Remarks of President of the Republic of Indonesia at the 60th Anniversary of the Bogor Agricultural Institute (IPB) University, at the IPB Dramaga Campus, Bogor, West Java Province, September 15, 2023
Assalamu’alaikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh.
May peace be among us.
Distinguished Ministers of the Indonesia Onward Cabinet, who are in attendance today with me, Minister of Education, Culture, Research, and Technology, Minister of Agriculture, Minister of the Environment and Forestry, Minister of Cooperatives and MSMEs, Minister of State Secretary, Minister of Manpower, and Minister of Investment. I don’t know, it seems like all the ministers here are IPB University graduates, right? For me, two of my children are IPB University graduates.
Distinguished Governor of West Java, Mayor and Regent of Bogor;
Distinguished Chancellor of IPB University, Vice Chancellors, Academic Senates, Council of Professors and all teaching staff, all students from the IPB University;
Ladies and Gentlemen.
First and foremost, I would like to extend my congratulations to the big family of IPB University on its 60th Anniversary. Hopefully, IPB University will be more successful and more contributive to solving the nation’s problems and contributing to the progress of the nation.
Earlier, the Chancellor showed me many innovations that support downstreaming. From innovations, we can enter the industry. And, I must tell you as it is. It is extraordinary. There is a [variety of] red, big chili. There is a rice [variety] for barren lands, there is a rice [variety] that can produce 12 tons per hectare. There is salt, seaweed, and various kinds of others packaged in a very modern way, with brands that are clearly handled with excellent marketing efforts. Minister of Agriculture, please utilize the rice, the big chili. Give them to as many farmers as possible as we are sure of the quality.
For me, IPB University is important, since before I received the invitation to the IPB Anniversary event on September 1, my schedule was already full, and the event is in conflict with the planned schedule. Someone told me, “You could just record and send them a video, Sir.” Wow, if that’s the case, I could be scolded by the IPB University family as from the start, when I was invited by the Chancellor, “Sir, I request your presence at the 60th IPB University Anniversary.” Then I replied with such enthusiasm, “I will attend, inshallah,” but it turned out that the date, September 1, conflicted with another schedule. And, finally this morning, I can now be here.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Many people say that I scare people and worry too much since I often talk about potential challenges in the future, be it about crises, including crises in energy, food, or economic and even technological disruptions. No, it’s not like that. I’m never afraid and never worry about what I have said, be it about energy and food crisis or technological disruption. If all of us and I are worried, technological disruption is unavoidable. Why should we be afraid and worry? Technological disruption is still coming and will come eventually. Every day the changes are so fast. So, what’s the point of us worrying? What’s the use of us being afraid? Many say that human workforce will be replaced by intelligent machines in the future. No, it’s not like that. So, no need to be afraid and no need to worry.
I would be happier and prefer if we knew and understood the difficulty of the challenges ahead. Therefore, we can find out what we need to do to have a solution. Once again, we don’t need to worry and be afraid. We are facing technological disruption, which was previously stated by Prof. Arif, clearly and growing our optimism that we are capable and can face this.
I will give an example, food crisis, since this is relevant to IPB University. We know that the global human population is increasing, so food needs will also increase. In Indonesia, our population increases by 1.25 percent per year. Then, climate change, such as the current dry season, people are starting to get complicated because of super El Niño. There is also a rise in temperature and sea level. If we think about it, of course we can worry, but I don’t think there’s any need to worry for the most important thing is we found out what the solution is. There is also heated geopolitics, rivalries between big countries, and the prolonged war in Ukraine. I remember, I met President Zelenskyy in Kyiv, in Ukraine. I had a two-and-a-half-hour discussion with him. He said that there are 77 million tons of wheat that cannot be exported in Ukraine. That wheat is usually exported to Africa and Asia. 77 million tons of wheat sit there as the Port of Odessa is blocked by Russia.
From Ukraine, I went to Russia and discussed with President Putin for three hours and another number came out, “President Jokowi, there are 130 million tons of wheat idle in Russia.” Meaning, a total of 207 million tons of wheat sit in Ukraine and in Russia. So, if the wheat remains there, which is usually exported, what do people eat? That is the geopolitical context related to the food crisis. The price of wheat is spiking in Europe, Africa, and Asia and the people are the ones who are suffering.
What’s even more troublesome is that nineteen countries have restricted food exports to save their own people. India has just stopped exporting rice and consequently rice prices have spiked in all countries. We want to increase our strategic rice reserves, but even if we want to import, the rice is difficult to obtain, contrary to previous situation when countries are offering their rice and saying “please buy our goods.” Now looking for it is tough as the countries want to save and feed their own people.
These are all realities that we have to face, be aware of, accept—most importantly—and anticipate what we have to do. Well, this is IPB University’s job, Mr. Chancellor. The food issues will be resolved if IPB University handle this, inshallah. I’m waiting to see what our anticipatory measures, plans, and implementation will be.
Therefore, with these challenges, we need massive innovation that can become a breakthrough and a big leap to turn the global food problem into an opportunity for Indonesia to become the global foodshed in the future. There may be challenges and crises, and such challenges must serve as opportunities for us to innovate. So, we can improve the well-being of our farmers and fishers in the future. As far as I know, something cannot be called innovation if it is not out of the box. It cannot be called innovation if it is not out of mind. It cannot be called innovation if it is not impossible, since innovation should not be an ordinary thing. how much rice you can have if you plant it on one-hectare field, Mr. Minister of Agriculture? What is our average? 5.9 tons? If someone said that his/her innovation only produce six [tons] of rice, then it is not innovation. Quoting Chancellor Prof. Arif, if it multiplied the harvest to ten or twelve [tons], we can call that an innovation.
And, I welcome the concept of sustainable and inclusive agro-maritime developed by IPB University. This could be an important part of innovation in our food ecosystem. Nevertheless, I believe that such effort cannot be completed by one scientific discipline alone. Not monodisciplinary, but interdisciplinary, and even transdisciplinary since they are all interconnected.
And, I welcome the expansion of IPB University’s scientific disciplines that was conveyed by the Chancellor, for we really need multidisciplinary knowledge to develop our food ecosystem. We need management and a social approach. We need advanced technology intervention, AI, stem cells, biotechnology, big data, IOT, robotic systems, we need it all.
I ask once again; we must not be allergic to technology. Don’t avoid technological changes. Don’t be afraid of artificial intelligence (AI). Because yesterday at the G7, G20, and ASEAN Summit, everyone was talking about AI. All countries are afraid of AI because the regulations and rules of the game have not been created. Meanwhile, the AI continues to move and change. Everyone’s talking about it. This means we have to anticipate and prepare ourselves.
Again, don’t be afraid of artificial intelligence. Technology will not be able to beat humans; you have to believe that. Technology will not be able to beat humans because machines only have chips, but humans have hearts and feelings, machines don’t have that. And, I believe that the creation of Allah the Almighty will always be superior and more glorious. Therefore, I want IPB University to become a center for producing superior people who are not only competent in academics, but also have good character and morals who love their country, who have high optimism and always want to help others. I am sure that IPB University can really play that role.
That concludes my remarks.
I thank you.
Wassalamu’alaikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh.