Adrian Wail Akhlas, Jakarta – The government is pushing for digital transformation in a bid to boost efficiency and cut operational costs as it lags behind other countries in implementing digital regulations and services.
The coronavirus pandemic has accelerated the country's digital transformation, according to Deputy Finance Minister Suahasil Nazara, who said that the government should make digital transformation its central agenda to reform the country's governance.
"The pandemic has presented us with the opportunity to speed up digital transformation by working virtually," Suahasil said on Wednesday. "This will make the state budget more efficient and will reduce government spending for physical meetings or business trips."
The deputy finance minister said the government should work on several issues to embrace the digital era, including improving technological capabilities and creating new regulations to ensure sustainability and privacy.
"We need new standard operational procedures to ensure privacy and sustainability," he went on to say. "The budget cuts due to virtual work should be able to increase effectiveness."
Indonesia began lifting pandemic restrictions in early June to rescue the virus-battered economy after implementing large-scale social restrictions (PSBB) for more than three months to curb the coronavirus spread. During the PSBB period, the government required citizens to work, study and pray from home.
However, the restrictions delivered a crushing blow to the country's economy, which shrank by 5.32 percent in the second quarter this year, as many businesses were unprepared to conduct their businesses virtually.
Indonesia is lagging compared to other countries in implementing digital services, according to the E-Government Development Index (EGDI) survey by the United Nations.
Indonesia ranked 88 of 193 countries across the globe and ranked seventh among its Southeast Asia peers, highlighting a lack of digital services provided by the government.
"While e-government rankings tend to correlate with the income level of a country, financial resources are not the only critical factor in advancing digital government," United Nations under?secretary-general for economic and social affairs Liu Zhenmin said recently.
"A country's political will, strategic leadership and commitment to advance digital services, can improve its comparative ranking," he went on to say.
Indonesia is making progress toward digital transformation, according to the UN, as the country implemented digital social registry systems "to serve as gateways for social protection programs, with cash transfers and emergency assistance delivered straight to the intended households in need".
However, the UN highlighted gaps in regulatory and policy frameworks in Asia, including Indonesia, on rules regarding electronic transactions, data protection and cybercrime prevention.
The data protection bill, which aims to create a comprehensive regulatory framework to ensure the safety of private data, is currently under deliberation at the House of Representatives and is expected to be passed into law by October this year.
Critics of the bill, however, warn of the potential for abuse of power as the bill includes several problematic articles such as increasing the possibility of criminalization through the formulation of criminal sanctions.