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The (Future) Role of Open Data in Indonesia

José M. Alonso · October 28, 2013

(this is a post by Andreas Pawelke)

As one of the eight co-founders of the Open Government Partnership (OGP), and the only country from the Southeast Asia region apart from the Philippines that has joined the multilateral initiative, Indonesia can certainly be considered an open government pioneer.

The country’s very ambitious OGP action plan contains a diverse set of programs of which some have been successfully implemented or have at least seen limited to substantial progress, according to the recently published IRM progress report.

However, and this might come as a surprise to some observers, a national open data initiative is not part of Indonesia’s open government package.

While there is a strong emphasis in the action plan on strengthening public access to government information with action items referring to the publication of data on budget, health and education, amongst others, requirements and guidance on how this data is to be released so that others can freely distribute and re-use them are missing.

In a study published in June we found a strong interest of potential open data users from civil society, the private sector, media and academia in engaging with the government, as well as utilizing government data. But coordinated efforts from any of those stakeholder groups to push the government to release machine-readable data in open formats and with an open license could not be observed.

Now, only a few months after the publication of our findings, a number of recent developments and announcements indicate that open data is about to play a more prominent role in Indonesia.

In recent weeks, a number of events have taken place where civil society groups discussed possible ways of making more effective use of government data in their work.

The heightened interest among civil society is accompanied by increased financial and technical support by development organizations: The Ford Foundation has provided funding for the aforementioned study; in July, the World Bank conducted an assessment of the demand for open financial data at the local level; and in a move to promote accessibility to data from donors and government, AusAID and the World Bank are in the process of establishing the Asia Knowledge and Innovation Lab.

Moreover, various initiatives have recently been launched in the wider technology for development space that could help foster the emergence of an open data ecosystem: Under the Southeast Asia Technology Initiative, Hivos is assisting civil society organizations in using technology for improved transparency and accountability in government, while the UN’s innovation initiative, UN Global Pulse, has set up the Pulse Lab Jakarta to test-drive new approaches of using digital data to make development work more effective.

New funding commitments from donors, such as the Korean government on e-government and the US government on geospatial information management, demonstrate a growing donor interest; and funding from Making All Voices Count could help open data projects get off the ground.

While most of the action is currently taking place at the national level, in Indonesia it is the local level in particular that provides a fertile ground for open data initiatives, owing mainly to the rise of a new generation of local leaders.

In the capital city Jakarta, for instance, Governor Joko Widodo and Vice Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama are implementing a radical open government program – although they might not use the term for their style of governance and public management: Staff meetings are recorded and uploaded to YouTube, district and sub-district leaders are required to go through an open selection process, and public meetings are held to capture the voices of affected communities before decisions are made.

These are certainly exciting times for open government reformers and open data activists in Indonesia. The current momentum within government coupled with the growing awareness in the civil society for the great potential of accessible und re-usable government data could well lead to open data playing an important part in Indonesia’s future open government activities.

At the OGP Annual Summit in London this week, the head of the Indonesian President’s Working Unit for Development Monitoring and Oversight, Dr. Kuntoro Mangkusubroto, will be joining a high-level panel of open data experts to discuss the opportunities and challenges related to open data.

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