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Jakarta Post

Tokopedia, University of Indonesia launch AI research center

  • The Jakarta Post

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Fri, April 5, 2019   /   12:46 pm
Tokopedia, University of Indonesia launch AI research center We are at the beginning of the next wave of industrial revolution. This time, it is driven by artificial intelligence (AI). (Shutterstock/File)

Leading e-commerce platform Tokopedia has become the latest company to join in the efforts to tackle the country's shortage of digital talents by launching its first artificial intelligence (AI) center in collaboration with the University of Indonesia.

Tokopedia and UI have jointly launched the AI Center of Excellence at the university’s computer science building in Depok, West Java.

The research center, the first in Indonesia to be equipped with deep-learning super computer technology NVIDIA DGX-1, serves as an AI-development platform for the university’s academics and researchers.

Tokopedia and UI officials expressed hope that the center would help develop a highly skilled workforce for Indonesia’s rapidly growing digital industry – a concern raised by industry players and the government.

Tokopedia CEO and founder William Tanuwijaya said it was hard to find digital talents in Indonesia, which has seen its first generation of digital technology companies in recent years.

UI School of Computer Science dean Mirna Adriani said she expected the center to produce professionals who were ready to make contributions in the field of AI.

Industry Minister Airlangga Hartarto said Indonesia would need at least 17 million digital talents to help the country become an e-commerce powerhouse by 2030.

William said collaboration with universities to tackle the shortage of a highly skilled workforce was necessary, adding that his company would build similar research centers at other universities, including those located outside Java.

“We will certainly enter other regions, as Tokopedia’s goal is to help ensure economic equity throughout Indonesia by using digital means,” he told reporters on the sidelines of the launch ceremony. “Hence, the talents will not only come from Java or Jakarta only.”

He said his company would allocate a big portion of funds secured from various sources to develop its human resources, in addition to investing in technology infrastructure, especially in AI.

Tokopedia, for example, secured US$1.1 billion in its financing round last December led by the SoftBank Vision Fund and Alibaba Group with the participation of Softbank Ventures Korea and other existing investors.

Tokopedia is one of Indonesia’s four unicorns (startups valued at more than $1 billion), alongside marketplace rival Bukalapak, ride-hailing provider Go-Jek and online booking service Traveloka.

Various reports predict the country’s start-up sector will continue to grow despite rising concerns of a shortage of skilled digital talents.

To tackle the problem, start-up companies are cooperating with educational institutions and the government.

Bukalapak, for example, recently established a research and development center in Surabaya, East Java, and an AI and cloud computing innovation center at the Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB) in Bandung, West Java.

"Our challenge now is to discover talents in the field of technology and AI who can contribute to Indonesia," Bukalapak founder and CEO Achmad Zaky said during last month’s ITB innovation center launch, citing a lack of AI experts in the country.

He said the center would provide knowledge transfer with the help of 200 engineers from its main research and development center in Bandung, aside from facilities such as servers for research purposes.

In addition to its Bandung research and development center, Bukalapak launched its second center earlier this month in East Java’s capital of Surabaya, a region it says has a large pool of potential digital talents.

Last year, Google Indonesia pledged to train 100,000 information technology developers until 2020, while Alibaba founder Jack Ma vowed to train 1,000 every year over the next 10 years.

The two tech giants’ pledges support the Communications and Information Ministry’s vow last year to provide $9 million for over 20 local colleges in producing 20,000 digital talents in Indonesia by this year.

Communications and Information Minister Rudiantara said recently the program would develop talented students’ skills in the latest technologies such as AI, robotics and cloud computing. (ars)