Indonesia’s digital learning industry continues to expand


Local and multinational companies are investing in the country’s digital learning sector in droves. However, more is needed if the country wishes to transform its estimated over 100 million “digital natives” into digitally skilled workers.

Indonesia is set to become the largest digital economy in Southeast Asia. Driven by its large population of over 270 million people, over 70% of which are of productive age, the value of its digital economy is projected to reach US$124 billion (roughly Rp 1.7 quadrillion) by 2025, according to the joint research conducted by Google, Temasek and Bain & Company. However, pressure to reinvent and transform the country's human capital is mounting. It has been estimated that 113 million or 73% of all people within the productive this demographics require retraining to remain relevant in the workforce by 2030.  

This is due to clear challenges in Indonesia’s digital infrastructure sphere. According to the Global System for Mobile Communications’ (GSMA) Mobile Economy Asia Pacific 2020 Report, roughly 61 million Indonesians do not have access to the internet. Additionally, according to data from Indonesia’s Central Statistics Agency, only around 21% of Indonesians in low-income areas have access to the internet compared to the 93% in high-income areas such as Java.  

This has resulted in serious gaps between the country’s ambitions in becoming an industry 4.0 nation and the quality of its digitally skilled workforce. The consensus has been that, despite having one of the world’s largest populations of “digital natives” – as in people who grew up with the internet and other modern information technologies – many Indonesians are not developing into digitally skilled workers – as in those able to communicate using digital mediums or use basic digital software and data analysis tools. A major example of this consensus can be seen in the country’s schools. According to a Service Delivery Indicator (SDI) survey conducted by the Ministry of Education and Culture, along with the Ministry of Religious Affairs, as of 2020, as much as 67% of teachers had difficulties in operating digital devices and using online learning platforms. 

Capitalizing on the COVID-19 effect 

It is no secret that the global COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the adoption of digital learning in Indonesia. In a survey conducted in August 2020 by Statista, among Indonesians who watched one hour or more of online video content per week, approximately 37% of respondents stated that they spent on or two hours learning online every week. This coincides with the trend in the region and around the world. In ASEAN, according to the e-conomy SEA report by Google, Temasek and Bain & Company quoted earlier in the article, Edtech tool adoption saw record growth, with installation of the top 5 Education Technology (EdTech) Apps in Southeast Asia more than tripled to 20 million in 2020 from 6 million in 2019.  

These top 5 EdTech apps include local EdTech platforms such as Ruangguru which, since the beginning of 2020, reported five million new customers. Other local platforms such as Harukaedu (a platform that offers online university degrees), and Cakap by Squline (a tutoring platform for language learning) also reported growth in their user base. The Indonesian government’s EdTech platform Rumah Belajar also experienced an increase in its user base, going from 128,000 teachers and 300,000 students as per November 2018 to 18 million users as of March 2020. 

This trend looks set to continue. Appetite for providers of digital learning are shown through numerous projects and products being made available by the private sector, which the Indonesian government seems to wholeheartedly supports. One example is the partnership between the Ministry of Education and Culture with Huawei, which has been in ongoing since 2019, wherein 502 vocational students have previously participated in vocational training in ICT and networking, especially wireless and microwave equipment. For 2021, as many as 140 vocational teachers are participating.   

Indonesia needs to invest more on digital infrastructure, tools 

According to the Indonesian Internet Service Providers Association (APJII), in 2020, over 74% of the population, or roughly 197 million people, have used the internet — an 8.9% increase from the previous year. However, internet penetration in Indonesia is characterized by unequal access and poor bandwidth. Expansive rural land masses across Eastern Indonesia still experience poor connection and many Indonesians outside of the populous islands of Java and Bali have never been exposed to digital technology.  

In this regard, partnership with the private sector is crucial to unlocking the country’s potential. Creativity and cooperation formats could include guarantees by the ministries on minimum mobile data uptake or entering into bulk lease agreements for ICT equipment. ICT training for teachers could become part of the agreements with the vendors. Private and public funding could also be combined to cover connectivity infrastructure and operation costs to offer a more holistic approach to financing digital learning tools – especially in the underserved areas.  

To explore the various avenues and opportunities available in the digital learning sector, EKONID will hold a Virtual Trade Mission to Indonesia on training and education, including learning equipment solution, from November 22 to 26, 2021. Held in partnership with econAN International GmbH, iMOVE and Didacta Verband e.V, and supported by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi), the trade mission aims to connect providers of technical trainings as suppliers of technical learning equipment for public and private sector training centers, as well as schools and universities. 

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