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Indonesian president appoints Ruangguru and Amartha CEOs as special staffers

Joko Widodo is after new insights from successful millennial leaders.

Following the appointment of Nadiem Makariem as minister of education and culture, Indonesian president Joko Widodo has brought on board two more tech executives to hold top government positions.

Belva Devara, co-founder and CEO of edtech startup Ruangguru, and Andi Taufan, founder and CEO of fintech startup Amartha, were named yesterday in Jakarta as the president’s special staffers, along with five other young professionals from various fields.

In his speech, President Widodo said these young staffers will be his “discussion partners who are expected to provide fresh and innovative ideas to be applied in the government to advance the country.”

The president also wants them to bridge communications with more young people, including Indonesian diaspora networks around the world.

In an Instagram post, Devara said he will remain as Ruangguru’s CEO. This way, he believes that he will be able to provide input to the president regarding the latest tech developments that are relevant to the needs of communities. Ruangguru is one of the startups that has been stealing the spotlight this year, especially with rumors that Softbank will invest in the company. In October, Ruangguru expanded its services to Vietnam by launching a platform called Kien Guru.

Meanwhile, Amartha is one of the pioneers of peer-to-peer fintech lending that connects micro-businesses with lenders in Indonesia. Founded in 2010, it has a mission to empower SMEs, including women entrepreneurs who lack financial access and support to build their businesses. According to the company’s blog, Amartha has channeled IDR 1.6 trillion, or more than USD 113 million, to over 339,000 borrowers in rural Java, Sulawesi, and Sumatra.

Since the president’s special staffers are not required to be present at the presidential palace every day, it is likely that Taufan will maintain his position as CEO at Amartha.

President Widodo is known for his outreach to Indonesia’s young people. He maintains a constant social media presence, sharing images of himself with his family, as well as an interest in popular culture.

Shortly after Widodo was elected for a second term as president, he publicly expressed his interest in appointing millennials for some ministerial and government positions, as they can provide novel insights and execute government programs quickly.

The appointment of tech entrepreneurs as government officials shows the president is keen to support and advance Indonesia’s digital economy.