Gates Cambridge Scholar meets Indonesia's president

Sabrina Anjara met the President of Indonesia on Monday to discuss the role of the Indonesian diaspora in economic development.

A Gates Cambridge Scholar met with the President of Indonesia this week to discuss the role of Indonesian diaspora in building the country.

Dr Sabrina Anjara [2014] had an audience with the President of Indonesia, HE Joko Widodo, at the Presidential Palace in Jakarta on Monday.

The President received a group of 35 representatives of the “Inovator 4.0” network led by a University of Cambridge alumnus, Senator Budiman Sudjatmiko. The group presented their solutions to issues in Indonesian healthcare, education, economic growth and sustainable energy through innovative technology and creative investment models. Also attending the meeting were the Minister for Research, Technology and Higher Education and the Cabinet Secretary. 

Sabrina was one of seven overseas-based Indonesian scientists who were flown home for the closed meeting during which the President expressed his wishes for the Indonesian diaspora (scholars and professionals living abroad) to contribute to research, innovation and education in Indonesia. 

Responding to the discussion, Sabrina highlighted the continued need for a change in mindset towards multiculturalism and tolerance in line with the President’s 2014 “mental revolution” campaign. 

Sabrina also briefly mentioned her doctoral research at 28 primary care clinics in Indonesia, funded by various University of Cambridge departments, the British Psychological Society and through crowdfunding. The lack of accessible research funding within Indonesia remains a hindrance to development and innovation, she said.

In her current role as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in University College Dublin, Sabrina is part of a team awarded an Irish Health Research Board grant to develop a model of integrated care for older people in Ireland. At the meeting, she underlined the fact that her Indonesian citizenship was not an issue for the award. Instead, reviewers praised the diversity of the team and its wealth of collected experience. 

Sabrina and another Cambridge alumna, Tracey Harjatanaya, also mentioned their project on promoting inter-religious harmony to the President. They have proposed methods to identify groups and areas at risk of radicalisation using artificial intelligence, followed by online and offline programmes to promote critical thinking and tolerance. 

Sabrina also highlighted potential barriers to the career development of recent PhDs who returned home. In 2017, only 11.36% of university lecturers in Indonesia had a PhD. Relatively few have a track record of publishing in international journals. Given the importance of mentorship and supervision for recent PhD graduates who remain in academia and hope to be world-class researchers, those who return home too soon may plateau instead of furthering their network and collaborations, she said.

She believes Indonesians in a similar position should continue their research careers abroad, where funding, infrastructures and academic mentorship are in place, and return home once they reach professional maturity and global competitiveness. She says that doesn’t stop them from conducting Indonesia-relevant research, partnering with Indonesian institutions in multi-country projects and sharing authorship in international journals. 

Last month, the Indonesian government appointed members for a National Research Council. Following yesterday’s meeting, it was announced that 6 trillion rupiah in endowment (circa £350 million) would be made available for research and that Indonesian diaspora are also eligible. There are 10 research areas identified: food and agriculture; healthcare; information and communication technology; transportation; defence; renewable energy; maritime; disaster management; society and culture; and education. 

Dr Sabrina Anjara did a PhD in Public Health and Primary Care and was the first Indonesian to be awarded the Gates Cambridge Scholarship. Since then, Vincentius Aji Jatikusumo (2015), Muhammad Hartono (2019) and Muhammad Iqbal (2019) have also been awarded a Gates Cambridge Scholarship.