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Microsoft Research Center in Indonesia? Yes!

A couple weeks ago (could somebody provide the exact date), president Susilo Bambang Yudoyono (SBY) met with Bill Gates in Redmond. Among the things that they discussed was the possibility to open a Microsoft Research Center in Indonesia. This created a debate, pros and cons, in IT communities in Indonesia.

I am glad that the idea of open a research center in Indonesia was brought up. I don't know who provided the information to our president, but I am glad that our president was bold enough to put the idea forward.

First of all, this idea was not just came up one or two days ago. We have thought about this for quite a few years. In fact, in a presentation about BHTV (Bandung High Tech Valley) in 2000 (and updated in 2001), I suggested that we approach stable multinational tech companies to open their research centers in Bandung. (Presentation material is available in my web site at Search for the word "BHTV". If you can't find it, I'll mail it to you.)

Multinational companies are needed in a tech region (such as Silicon Valley and their look-a-likes). Wired Magazine (in July 2000 edition) did a survey of tech regions in the world. They ranked the regions based on these four criteria:

  1. The ability of area universities and research facilities to train skilled workers or develop new technologies
  2. The presence of established companies and multinationals to provide expertise and economic stability
  3. The population's entrepreneurial drive to start new ventures
  4. The availability of venture capital to ensure that the ideas make it to market

Bandung was not in Wired's list, but I tried to measure Bandung against those criteria. We have most of them. The only ingredient that's still missing is "the presence of established companies and mutltinationals". I called these companies, the anchors!

The idea of Microsoft Research Center in Indonesia (hopefully in Bandung, since I don't think it will be successful in other region) is definitely inline with BHTV plan. We won't stop with Microsoft. We'll go after other tech companies. Perhaps those who are in Biotech too. Or, we can ressurect "Bell Labs" in Indonesia?

I would like to put an emphasize in research center, not just companies running business. It is good to have (established multinational) companies running business in the region, but it is not very useful since there's no market in Bandung itself (yet!). But Bandung has a great pool of talents.

These research centers (companies) provide a buffer and place to work for new graduates (from tech universities, such as ITB). They are needed to shape these fresh talents. I use the word "shape", since these research centers provide real world high-tech culture (including work ethics) that are not given at universities. They will mold the talents into world class work force. This will benefit to the region and the world. (It's difficult to find well rounded talents.)

Then, there's this question to answer: Can Indonesia (let me selfishly point to Bandung) provide the needed talents for these research centers? My bold answer: Yes!

If not, I will work hard to provide you with the talents! If you (established multinational tech companies) committ to it, then I'll make sure I'll committ to it.

How so? Let me give you a recent example. Recently, Google had a programming contest in Bangalore India. They called it "Google Code Jam." Do you know the winners of this event? The first winner, an Indonesian. The second winner, an Indonesian. Then the third, an Indian. I am not putting down Indians here. I have too many Indian friends to know their quality (excellent!). I just want to point out that we, Indonesians, are also good. Given the opportunity, we will excel. This is good for the (research) centers, by the way.

Another resistance came from people who are against Microsoft. They are afraid that this movement will kill open source movement in Indonesia. Well, let me assure you that open source initiatives (and of course free software movement) will still thrive in Indonesia. I consider myself to be an open source person (slightly slanted towards free software actually), although I don't have the time to code myself. (I still write [perl scripts] just for fun.) We hope that there are other research centers, not just Microsoft. Perhaps there's Apple Research Center (Bandung is well know for its artists and creativity), Intel Research Center (we have a complete Microelectronics lab here in Institut Teknologi Bandung, we have more than a dozen PhDs in Microelectronics), IBM Research Center (big Banks in Indonesia may need special machine from IBM), Biotech research center (there are pharmaceutical companies / factories in Bandung, and also Biotech research in ITB), and many more ...

In short, I am happy that SBY has put forward the idea of Microsoft Research Center in Indonesia to Bill Gates. Let's make this happen. And let approach more companies...

Budi Rahardjo, a BHTV evangelist -


max bayu said…
Yes, I agree that Microsoft Research center will not 'kill' the opensource initiatives. In fact it will complete our expertise in the software area.
I believe some day we would really become a 'Silicon Valley'. Thanks for the BHTV. Just one thing, How far has the BHTV project been going now? How many people involved? I think to be a real 'Silicon valley' we need more people...
adinoto said…
#1 Hik, I think we are morelikely need the money to pool these talents. Otherwise, these talents will fly away to MNC finally.
zakiakhmad said…
....We hope that there are other research centers, not just Microsoft. Perhaps there's Apple Research Center (Bandung is well know for its artists and creativity), Intel Research Center (we have a complete Microelectronics lab here in Institut Teknologi Bandung, we have more than a dozen PhDs in Microelectronics),

Pak Budi, but why we still don't have something BIG from our PAUME? Or it's just me the one who don't know, or PAUME itself the one not popular enough? We can mention Prof. Samaun's patent. But till now, we (Indonesia) still don't have a microelectronics industry.

Where's the wrong side?
Anonymous said…
27 Mei 2005
Anonymous said…
i am glad to hear what Microsoft want to do with Indonesia, however i don't think Indonesia has capabilities for big research yet.I am sorry to say this.
Yes, I know we have winner in Google Code jam but look closer to it where does the winner study?
I know couple of guy has been working for Microsoft in Redmond, and I know they are technically exceptional bright student.
But again they don't come from Indonesian university :(.

I am not being pesimistic with Indonesian Education but we do need to change our mentality and discpline to catch up with India or at least how the hell we gonna cooperate with Western if we can not communicate well with them?
Look closer with Vietnam, Malaysia, or Singapore, I know couple of their company doing outsource to us but if we realize that project is from another country which outsoure to them before "dumped" to us.

I am sad..
Anonymous said…
"I know couple of guy has been working for Microsoft in Redmond, and I know they are technically exceptional bright student.But again they don't come from Indonesian university"

I know a friend who graduated from Computer Science in ITB, works as Visual-C QA.
Anonymous said…
Bagaimana pak budi peluang bandung? kok yang diajak negosiasi direktur Jababeka? Apakah Cikarang lebih siap dari bandung?

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