The Role of 'Disrupters' in a Rapidly Digitalizing World


OCTOBER 04, 2015

Melbourne. Walking along a tunnel connecting Yarra River Southbank and Flinders Street in Melbourne, pedestrians will have the sense of stepping into the set of a science fiction film as posters depicting sleek, state-of-the-art gadgets boast of their ability to harness the future of technology.

Not far from Flinders Street Railway Station, the world’s leading technology firms and businesses gathered last week to showcase their latest products and achievements: from smartphone industry giant Samsung and struggling rival Blackberry, to up-and-coming tech firms Blue Jeans and Riverbed.

The Telstra Vantage 2015 brought together over 3,500 participants from organizations across the globe to talk about the role that technology plays in disrupting the market and enabling success.

Powered by over 13,000 cups of coffee, 100 partners and 52 workshops discussing everything from drone technology to the seismic shift in content on demand, attendees saw what is disrupting and triggering change across industries and how organizations can respond.

Speaking at the conference on Tuesday, Telstra president director Andrew Penn underlined the importance of information and communications technology in any business, adding that creativity, innovation and collaboration with all stakeholders, including nurturing startups, to co-create breakthroughs in digital technology are key in facing today’s competition.

“It’s all about creativity and innovation,” he said. ”Innovation is about investing capital, building capabilities and changing culture.”

Penn said Telstra is looking to stay ahead of the curve by encouraging technological innovation through collaboration with startups, machine-to-machine (M2M) technology and Internet of Things (IoTs), adding that ensuring its network continues to be the best in Australia is still at the core of its business, and the driving force behind being able to deliver these capabilities.

Penn highlighted that IoTs is now integral to all businesses, because by 2020, "everything that can be connected will be connected."

Creativity, innovation, connection and digital technology are words that dominated every speech and conversation, and according to world-class trend shapers, these are all requirements to becoming a "disrupter," a challenger of ruling norms, and to maintaining one's spot at the top as the "incumbent."

Among the speakers were Australian finance wizard and chairman of Yellow Brick Road, Mark Bouris, and American writer Malcolm Gladwell, author of best-sellers "Tipping Point" and "Blink."

Drawing from his own experience, Bouris highlighted the importance of technology beside human characters, such as empathy and emotional durability, to disrupt the business establishment — and for the incumbent to stay in power.

“Disruption and entrepreneurialism is vital for the survival of Australia,” he proclaimed.

But it’s also vital for the whole world, including Indonesia, for businesses to thrive and achieve sustainable growth. Otherwise, Indonesia will forever be a follower and consumer, according to Muhammad Awaluddin, director of enterprise and business services for state telecommunications firm Telkom.

The company has formed a joint venture with Australia’s leading ICT firm Telstra to create Telkomtelstra, whose presence at the Telstra Vantage conference in Melbourne aimed to tell Australian companies and international businesses that Telstra technology has arrived in Indonesia.

“It’s part of Telkom effort to maintain leadership and stay relevant in this fast-changing world spurred by rapid advancement in technology,” he said.

The market for corporate information communications technology (ICT) in Indonesia is estimated at Rp 93.5 trillion ($6.34 billion) and is projected to reach Rp124.6 trillion by 2017.

Luring more foreign investment and transfer of technology

Telkomtelstra will utilize the technology applied by Telstra in Australia, including a cloud-based technology it calls Managed Solutions services, to streamline a company's technological environment with an integrated package of network, cloud and other services.

The company opened both its office and a customer experience center in Jakarta on Thursday to introduce its technology to future clients. It has set a target of 50 corporate clients by the end of 2016.

Telkomtelstra president director Philip Sporton added that both companies aim to support corporate customers through various services of "managed solutions."

"Our main goal is to support corporate customer business as well as to help optimize, develop, and transform their business through ICT Managed Solutions offered by Telkomtelstra," Sporton said.

By combining the capabilities of both companies, Telkomtelstra is expected to strengthen the ICT industry, both locally and regionally, by introducing a world-class service.

“Most of our employees are Indonesians, and we provide intensive training for them. This way, they can absorb the latest technology Telstra has applied,” Sporton said.

The fact that Telstra is willing to invest amid Indonesia’s economic downturn will strongly boost the country’s appeal to lure more foreign investors, said Awaluddin.

“It proves that business can still thrive in Indonesia,” he said.

That is indeed how Telstra sees Indonesia, the Southeast Asia’s largest economy, said Nathan Bell, Telkomtelstra’s chief operating officer.

“Despite this downturn, there are so many things to be optimistic about in Indonesia,” he told the international audience at Telstra Vantage 2015.

Sporton agreed that the presence of Telstra in Indonesia would also encourage other Australian companies, especially Telstra’s clients, to follow its lead and invest in Indonesia as they can rest assured they will receive high-quality technology solutions.

Enhance transparency and efficiency, reduce corruption

Sporton is also convinced that the digitalization of Indonesia’s private and public governance would boost transparency and efficiency because there are no hiding places in such an open digital operation.

“It goes without saying that digitalization in all sectors will bring more transparency in Indonesia,” he said.

Survey after survey has put Indonesia as among the world's most corrupt nation.

Emerson Yuntho of the Indonesia Corruption Watch echoed Sporton's sentiments and agreed that digitalization can help eradicate corruption, especially in the bidding process of government projects.

“It’s time to embrace technology,” he said.

Reluctant to change

Penn cited mobile transport app Uber in his opening speech of the conference as one example of a disrupter, inadvertently reminding Indonesian participants that a number of disrupters have already cracked into the local market in the form of GoJek, GranTaxi and GrabBike.

According to experts, many more of these mobile-based services will soon follow and Indonesia's established businesses should prepare themselves for the phenomena.

“The competition from these new technologies is disrupting the market for traditional players. Given the relatively low price and ease of access for Uber and GoJek, these apps are entering a head-to-head war with established operators,” writes Fithra Faisal, a research and community engagement manager at the University of Indonesia's school of economics, in his July 8 article for the Conversation.

The government, he said, should be open to regulation changes to accommodate this revolution and not hinder innovation that could trap the nation in 20th century way of doing business.

Still, it's all a matter of political will, Emerson added.

The Jakarta Globe attended Tesltra Vantage 2015 at the invitation of Telkom.