Steve Wozniak may not have the cult following as his Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, but he nonetheless embodies the spirit of innovation and lifelong learning that is critical for Indonesia if it hopes to fulfill its dream of being a top 10 economy in the world in the next 50 years.
On just about every count where it matters the most, Indonesia today lags behind the other giant emerging nations such as China, India and Brazil. In producing engineers and scientists, Indonesia is far behind its counterparts. In terms of investing in research and development, it spends a fraction of the amount that the other nations spend.
In Jakarta to deliver a speech on innovation, Wozniak emphasized the need for learning over and above what is taught in school. “During my early university years, I bought all the computer books I could, read them ahead of the class and taught myself really quickly,” he said.
He added that it was more important to educate youngsters to want to learn rather than give them content and knowledge. The government and especially the Ministry of Education must take heed of his words as we must shift the focus of our education system to one that promotes critical thinking if we are to produce people who can lead in innovation.
China today has 800,000 PhDs. India has 650,000, the majority of them in science and engineering. Indonesia, based on its population, should have 160,000 PhDs, but in reality we only have 30,000, 80 percent in economics, law or religion.
We cannot continue to rely on our natural resources to drive economic growth in the future. We must invest in research and development today if we are to produce technologically advanced products tomorrow. We must develop our own answers to Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak if we are to compete with the more advanced nations on an equal footing.