The Covid Era called attention to a new digital divide tied to the unequal impact of Big Data. Large enterprises were able to use data in support of their commercial objectives and shape consumer behaviour. But micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) suffered. Most MSMEs in developing nations scaled back or stopped functioning, thereby producing the economically unbalanced moment in world history even as climate change accelerated.
Data for Equity (D4E) aims to reverse both these problematic trends – inequity and climate change – by a bottom up flow of data, beginning with one prototype nation, Indonesia. D4E partners will combine innovations in five domains – technology, public policy, finance, management and ethics – to remake the nation’s MSMEs sector. The aim is -not merely to rebuild MSMEs to pre-Covid standards, but to create new MSME-driven industries that explicitly support environmental development goals while serving the low income strata of developing nations, beginning with one prototype nation: Indonesia.
D4E consists of five initiatives, to be launched simultaneously in 2022, producing a model to be offered for consideration by the G20 to be hosted in Bali in October of that year.
- Data Governance: To support implementation of the nation’s One Data policy.
- MSME Finance. Introduce finance innovations that will give SMEs a level playing field with large enterprises, incorporating credit scoring, et al.
- Data Cooperatives. Aggregate MSMEs into cooperatives that pool their collective strengths through data sharing.
- Meaningful Access: Overcome infrastructural disadvantages among the nation’s 200 kabupaten (regencies) in the “3T” areas – remote, disadvantaged and low-income population.
- Digital Pancasila: Pancasila is an inclusive ethical framework embedded in the Indonesian constitution since the Sukarno Era. Digital Pancasila extends this framework to digital dynamic in alignment with corresponding ethics frameworks emerging in other G20 nations, as each of them adapt to digitalization.
In 2022, these five projects will combine to scale and transform various informal industries initially located in one geographic zone: The Alas Strait on the East Side of Lombok.
An example of the bottom up approach concerns Jamu, the herbal medicine revered by most Indonesian families since the 8th century, but cut off from the medical system. Through data integration, Jamu will become the basis for an climate-smart artisanal industry tied to MSMEs within the Alas Strait that are clustered into agricultural cooperatives. Tied to innovations in the Health Ministry of Jakarta, Jamu will be incorporated into a full-scale emergent industry of “integrative health,” in which allopathic and holistic medicine combine.
D4E is an initiative of the Meaningful Broadband Working Group (MBWG). Since 2006, Indonesian ICT stakeholders have embraced a concept called Meaningful Broadband. Criteria for “meaningful” are three-fold; Usable, affordable, and empowering. In 2019, the Meaningful Broadband Working Group (MWBG), emerged as the major cross-sector and inter-ministerial program of the National ICT Council (WANTIKNAS), under the chairmanship of the nation’s President Joko Widodo. The Working Group is focused on achieving innovations that enable government agencies and commercial institutions to bring the benefits of digitalization to low-income strata of the nation.
To formulate D4E’s framework, MBWG collaborated with a number of domestic and international organizations including one of the world’s leading data scientists, Prof. Alex (Sandy) Pentland of MIT. His new book Building the New Economy sets a framework adapted by MBWG. Moreover, D4E also fulfils recommendation of World Bank’s 2021 Report Data for Better Lives, as well as a report by UNESCAP’s Rethinking MSME Finance in Asia and the Pacific, which points to the financial innovations that could allow MSME finance to remake that sector. Furthermore, People Centered Internet contributed significantly to MSMEs Finance framework.
D4E functions simultaneously on three geographic domains, which reinforce each other:
The local domain will be represented by the Province of West Nusa Tenggara (NTB) and specifically in East Lombok, in cooperation with the Alas Strait Climate Alliance project (a public private consortium, with NTB Province as a key partner), which will support the creation of artisanal climate-smart industries focussing on growing and processing medicinal plants and agroforestry products, in joint venture with local communities. The primary focus of D4E is the activation of microcredit, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) integrated into Data Cooperatives.
A number of emergent industries, each tied to environmental sustainability and climate resilience, will thrive in this approach. In addition to jamu, other agricultural cooperatives such as cocoa, and coffee will also benefit. The approach will benefit low-income, and remote villagers based in East Lombok. A team from MIT may design a model for data cooperatives in which MSMEs pool their strengths to accelerate and integrate data that facilitates growing, marketing and learning that support this aim as well as communicating the benefits of a climate-smart production system.
The National structure of D4E will consist of MBWG partner institutions, represented on the list of those invited to the launch event of D4E.
National stakeholders, based in Jakarta, will look to West Nusa Tenggara (NTB) Province where their innovations will converge. For example, a model of data governance incorporating Indonesia’s One Data Policy will focus on applications for NTB. As satellites get deployed in the province bolstered by upgrades in smart-electrification, infrastructure will advance in tandem with demand from MSMEs and consumers.
At the global level D4E will reach out to intergovernmental agencies, as well as commercial Big Tech companies in ways that aim to overcome the data duopoly between US and China. Key stakeholders from China and US are already among the international members of MBWG. For example we have included Asian Infrastructure Development Bank, Huawei, as well as academic innovators from China’s top universities in addition to various US and Western institutions. Combining the strengths of the Western industrial nations (of the G7) with those of G20 (which incorporates China), a truly collaborative approach may emerge.
Academia plays a big role at the global level of D4E. D4E will bring together a collaboration of leading universities that are innovating regarding the ethics of the emergent digital economy. This D4E initiative will be led by Department of Information Management of Peking University. D4E will draw upon four institutions from the West: MIT, Harvard, Stanford, and Oxford; and two universities in China: Tshinghua University and Peking University itself. The initiative will translate the concept of digital empowerment into policies and practices that address global, national and local levels.