China Threat: Australia warned of tech relationship with Indonesia

Experts say Australia and its allies should provide Indonesia with intensive technical training to counter Chinese influence in the region.

A new report from the National Security College of the Australian National University says that Chinese firms have become Indonesia’s main supplier of cybersecurity.

According to the report, China is now providing both a large amount of equipment and training to all levels of society, from government officials to rural students.

“The programs are huge and they are provided by big companies like Huawei,” said report co-author Dr. Dirk van der Kley.

“Huawei alone potentially trains tens of thousands of Indonesians every year. This is guiding Indonesia’s current and future technology leaders towards Chinese technology.”

One of the main stumbling blocks in Australia’s relationship with China was the refusal to allow Huawei to roll out Australia’s 5G network due to security concerns.

Dr van der Klei said that while Indonesia has a “deep dislike” for China, the country has little resistance to dominating telecommunications and cyberspace.

“This is because rich liberal democracies are not delivering the benefits that Indonesia needs or wants,” Dr. van der Klei said.

The report calls for four countries – Australia, India, Japan and the US – to do more for technology education in Indonesia.

“Australia, in conjunction with other Quad countries, should develop a vocational technology training program large enough to truly improve Indonesia’s technological capability and offer alternatives to Chinese state-supported technology and training,” said co-author Dr. Benjamin Herskovich.

“The first step is for the new Australian government – and hopefully Quad – to provide Indonesia with large-scale short-term technical training. This is what they want. We are currently ceding this territory to China,” Dr. Herskovich said.

“Large tech firms from Quad countries should share their technology and expertise with an internationally accredited professional program. Australia’s vocational education and training sector should also foster personal and educational ties with Indonesia.”

Co-author Dr Gatra Priyandita of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute stated that Australian technology training could help Indonesia tackle the serious problem of cybercrime.

“The most urgent cybersecurity threat to the Indonesian government is cybercrime. Indonesia is one of the most vulnerable countries to cybercrime on Earth,” said Dr. Priyandita.

Despite China’s active ICT program in the region, serious short-term vocational training in Indonesia is the right decision.

“So Australia and the Quartet countries should do this, regardless of their goal of countering China’s influence. A partnership on digital skills and capacity building in Indonesia would be a win-win for everyone.”