Last month marked two years since the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 pandemic. As countries pivot from reactionary mitigation to recovery policy actions, we must not forget to prepare for the future to come. Before COVID-19, the world had already experienced a myriad of structural shifts, from Industry 4.0, the widening digital divide and climate pressures to the rise of the green economy, geo-economic tensions and the relocation of supply chains. Left unaddressed, these challenges could risk global recovery efforts and future longevity.
Governance must not return to business-as-usual, but rather chart a way forward that accounts for the now and future. This means two things.
First, addressing economic, environmental, social and technological concerns in an integrated manner. Second, a meaningful alliance of public, private and community groups working to transform minds, markets and policies. The key? Future-fit leaders working for collaborative governance, characterized by inclusion and innovation.
The World Economic Forum’s 2022 Global Risks Report reflected a turbulent global landscape, with 84 percent of respondents voicing “concern” or “worry” about the future. Planetary health was cited as the primary issue, in a similar vein to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Sixth Assessment Report. Outside planetary health, technological and geoeconomic risks were also highlighted.
While it is difficult to predict every possible future disruption, one thing is clear: The world has changed dramatically since before COVID-19. Economic, environmental and people’s health and welfare risks are, and will increasingly be, inseparable.
Indonesia does not operate in a vacuum and is no exception to these global, systemic changes. Located in the Pacific Ring of Fire, Indonesia is inherently among the most natural disaster-vulnerable countries. But Indonesia is now seeing an uptick in such disasters. The National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB) recorded 3,035 disasters in 2021, compared to 2,925 in 2020. And this year, between January and March alone, the BNPB already recorded over 1,000 natural disasters.
Amid environmental and non-environmental challenges, Indonesia aspires to be the world’s fifth-largest economy by 2045 (when it will mark its 100th anniversary of independence) and reach net-zero emissions by 2060. Indonesia has also committed to successfully realizing the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
While Indonesia has recorded progress over the past decades, fundamental challenges persist. Low competitiveness, skills shortages and youth unemployment were already large concerns pre-pandemic. And now, pre-pandemic progress is also jeopardized by the pandemic-induced economic havoc. The World Bank recently downgraded Indonesia’s status back to “lower-middle-income” from “upper-middle-income” due to reversing gains in poverty reduction and unemployment rates.
As it sets its eyes on big ambitions, Indonesia, too, must ensure an appropriate governance mode that optimizes digital advancements to address economic, environmental, and social concerns.
While there is no one-size-fits-all governance, the pandemic generated two lessons learned. First, the shortcomings of traditional, government-centric problem-solving. Governments alone cannot solve societies’ problems; instead, stronger public, private and community partnerships are the way forward. One powerful piece of evidence is the COVID-19 vaccination campaign, enabled by the consolidation of policymakers, companies, scientists, security convoys, community figures and many others. In Indonesia, the campaign has generated a 77.5 percent primary dose national vaccination rate (two doses) as of Sunday.
Second, the need for more actions to improve digital inclusion. As digital and green economies increasingly become the norm, our human capital must be digitally literate and understand the interlinkages between economic, environmental and social concerns. Benefits must be felt across societal levels – no one must be left behind.
To establish a strong foundation for a more equitable, sustainable future, there is urgency for public, private, and community leaders to coalesce meaningfully for inclusion and innovation. A kind of governance where all groups have proportional access to resources, responsibilities, and solutions.
Collaborative governance’s penultimate goal is not only better policies and solutions, but a stronger, more resilient system able to embrace future challenges and transform them into opportunities. This may mean future non-COVID-19 pandemics, climate-induced disasters and other things yet imaginable.
Collaborative governance requires a catalytic enabling environment. It requires a host of transformational forces reshaping minds, markets and policies in an integrated manner. Such efforts cannot operate in a silo.
Closing the gap between academia and industry is one important policy objective – it has been identified as a pillar of Indonesia’s Vision 2045. To this end, the Education, Culture, Research and Technology Ministry has aptly launched the Kampus Merdeka (Campus Freedom) program, allowing university students to undertake meaningful internships at private companies, including tech and consumer goods giants.
Now is the time to build upon this kind of initiative to catalyze faster, more massive changes.
One path forward is to extend Kampus Merdeka for civil servants. The annual National Resilience Institute (Lemhannas) training can be elevated to include short-term private sector placements or extended on-site industry visits. This would provide civil servants with first-hand experience in private sector agility and live, multi-sectoral networking opportunities across seniority levels.
Another idea is to replicate efforts seeking to scale innovative hubs like Solo Technopark. The technopark, based in the Central Java city, is a living hub for networking and knowledge exchanges between industry and community actors across digital economy spheres – e-commerce, cybersecurity and financial technology. This effort bridges local wisdom and future trends, as well as the Solo community with the global ecosystem.
As we venture into the future and all its unknowns, we can no longer afford business-as-usual practices. Indonesia can and should turn its future ambitions into an immediate reality – the future is now. Public, private and community governance leaders must form a robust, living network of strategic players to guarantee the future health of our planet, prosperity and people – no matter how challenging it may look today.
(Cazadira Fediva Tamzil and Indira Zahra Aridati)
This article was first published in thejakartapost.com
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