Paula Hong is a staff writer for The Hoya
Five Georgetown undergraduate students learned about urban development during a seven-day trip to Jakarta, Indonesia, in June, sponsored by the McCourt School of Public Policy’s Baker Center for Leadership and Governance.
The students, guided by Baker Center Director Victoria Canavor, met with the heads of institutions and organizations like the City Council of Jakarta, IBM and the International Labor Organization to understand and resolve the question of inclusivity in the smart cities of the future.
Canavor said that the program gave students access to the ideas and technology shaping modern urban development.
“I think they could not have responded as effectively had they not had the opportunity to meet with those leaders,” Canavor said. “For example, with Smart City Jakarta, they got a chance to see and visit all of the new, modern technology sites, which allowed them to experience it all real-time.”
Toward the end of the program, the students collaborated with counterparts from Harvard University, the University of Chicago and BINUS University Indonesia to present a concrete proposal on inclusive smart growth to the leaders and stakeholders.
Canavor said that this collaboration was part of an effort to build the students’ ability to collaborate with people from different backgrounds.
“The goal of this trip was to provide five promising undergraduate Georgetown students from different backgrounds and majors a unique learning experience focused on honing their ‘cultural intelligence’ skills: the ability to cross divides and thrive in diverse cultures,” Canavor said.
The students lived in the dorms of BINUS University. Canavor considered that this dynamic living situation made the program more appealing and educational.
“They lived in the dorms and experienced local Indonesian lifestyles. It was a short but immersive program where the local perspective was a key aspect; the students’ understanding of how Jakarta could be a more inclusive smart city would have been incomplete without it.”
Libby Bassini (SFS ’19), who went on the trip, said the interaction with local people and conditions was crucial for understanding the problem and addressing it appropriately.
“Being on-the-ground in Jakarta made me realize the importance of asking locals to add context to a problem to best provide a sustainable solution,” Bassini wrote in an email to The Hoya. “Local input is key to being practical about how to address an issue practically and effectively.”
Hunter Estes (SFS ’19) said that the contrasts evident in the country reminded him of the importance of addressing issues with a communal mindset.
“On a walk the day we got there, I noticed a small trash-filled canal that ran through the heart of the city. Across the small canal lay complete, abject poverty,” Estes said. “Loose pieces of scrap metal were thrown on crumbling buildings to provide some semblance of protection from the fierce rains that hit the city.”
However, Estes considered that the Indonesian political and business leaders were committed to addressing the prevailing inequality and fostering development for all. He argued that American leaders should adopt a similar mentality.
“I found the spirit of entrepreneurship to be alive and well in Jakarta. City leaders were aware of the problems that the city faced and were committed to fixing them,” Estes said. “I think this approach could be better employed in our local governments to address communal issues.”