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How Indonesia’s edtech stakeholders are approaching generative AI

Published on May 19, 2023

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On a recent episode of Indonesia Digital Deconstructed by AC Ventures, host and Principal of Comms Leighton Cosseboom had an insightful conversation with Abhay Saboo, Co-founder and CEO of CoLearn, and Rangga Husnaprawira, Chief Product Officer at GovTech Edu.

The latter part of the discussion gravitated around the use, risks, and benefits of artificial intelligence (AI), namely OpenAI’s ChatGPT-4, in the local education sector.

Abhay explained that AI is already well-integrated within CoLearn’s system, especially in powering homework help. Machine learning, a subset of AI, has been extensively used since CoLearn’s inception. Abhay also highlighted that Large Language Model (LLM) integration into the startup’s current offering is a significant focus today.

Though there isn’t a clear path to radical product transformation with generative AI yet, CoLearn is actively considering the best way to incorporate LLMs, hinting at exciting updates ahead.

Meanwhile, Rangga expressed excitement about the rapid innovation brought about by GPT-4 in the education sector. He believes it’s not a matter of if, but when and how Indonesia’s education players will embrace the technology. However, he also emphasized the importance of identifying genuine, clear problems that AI can solve, rather than imagining problems that don’t actually exist yet, just for the sake of deploying AI.

When asked by Leighton about the imminent demand for homework authenticity given the existence of GPT-4, Rangga said GovTech Edu is taking a steady approach. While it hasn’t yet built any AI-powered products for direct use, he believes the first step could be to use AI to detect plagiarism, even if at the start it is limited to the content created by teachers for other teachers (a validation phase).

Rangga also believes that while AI can handle basic instructions, the human connection between teachers and students will always be necessary, prompting a shift in teachers’ roles from dispensers of information to facilitators who help students make sense of the information they receive.

When asked by Abhay about how GovTech Edu prioritizes so many different sub-categories within the nation’s expansive education sector, Rangga gave credit to Gojek Founder Nadiem Makarim, who today serves as Indonesia’s Minister of Education, Culture, Research, and Technology. Rangga said Nadiem paved the way for tech teams to collaborate with the ministry. He also touched on the importance of clarifying governance and introducing the key concept of engineering constraints to various stakeholders, all of whom naturally have different requests.

He explained, “Prioritization, at the end of the day, comes from understanding constraints, with our engineering capacity and budget serving as key limitations. It’s not simply about saying ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ It’s about jointly managing resources. With the resources we have, we need to decide which tasks are most crucial. We can either add more resources or adjust our priorities accordingly. Applying such concepts from tech companies to a ministry context is not easy. That’s why our minister’s significant support is essential for these concepts to be implemented.”

Meanwhile, Abhay finds the greatest excitement in his company’s mission to improve Indonesia’s global education ranking. CoLearn aims to uplift the country from the bottom 10% to the top 50% of OECD rankings within a reasonable timeframe. Priorities for CoLearn in the near future also involve ensuring sustainability, achieving scale, and figuring out a quick path to monetization.

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