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From placard to policy: Why capacity building matters

Web Foundation · December 19, 2016

This post originally appeared on our Open Data Labs website

 

How Indonesian civil society used open data to shift mining policy

At the Jakarta Lab, we’re lucky to find many reasons to celebrate – from what we do, to where it takes us and what we learn along the way. Just recently, we had another reason to be proud of our work: our partner GeRAK Aceh, an Indonesian anti-corruption watchdog, shared their success in using open data to change mining policy in Aceh province. We’ve been working with GeRAK to strengthen open data practice in Banda Aceh since 2014.

Laying the foundation and building open data skills

Back in 2014, together with the USAID Kinerja programme, we brought together local government and civil society for a series of training on the use of open data to drive political, economic and social change. GeRAK Aceh was one of the participating organisations, who went on to become our partners. At first, GeRAK had no knowledge or experience of open data, but since then they’ve come a long way and have been busy putting their new open data skills to use advocating for a more accountable and transparent local government.

A year ago, GeRAK pitched to The Asia Foundation, proposing a project using their open data skills to improve the mining sector and hold it more accountable to local citizens. One year on, their achievements are truly impressive – we’ve clustered them into “three Ps”: Portal, Placard and Policy.

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#1: Portal

GeRAK worked with the provincial information officers (locally referred to as the PPID) of Aceh to convince provincial government agencies to disclose mining-related information. GeRAK’s relationship with the PPID was strong, but they faced barriers when approaching the mining and energy department. In spite of the clear support coming from the Department Chief, rank-and-file public officials within the department were reluctant to disclose crucial data.

To work around this, GeRAK took the initiative to proactively disclose mining data another way, developing an open data portal – officially launched a few weeks ago. GeRAK got the information from the mining and energy department, and then was able to build their own portal to proactively disclose it with support from with Banda Aceh’s DisHubKomInfo (the local Transportation, Information, and Communications Agency). DisHubKomInfo is one of the Open Data Lab Jakarta’s strong partners within the city government.

GeRAK replicated the approach we developed when we partnered with the local city government of Banda Aceh to open data in the education and health sectors, tailoring it to their needs. GeRAK trained fellow civil society organisations to use data that has been opened and came up with ways of analysing and visualising the permit issuances, tax payments and debts of mining companies to governments.

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#2: Placard

The outputs of the trainings – largely data visualisations published as posters and later as placards – were used by GeRAK in their call to extend the current mining moratorium to 2017. Using these, they educated citizen groups on the importance of extending the moratorium to have more time for reform in mining governance. They were also able to shed light on pressing issues, including mining permit concession areas that overlap with conservation forests, the proliferation of mining permits that are not “Clean and Clear”, and the non-payment of mining companies’ dues to government.

Aside from information dissemination, they also mobilised groups through street protests to put pressure on the provincial government to respond. These mobilisation activities, coupled with better understanding of the underlying reasons why the mining moratorium should be extended, led to better informed discussion among citizens and the local government on how to address the problems Gerak uncovered using open data.

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#3: Policy

Finally, after all the hard work in opening data, making use of it, and increasing citizen awareness and involvement in mining issues, GeRAK was able to convince the provincial government to extend the moratorium to 2017 – signed by the Governor on the 25th of October 2016.

Data-based advocacy played a large role in this victory, as GeRAK and their partners used data they gathered and analysed to show the provincial government the need to do more governmental reforms before issuing new or more mining permits.

Capacity building yields results

These are the kind of stories that inspire us to do more and better in our championing of open data. We’re happy that our partner, GeRAK Aceh, is able to use the skills we shared with them to realise impactful changes in their province. As a Lab, our approach to capacity building goes beyond training sessions to harness the unique strengths of each of our partners and support them to achieve their objectives. Part of that process is introducing open data as a new resource and tool that they can use in development or advocacy work.

Although the financial and technical support the Jakarta Lab gave them was a small contribution in comparison to the generous project grants that GeRAK received in the last five years, Askalani, GeRAK’s Executive Director, said “it generated the most impact”. For him and their team, our assistance since 2014 has played a key role in helping them to accomplish the mining moratorium extension to allow for reform efforts to be completed.

To learn more about Open Data Labs and its activities in Banda Aceh and beyond, visit its project pages, its blog, or follow Open Data Labs on Twitter @ODLabJkt.

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