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Australia Must Relieve Indonesia’s Reliance on China for Tech Training

Experts from the Australian National University (ANU) have warned that Australia needs to step up and offer Indonesia an alternative for digital training and development after China has become a dominating force in Indonesia’s cyberspace.

ANU research fellow and co-author of the report, “China Inc. and Indonesia’s Technology Future,” Dirk van der Kley, said on Wednesday that Australia and its fellow Quad countries—India, Japan, and the US—must do more to provide tech training to Indonesia.

“And it should be short-term and technically focused to help Indonesia meet its critical ICT skills shortage,” he said.

“Chinese firms have become the cybersecurity partner of choice in Indonesia. This is not only because they provide the hardware but also enormous training at all levels of society, from government officials down to rural students.

“The programs are huge and are being provided by major companies like Huawei,” van der Kley said, noting Huawei alone is potentially training tens of thousands of Indonesians annually and therefore steering Indonesia’s current and future tech leaders towards Chinese technology.

Van der Kley noted that despite Indonesia’s deep animosity towards China, there have been next to no complaints about China’s dominant position in telecommunications and cyber there, which he puts down to rich liberal democracies failing to deliver the kind of benefits that Indonesia seeks.

Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo (L) and China’s President Xi Jinping (R) during a photo session in front of Osaka Castle at the G-20 summit on June 28, 2019, in Osaka, Japan. (Photo by Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images)

Indonesia is still attempting to close the economic divide with advanced industrial economies, and as an emerging economy, it has been seen that the future of jobs and wage growth is in the tech-led industries, the report explains.

“With 202 million internet users contributing US$70 billion to Indonesia’s digital economy in 2021, the Indonesian government is banking on the transformational powers of digital technology to bolster economic growth.”

The Need to Provide Vocational Training

The report outlines key steps Australia, India, Japan, and the US can take to be competitive in Indonesia, part of which is by providing vocational training.

Co-author of the report Benjamin Herscovitch said Australia, in concert with other Quad countries, needs to offer a vocational technology training program large enough to genuinely improve Indonesia’s tech capacity, providing an alternative to Chinese state-backed training programs.

“The first step for the new Australian government—and hopefully the Quad—is to provide Indonesia with large-scale, short-term technical training. This is what they want. We are currently ceding that ground to China,” he said.

“Large tech firms from Quad countries should contribute their technology and expertise to an internationally accredited vocational program. Australia’s vocational education and training sector should also help develop people-to-people and educational links with Indonesia.”

Epoch Times Photo
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese (L) and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida at their bilateral meeting alongside the Quad leaders’ summit at Akasaka Palace on May 24, 2022 in Tokyo, Japan. (Issei Kato – Pool/Getty Images)

The report concludes that it is in Australia’s interest that Indonesia meets its development potential and providing vocational training is one of the most consequential actions Australia could take to achieve this goal.

“Indonesia has been asking for vocational technology training for decades. It is time for Australia and the Quad to deliver,” the report states.

Helping Indonesia Address Cybercrime

Australian tech training could help Indonesia handle better security threats like cybercrime, according to another of the report’s authors Gatra Priyandita, from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute.

He said the most urgent security threat for Indonesia is cybercrime, noting the country is highly vulnerable to it.

“Data security is poor, and Chinese firms are seen as partners for swift solutions,” he said.

The report states that the Indonesian government is well aware of the threat of Chinese espionage and that heavy reliance on Chinese technology could lead to political pressure.

However, government officials are also concerned about the risk of espionage from Australia and the US, so from Indonesia’s perspective, cybersecurity vulnerabilities will be present regardless of who supplies the underlying infrastructure.

While Australia has stressed the cybersecurity risks of Huawei and other Chinese firms, it has not yet offered viable alternatives to Indonesia.

According to the report, Australia alone cannot compete with China, but together with Quad, it can “develop a serious technology training program that is good for Indonesia’s digital development and ensures a range of technology options,” not only the ones offered by Chinese ICT companies.

Steve Milne

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Steve is an Australian reporter based in Sydney covering sport, the arts, and politics. He is an experienced English teacher, qualified nutritionist, sports enthusiast, and amateur musician. Contact him at steve.milne@epochtimes.com.au.

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