4th Research Dive Wrap-up: Trade & Competitiveness

In collaboration with OLX Indonesia, Pulse Lab Jakarta hosted 17 academics and researchers from diverse disciplines during its fourth Research Dive. Participants had an opportunity to dive into various new types of data to explore the dynamics of trade and competitiveness in Indonesia and across the region. Below we reflect on some of the highlights from the event.

A Hackathon-style Event for Researchers

Throughout the four-day Research Dive (August 6–9), we were reminded that hackathon-style events are not just for coders. The four teams consisted of economists, data analysts and engineers. Participants spent their first evening attending briefings to familiarise themselves with the three types of dataset provided: e-commerce data, postal network data, and global marine vessel automatic identification system data.

After being paired with one of the datasets, each team’s challenge was to investigate how the respective dataset may relate to issues of trade and competitiveness within Indonesia and wider ASEAN. Some of the topics identified were: port network connectivity, regional connectivity, proxies for economic trends and shocks, and meaningful correlations between postal network data and trade network data.

Trade, Competitiveness and Big Data as Proxies

Countries without open economies these days are likely to encounter development hurdles. Openness thus is important for economic development. Still, openness itself cannot exist without the competitive element, which serves as a measure of how well a country will exhibit its trade potential via access to global markets.

One determinant of trade competitiveness is the extent to which goods can be shipped from factories to port warehouses (or worldwide destinations) within a timely and cost-effective manner. Therefore, a system that can provide real-time information is valuable, for instance being able to track and monitor ships and other vessels for maritime safety. The Automatic Identification System (AIS) is one such example, which coordinates and exchanges ships and maritime real-time data using radio information. The data from AIS normally includes a ship’s nautical position, identity, type, position, course, speed and navigation.

As for Big Data, internet growth is responsible for the booming e-commerce sector, which is now a common go-to platform for millions of people, resulting in vast data linked to sales and purchases. E-commerce offers many benefits that can improve ASEAN countries’ participation in international value chains, market access, and market efficiency. It also lowers transaction costs in some cases. According to a UNCTAD report, e-commerce has increased substantially in recent decades, notably in Asia and Africa, with more business-to-consumer transactions. The increase in the number of international postal deliveries is also linked to e-commerce activities.

Given these points, we chose Trade and Competitiveness as the theme for the fourth Research Dive in order to help generate insights on issues related to maritime infrastructure, trade connectivity and e-commerce. In addition to academics and researchers from these fields, we also invited domain experts from Indonesia’s Coordinating Ministry for Economic Affairs to brief the event participants on some of the economic challenges in Indonesia.

Four Days of Intense Research

Following Day 1 briefings on the different datasets, the teams kicked off Day 2 with brainstorming discussions, and segued into extracting and analysing relevant data to support their research theses. Each team narrowed their own research question, by focusing on specific, challenging-yet-feasible-to-scrutinise aspects of the dataset. One group, for instance, looked at the most efficient shipping networks between Indonesia and other ASEAN and East Asian countries, by applying network optimisation methods and providing different scenarios for implementing a hub port. Another group utilised the rent and sales listing data in e-commerce to understand the nature of property market across Indonesia.

We hosted a mini workshop on Day 3 as a side event to the Research Dive, which featured three distinguished guest speakers. The line-up included:

  1. Dr. Titik Anas from Padjadjaran University, who presented on the relationship between import tariffs and output/employment/productivity levels in Indonesia.
  2. Dr. Rossanto D. Handoyo from Airlangga University, who discussed ASEAN’s roles as a supplier of intermediaries, as well as a supplier of final goods.
  3. Dr. Yudo Anggoro from Institut Teknologi Bandung (ITB), who explored ways to improve Indonesia’s economic competitiveness in the regional and global markets.

These speakers had an opportunity to field a series of questions from fellow experts and practitioners in attendance.

Moving into Day 4, the teams reconvened and presented their findings to a diverse audience, ranging from government ministries to development partners.

The four final presentations were titled:

  • Improving Port Connectivity in Indonesia Based On Automatic Identification System Data
  • E-Commerce Based Regional Connectivity in Indonesia
  • Analysis of Proxies in E-commerce Data for City-Level & National Economic Trends & Shock
  • Analysis of Correlations Between Postal Network Data & Trade Data Within ASEAN: Revealing the Proxy Indicators for the Socio-economic Profile of a Country

Next on the Horizon

The availability of e-commerce data during this Research Dive was notable. It not only exposed participants to a new type of data, but also allowed them to develop fresh insights on the topic of trade and competitiveness. While it is well known that digital economy affects economic progress in Indonesia and the wider region, it is hoped that such exposure will inspire researchers to anticipate other impacts that may be on the horizon. Throughout the Research Dive, a variety of analytical perspectives were noted, some of which were enhanced during collaborative discourses with representatives from OLX Indonesia.

Pulse Lab Jakarta will be producing a technical report of the fourth Research Dive, and participants are encouraged to refine and publish their own research. If you are interested in reading the previous Research Dive technical reports, they may be accessed here.


Pulse Lab Jakarta is grateful for the generous support of the Government of Australia.