Open Data Brings Change to Indonesia

January 31, 2017

  • In 2008, Indonesia passed the Public Information Disclosure Act, in order to improve transparency. In 2011, the country was among the founders of the Open Government Partnership.
  • Indonesia launched its Open Data initiative to promote open government.
  • Initiatives using the Open Data platform are improving good governance at the national and local level.

Jakarta, Indonesia, 31 January 2017 – Setiaji, Head of the Jakarta Smart City Management Unit, recalls how difficult it was to obtain government data when he was a college student.

“I literally had to go to several different offices. Data is everywhere, but when we need them, we have to go everywhere.”

Now, as part of the Jakarta Government, he regards making better use of data as his personal mission.

“Pass on the Quran, even if only one verse,” said Setiaji, citing the holy book when offering an example of knowledge transfer. “So, on data, also pass it on, even if only one piece of data.”


Indonesia’s open data journey

Indonesia’s movement to open up its government started in 2008, when, in an effort to promote good governance and transparency, the country passed the Public Information Disclosure Act.

“This law created a paradigm shift. Data which was previously closed by default, and were only made public when requested, became open by default,” said Tara Hidayat, former Deputy Minister at the Presidential Delivery Unit, the agency which started Indonesia’s open government movement.

In 2011, Indonesia became one of the eight countries who initiated the Open Government Partnership, to promote governments to take concrete actions towards enhancing transparency, accountability and citizen empowerment.  The current government of President Joko Widodo continues to actively support the initiative, through the Office of the Presidential Chief of Staff.

The push for more transparent government is inevitable in modern Indonesia.

“Indonesia’s growing democracy created a stronger voice demanding more transparency,” Tara Hidayat added.

To boost Indonesia’s open government movement, the country’s first step was to enable open data – providing public access to more government data in easy-to-use format. The government saw the benefits of open data, not only for increasing transparency and accountability, but also to improve service delivery through public participation, and to promote social and economic innovations by citizens.

The World Bank supported the initiative by providing technical support, including establishing the country’s online One Data Portal, to serve as a “one-stop shop” for data from across the government. The Bank also helped efforts to encourage central government agencies, as well as local governments, to participate in the open data movement. Competitions and events were held to raise public awareness about the availability of government data and stimulate its use.

In 2014, the data portal – data.go.id – opened to the public. Currently, the portal has made available over 1,200 datasets provided by 32 central and local government institutions. Following the national government’s lead, some local governments have even launched their own open data portals in Jakarta, Bandung and Banda Aceh.

The current government administration is now preparing a presidential decree on open data, allowing the public greater access to data and to standardize data generation process in government institutions.

" Open data creates transparency, which promotes public trust towards the government. "

Diah Setiawaty

Association for Elections and Democracy (Perludem)

Open data initiatives start to bring change

The movement was joined by other enterprising governments. Indonesia’s capital Jakarta started its open data program, as well as the Smart City Program in 2014.

“There are several ways to implement a smart city. Jakarta emphasizes transparency, by using open data to generate more public participation,” said Setiaji.

Citing the long list of information that is made publicly available – making Jakarta Indonesia’s most transparent city – Setiaji explained that the transparency has allowed for more citizen feedback, which in turn improves the delivery of services.

“You can now see how the Jakarta government is working. For instance you can look up our budget or how many hours do we use our heavy equipment,” said Setiaji proudly.

Citizen feedback is enabled in many ways. Residents can send reports using a mobile device by way of the Qlue mobile app, which the city administration system to receive citizens’ reports, which it then forwards to local authorities for follow up.

The app’s success inspired the Jakarta government to establish an incubator that supports potential developers to create other helpful apps. The developers are provided mentorship on technical and financial aspects.

 Greater transparency is also changing the political landscape. Open data helped empower citizens to monitor the results of Indonesia’s 2014 legislative and presidential elections, as well as the district elections in 2015.

“Indonesia has the world’s largest and most complicated one-day general elections. But it has a poor documentation system,” said Diah Setiawaty from Association for Elections and Democracy (Perludem), a civil society group working on electoral reforms.                                                                                                                                         

Perludem decided to convert data from the General Elections Commission’s website, which were mostly documents scanned as PDF files, into an open format that enabled ease of reuse by the public. However, providing free, open and easy access to data does not automatically result in its active use. So to encourage the use of newly opened data, KPU and Perludem organized competitions to involve “techies” in election issues and develop apps to help citizens monitor the election process.  Using the data, websites and apps were then developed to help research profiles and track records of candidates and monitor the tallying of votes.

Said Setiawaty: “Open data creates transparency, which promotes public trust towards the government.”

Widespread use of the electoral data brought changes. In 2015, the General Elections Commission passed a regulation that mandates election results to be made available in an open data format.

Indonesia’s open government movement is showing results, at only five years young.