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Joko Widodo, the new President of the Republic of Indonesia

Indonesia proposes to replace public servants with AI

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Indonesia is planning to replace two ranks of public servants with AI, the country’s President Joko Widodo has said.

Reuters reports that he plans to make the changes next year in a bid to cut red tape which is hampering investment.

The current top four tiers in government agencies will be reduced to two as part of Widodo’s plans to transition the country towards higher-end manufacturing such as electric vehicles.

“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. However, he added this plan would need parliamentary approval.

He did not provide further details, including any guidance on which specific roles would be removed or how the technology would be used.

The move plays into fears that AI and automation will increasingly displace jobs around the world, even those at higher levels that typically involve lots of decision-making.

Research from the UK's Office for National Statistics earlier this year found that administration occupations in government have a roughly 51 per cent chance of being automated in the future.

While these occupations aren’t as at risk as less skilled roles like waiters (73 per cent), bar staff (71 per cent) and shelf fillers (72 per cent), they are considerably more likely to be automated than medical practitioners (18 per cent) and teachers (21 per cent).

Widodo, who began another five-year term last month after winning an election in April, announced the plans in front of leaders of big companies as he laid out a second-term agenda aimed at changing the structure of South-East Asia’s largest economy by reducing its reliance on natural resources.

The government also plans to hand over to parliament a bill on tax reforms next month and another bill addressing labour issues.

Political parties in Widodo’s ruling coalition control 74 per cent of the seats in parliament, making it easy for his administration to push through legislation.

Widodo reiterated the government’s outlook that Indonesia’s economy would grow 5.04-5.05 per cent this year, slower than its 5.3 per cent target, amid a global economic slowdown.

In 2017 accounting firm PWC released a report where it warned that AI could lead to a “cliff-edge” scenario where huge swathes of the working population suddenly lose their jobs as the technology reaches financial viability.

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