Corruption, ethnic discrimination and development of tourist industry were the topics when three of UiA’s PhD candidates from Indonesia discussed the significance of social research with Indonesia’s ambassador to Norway.
The discussion marked the end of a six-year long interdisciplinary research collaboration project between Indonesia’s greatest university, the University of Gadjah Mada (UGM), and the University of Agder. The project is funded by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs with NOK 15 million. About 100 master’s students from UGM has received a scholarship through the collaboration, and six Indonesians are getting their PhD degree at UiA through the project.
Indri Dwi Apriliyanti, Boyke Rudy Purnomo and Risa Virgosita have followed the PhD programme at the School of Business and Law at UiA, specialising in international business / international management.
Apriliyanti recently defended her thesis titled "Elite power, institutional voids, and politics in state-owned enterprises in Indonesia". For the thesis, she interviewed 90 people from different social classes in order to understand more about how corruption affects the entire society of her home country.
"You need money to achieve a position of power in Indonesia. And even if you do not have a lot of money yourself, many receive support from the financial elite. They, however, expect favours in return, and so the widespread corruption stays unchanged," Indri said.
Todung Mulya Lubis is Indonesia’s ambassador to Norway. Originally a jurist, he has worked many years with human rights issues and transparency prior to being appointed as an ambassador in 2018. He had travelled to Kristiansand to take part in the discussion and at the same time celebrate the candidates who are finishing their PhD projects. In order to do something about corruption in Indonesia, the ambassador thinks that people as a society must really want to put an end to it.
"We need a social movement against corruption so everything about society can become more open and transparent. Academia and media are important to both analysing and revealing corruption," Mulya Lubis said.
About 265 million people live in Indonesia. Less than two percent of these are of Chinese origin. Chinese people in Indonesia are subjected to discrimination and do not have the same rights as ethnic Indonesians. Their property rights for land are limited and it is often very difficult for them to make the authorities hear their causes.
Yet, the Chinese dominate the Indonesian economy and control 75 percent of all businesses.
This made Risa Virgosita take a closer look at entrepreneurship and how it is perceived differently by ethnic Javanese and ethnic Chinese in Indonesia. She is finishing her PhD project in autumn 2019.
"The ethnic Chinese are discriminated in Indonesia. At the same time, the Chinese teach their children to run a business. Indonesian youths get mobile phones from their parents, but Chinese youths must work and pay for them themselves," Risa said and presented the following suggestion to change the situation.
"We must let all ethnic groups receive the same support, so they can compete on equal footing. I also believe in strengthening entrepreneurship education in the schools and learning from the Chinese part of the population and raise the requirements," she said.
Ambassador Mulya Lubis considers the discrimination as inherited from the time Indonesia was a Dutch colony from the 1800s to 1949 when the country became independent.
"We must strengthen the civil rights of all citizens and get rid of discrimination," the ambassador said.
Boyke Rudy Purnomo defended his thesis titled "Essays on Entrepreneurship and Creative Industries" where he asks how Indonesia can increase the number of tourists to the country. When talking to Amabassador Mulya Lubis, he referred to that while 120,000 Norwegians each year go on holiday to Thailand, only 25,000 go on holiday to the neighbouring country.
"We need an integrated marketing strategy that shows the entire range of what Indonesia has to offer," Boyke said.
"So, we must make it easier to obtain a visa to visit Indonesia and ease up the regulations so foreign citizens also can buy property in Indonesia," Lubis said.
UiA and UGM have hav a close connection for many years. In autumn 2018, the two universities celebrated 25 years of cooperation. Professor Stein Kristiansen is an important person in the relation between the two universities, and he also led the conversation about the significance of the research.
"We must show that the research can make a difference and can affect how politics are shaped. This way, we also learn more about Indonesia as one of the fastest growing economies in the world," Kristiansen says.
Although this project is ending, UiA and UGM hope to extend the collaboration by also involving more universities and more countries in Southeast Asia.
"We are looking for support to start a joint master's study programme in sustainability management. The UN's sustainability development goals are important for planning all over the world, and it will be very important for students from both Indonesia and Norway to learn more about them. So far, our expectations for reaching this goal are great," Kristiansen said.