Indonesia will replace some civil servants with AI, says Jokowi

Indonesian President Joko Widodo has ordered government agencies to remove two ranks of public servants in 2020 and replace their roles with artificial intelligence (AI), in a bid to cut red tape hampering investment.

Widodo made the remarks on Thursday in a room full of leaders of big companies as he laid out a second-term agenda aimed at changing the structure of Southeast Asia’s largest economy by reducing its reliance on natural resources.

The president, whose new five-year term began last month after winning an election in April, said Indonesia should transition to higher-end manufacturing, such as electric vehicles, and use raw materials like coal and bauxite in such industries, not just for export.

Such transformation would require foreign investment and Widodo said he would improve the business climate by fixing dozens of overlapping rules and cutting red tape.

To reduce bureaucracy, Widodo said the current top four tiers in government agencies would be flattened to two next year.

“I have ordered my minister [of administrative and bureaucratic reform] to replace them with AI. Our bureaucracy will be faster with AI,” he said. However, he added this plan would need parliamentary approval.

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

The government will hand over to parliament a bill on tax reforms next month and another bill addressing labour issues, Widodo said, a timeline Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati made public on Wednesday.

Political parties in Widodo’s ruling coalition control 74 percent 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 by approximately 5 percent this year, slower than its 5.3 percent target, amid a global economic slowdown.

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