Indonesia’s education technology during COVID-19 and beyond

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Indonesia’s education technology during COVID-19 and beyond
Central Buton, Indonesia: Children learn about the internet in a computer class. Photo: sahlan/Shutterstock.com

EdTech—the use of information and communications technology to provide education—holds considerable promise in improving learning outcomes. In Indonesia, over 530,000 schools have closed amid the coronavirus outbreak (COVID-19), affecting 68 million students from pre-primary through tertiary levels, and making the need for effective EdTech extremely urgent.  The situation is forcing a very fast and broad increase in the country’s use of EdTech, which is expected to have lasting effects on the market.

Our recently published EdTech landscape survey for Indonesia reveals that the sector here is starting to catch up with the global frontier.  It notes the growth of local platforms, such as Harukaedu (a platform offering online university degrees), Ruangguru (an interactive e-learning platform for K-12 students in Indonesia) and Cakap by Squline (a tutoring platform for language learning). But overall the sector is still emerging.

The earlier reluctance to adopt technology among some of Indonesia’s educational institutions, teachers and parents has been turned around by the crisis, as many are now reliant on online and distance education. We expect the pandemic to accelerate the adoption of online learning methods and to encourage educational institutions to use remote learning to improve resilience in future crises.

Data from Google Trends show that searches for “study from home” and similar terms experienced a spike – reflecting increased demand for online and remote education.  Another indicator is the sharp increase in website traffic and application downloads for leading EdTech platforms since February 2020.

Data center in server room; katjen/Shutterstock.com
Data center in server room. Photo: katjen/Shutterstock.com

Increased demand for online learning is driving massive growth of Indonesia’s leading EdTech platforms. The two most popular EdTech products offer learning management systems for teacher-student collaboration and online teaching management, as well as interactive classroom tools for hosting interactive live teaching sessions, such as G-Suite for Education, Microsoft for Education, Zoom, etc.

EdTech is not accessible to all learners, however, and Indonesia’s education system is not well equipped for quickly scaling up online learning.  Many students in rural areas lack connectivity, and many lower-income students lack access to devices needed to use EdTech tools. This contrasts with lower-tech options such as television: 95% of students accessed TV in the prior week (96.6% in urban and 92.3% in rural areas) according to data from the 2018 national socio-economic survey. To help address these equity issues for access, the Ministry of Education and Culture launched educational programming called Belajar dari Rumah (Study from Home) on national television on April 13.

Despite the increasing demand, Indonesia’s EdTech sector faces major bottlenecks that prevent it from replicating the level of success seen in other technology sectors and in other countries.

Supply-side constraints include:

  • difficult access to funding
  • high marginal costs, particularly to acquire and retain new customers
  • a shortage of qualified talent to develop and maintain products

These are coupled with demand-side constraints, including:

  • a low willingness to pay from schools and parents
  • a lack of digital literacy, particularly on the part of education providers
  • poor digital infrastructure, which limits connectivity in remote regions and download speeds across the country

Further complicating these constraints are overlapping responsibilities between local and central governments on new education tools, along with the public education system’s limited capacity and limited incentives to value the potential of EdTech products. In addition, Indonesia’s underdeveloped consumer protection regulations, particularly on data security and privacy, mean that student and school data may be at risk. 

A number of options could help to address these constraints.

  1. The government of Indonesia could set standards for data privacy and security related to EdTech products. This has been a major issue in other countries and has contributed to a backlash against EdTech in some places.
  2. EdTech firms could partner with academia and government to establish standards for performance and cost-effectiveness, and to transparently and rigorously evaluate some of the current leading products.
  3. The government can continue to invest in improving digital infrastructure and connectivity, particularly in underdeveloped areas and for underserved communities.
  4. Another key step will be to increase potential customers’ trust in these new learning and teaching tools and, as a result, their willingness to pay. This will require more support for the development of EdTech startups, making use of startup assistance organizations.
  5. More effective engagements between the public and private sectors. Private firms need to better understand the needs of teachers, schools and parents. The public sector needs to clarify its governance structure and promote public-private partnerships for product development.
  6. The public education system could partner with EdTech firms to improve teachers’ ability to deliver technology-focused content. An effective partnership with EdTech firms could also help public education update the content of the national curriculum, on technology as well as other topics. This partnership could also support student learning in the event of another crisis that restricts student’s access to schools, increasing the overall resilience of the education system.

Authors

Noah Yarrow

Education Specialist

Riaz Bhardwaj

Private Sector Specialist

Join the Conversation

Nadia Mandasari
July 01, 2020

Hi!
I am Nadia.
I am thankfull that I found this article.
I am going to take my master on EdTech next year.
Now I am trying to build a research proposal.
But I am still have no idea about what topic I should do research on, especially the topic that can somehow contribute on the Education in Indonesia.
I wish I can get help :)

Jeff Nah
July 14, 2020

i like to join EdTech conversations