Microsoft, Indonesia, and AI: The $1.7 Billion Pledge

indonesia's ai

During the Microsoft Build: AI Day in Jakarta, Indonesia, on April 30, 2024, Satya Nadella announced that Microsoft will invest US$1.7 billion over the next four years to develop new cloud and AI infrastructure in Indonesia. This investment also covers AI skilling opportunities for 840,000 people and support for the nation’s growing developer community, representing the single largest investment by Microsoft in its 29-year history in the country.

“This new generation of AI is reshaping how people live and work everywhere, including in Indonesia,” said Satya Nadella, Chairman and CEO of Microsoft. “The investments we are announcing today – spanning digital infrastructure, skilling, and support for developers – will help Indonesia thrive in this new era.”

Also Read: What Makes a Human Different from Algorithms?

This investment will enable Microsoft to meet the increasing demand for cloud computing services in Indonesia and allow the country to capitalize on the significant economic and productivity opportunities presented by the latest AI technology.

According to research by Kearney, AI could contribute nearly US$1 trillion to Southeast Asia’s gross domestic product (GDP) by 2030, with Indonesia poised to capture US$366 billion of this potential.

Nadella emphasized the pivotal role that developers play in leveraging AI to realize Indonesia’s potential as a digital economy.. To support this, Microsoft will foster the growth of the country’s developer community through new initiatives such as AI Odyssey, which aims to help 10,000 Indonesian developers become AI subject matter experts by acquiring new skills and earning Microsoft credentials.

Indonesia has the third-largest developer community on GitHub in the Asia-Pacific region, with over 3.1 million developers, and is projected to be among the top five globally by 2026. The country also saw a 31 percent year-on-year increase in the number of developers on GitHub in 2023, along with a 213 percent growth in the number of public generative AI projects on the platform.

Microsoft also announced a broader commitment to provide AI skilling opportunities for 2.5 million people across the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member states by 2025. This training and support will be delivered in partnership with governments, nonprofit and corporate organizations, and communities in Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Image courtesy of Microsoft

Microsoft’s Skilling Commitment for Indonesia

Microsoft’s commitment to enhancing skills is poised to impact 840,000 individuals in Indonesia, offering a range of educational and professional development opportunities across diverse demographics:

Students: Technical and vocational education and training in AI skills will be provided through the AI TEACH for Indonesia program, equipping students with the necessary tools to excel in the burgeoning field of artificial intelligence.

Women: The new Ready4AI&Security program aims to empower women with the opportunities and support necessary to build careers in cybersecurity, fostering greater inclusivity in the tech industry.

Youth: AI fluency training will be available to young people, particularly those from underserved and underrepresented communities, enhancing their employability and preparing them for the workforce with valuable digital skills.

Nonprofit Employees: Individuals working in nonprofit organizations will gain access to education in AI and digital technologies, ensuring they have the knowledge and skills needed to leverage these tools in their mission-driven work.

My Opinion on Microsoft’s Investment in Indonesia’s AI Ecosystem

I believe that this investment is a positive development, as Microsoft has both the capital and the expertise necessary. More importantly, Microsoft is committed not only to developing the AI market but also to enhancing the developer ecosystem.

While it’s easy to be critical if the focus were solely on market development or seeking new users for its products, the emphasis on equipping millions of developers in Indonesia with new skills is commendable.

Presently, I recognize four distinct categories of participants in the generative AI industry:

Beginner Users: This group comprises individuals who primarily interact with online generative AI tools such as ChatGPT, Perplexity, ElevenLabs, MidJourney, Gemini, or Copilot. While the widespread use of these accessible tools is positive, this segment, by itself, is unlikely to significantly propel Indonesia forward in the global AI competition.

Advanced Users: This category includes individuals, such as myself, who are capable of setting up and operating local AI tools/models like ComfyUI, Mistral, Llama, Bark TTS, etc. This group demands basic technical skills, such as cloning GitHub repositories or understanding specific hardware requirements for smooth operation. 

Although my view may be subjective, I believe this is the first level where a real impact on the ecosystem begins. With a substantial number of participants, who need a strong command of English, sufficient financial resources to acquire suitable hardware, and a commitment to learning, this group has the potential to elevate industry standards, especially since many offline generative AI tools are open-sourced, which could influence higher standards across both premium and freemium online tools, such as those seen in image generation with SDXL.

Disclaimer, I might be biased on this because I’m also a strong supporter of open-source ecosystems.

Developers/Creators: Occupants of this level are those who can develop new AI models or significantly modify existing ones, such as creating JuggernautXL, developing new LoRA, or altering existing large language models (LLMs).

Experts: This is the most advanced category, consisting of individuals who develop new frameworks and drive the generative AI ecosystem within specific fields, akin to those behind innovations like Stable Diffusion and ComfyUI. 

It should be noted that, to my knowledge, there are currently no recognized business experts in generative AI within Southeast Asia, particularly in Indonesia. I am not aware of any company in the region that openly discloses their financial status and generates profit specifically from developing generative AI. Please, do correct me, if I’m wrong.

I do not accept valuations as a valid measure of success since they often represent speculative figures.

As a final note, the third and fourth groups are the most important stakeholders in the development of the ecosystem, and I sincerely hope that the investment proves fruitful. Indonesia has a lot of potential in the generative AI industry. But to be honest, it really does need all the help it can get.

Yabes Elia

Yabes Elia

An empath, a jolly writer, a patient reader & listener, a data observer, and a stoic mentor

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