By Bonnie Mamanua, Unlimited Potential Group Business Manager, Microsoft Indonesia
Last week we welcomed our CEO, Steve Ballmer, to Indonesia. Steve was here to hold meetings with Microsoft staff as well as political and business leaders, but while he had five minutes spare he was also able to meet with the winners of the Indonesian Imagine Cup. The Imagine Cup is Microsoft’s global student technology competition that asks young developers to imagine a world where technology solves some of the fundamental problems we are facing. This year the theme of the competition is the Millennium Development Goals.
Team Big Bang from ITB won the Indonesian competition and the chance to compete in the worldwide finals in Egypt. The team’s project is called MOSES – Malaria Observation System and Endemic Surveillance. The student’s idea is to reduce the time it takes to diagnose malaria in a patient, and contain it, using software. The diagnostic data of malaria-infected patients and the location information can be uploaded to Microsoft Virtual Earth. This helps health officers visualise data to help arrest the spread of the epidemic.
We were really impressed by the team’s efforts, but not surprised. Indonesia has a reputation in this competition for world-leading innovation and excellence. Just last year, one of our teams, Team Antarmuka with Project Butterfly, (see the video here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zqXk1qV1LzA) won the Rural Innovation Award in the finals held at Le Louvre in Paris. Their solution was based on citizen enablement – by using an SMS server, the team set up a system whereby people could text in instances of environmental pollution to a central server so that environmental issues were reported, and information disseminated, as quickly as possible. In fact, Butterfly automates and streamlines the whole chain, from documenting the issue to public notification.
This got me thinking – clearly, when given the means to do so, Indonesian entrepreneurs, however young, can produce some wonderfully innovative creations that address very real problems that the world is facing. The problem is that just over 10% of Indonesia’s population lives in the economic bracket we call the Top of the Pyramid. That leaves 90% in the middle and lower end of the economic spectrum, with less money for things like computers. In the Asian region, estimates are that 80% of the population lives in rural areas, often on less than US$1 a day. The challenge we face is to encourage innovation where we can, but also apply innovation in the way we getting more people to access technology. And the reason we do this is clear; because when people get hold of technology, interesting things happen. And they can help change the world for the better.