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Indonesia's President Widodo appoints two more tech executives

Ruangguru, Amartha CEOs join govt special staff in digitization and youth push

Indonesian President Joko Widodo, second left, has a selfie taken with Indonesian actor Reza Rahadian. The president is a prolific user of social media.    © AP

JAKARTA -- Following the recent appointment of Nadiem Makariem, founder of ride-hailing startup Gojek, as Indonesia's minister of education and culture, President Joko Widodo has brought two more tech executives into top government positions.

Belva Devara, co-founder and CEO of edtech startup Ruangguru, and Andi Taufan, founder and CEO of fintech startup Amartha, were named yesterday in Jakarta to be joining the president's special staff, along with five other young professionals from various fields.

In a speech, President Widodo said the young executives would be his "discussion partners, who are expected to provide fresh and innovative ideas to be applied in the government to advance the country."

The president also wants them to facilitate and extend communications with young people, including Indonesian diaspora networks around the world.

In an Instagram post, Devara said he would remain as Ruangguru's CEO and would thus be able to provide input to the president regarding the latest tech developments that are relevant to the needs of communities. Ruangguru has been drawing the spotlight this year, particularly due to rumors that Japanese technology group SoftBank will invest in the company. In October, Ruangguru expanded its services to Vietnam by launching a platform called Kien Guru.

Meanwhile, Amartha is one of the pioneers of peer-to-peer fintech lending, connecting micro-businesses with lenders in Indonesia. Founded in 2010, it has a mission to empower small and medium-sized enterprises, including women entrepreneurs who lack financial access and support to build their businesses. According to the company's blog, Amartha has channeled 1.6 trillion rupiah (more than $113 million), to over 339,000 borrowers in rural Java, Sulawesi and Sumatra.

Since the president's special staff members are not required to be present at the presidential palace every day, it is likely that Taufan will also maintain his position as CEO at Amartha.

President Widodo is known for his outreach to Indonesia's young people. He maintains a constant social media presence, sharing images of himself with his family, as well as an interest in popular culture.

Shortly after he was elected for a second term as president in May this year, he publicly expressed his interest in appointing millennials to some ministerial and government positions, as they can provide novel insights and execute government programs quickly.

The appointment of tech entrepreneurs as government officials shows the president is keen to support and advance Indonesia's digital economy.

KrASIA is a digital media company focused on technology-driven businesses and trends across the Asia-Pacific region. It is part of 36Kr, a tech news portal based in Beijing. Nikkei announced a partnership with 36Kr on May 22, 2019.

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