesian economy through product innovation and evidence-based public policy innovation, data and analysis.