“My father passed away in 2004. In the 2009 election, he still received an invitation [to vote]. In 2014, he also received the invitation,” says Yanuar Nugroho, the Indonesian President’s Deputy Chief of Staff.

This story illustrates the dysfunction of Indonesia’s government systems. Agencies do not have accurate information on the people they serve. In a country of 265m, this is harder than it sounds.

President Joko Widodo has been working to fix this for the past four years, with Dr Nugroho by his side using hammer, spanner and glue to get government working effectively. On the sidelines of the Open Government Partnership Summit in Canada, he told GovInsider about what has been achieved, and what is due in the President’s next term.

Digital services delivery

Three key regulations will transform the Indonesian government, Nugroho says. The first is Satu (One) Data Indonesia, a policy to have a single dataset for all key statistics across government. For example, the government could not tell if it had a rice surplus or a deficit, risking it importing rice at great cost when there is already enough to feed the population. It was also hard to track poverty levels, prices, and even population statistics across the 17,508 islands that make up the nation. The regulation was made law on 12 July.

Second, the President has formed a new committee to digitise government. He has always been interested in this since he was Mayor of Solo in 2004, and then while Governor of Jakarta implemented tech programmes such as a smart card to manage benefits for young students. The Ministerial committee will find common platforms that can be used across government, and will look at building a new in-house Government Digital Service, notes Agung Hikmat, Advisor to the President.

Third, Jokowi’s administration will press ahead with e-procurement and e-payments. There is no common system across the public sector to track purchasing. Transparency International ranks Indonesia as 89th on its corruption index; there is a big need to follow the money, and to compare prices paid by different agencies for common goods.

These moves will also be underpinned by an ambitious new plan: building a single digital identity that can be used across government, Nugroho says. Citizens will not have to fill in forms multiple times because their data will already be in the system. This will cover government and healthcare.

Regulating big tech companies

In the weeks leading up to April’s election, social media platforms were rife with fake news, slander, and incitement to violence. The President’s first homework is to “mend the torn social fabric” of his nation, Nugroho says.

Government will have to consider how to regulate social media companies more strictly. “When people’s lives are at stake, this is where the government should step in,” he says. Just last month there were politically-motivated riots in Jakarta, which led to the government shutting down all major social media sites and restricting the use of Whatsapp.

There needs to be a “real, honest, and open conversation with platform owners,” he continues. Major tech companies cannot make profits off Indonesians without being responsible for their digital wellbeing, he says. “We want to have global norms on digital democracy, because the bad news spreads quicker than good news – especially the fake news”.That’s why he has come to Canada to join forces with other OGP nations to build a common set of tools.

Human capital development

The President’s first term saw headline policies on infrastructure, such as seaports across the nation, a new metro in the capital city, and a high speed railway. The second term will see a different emphasis, Nugroho says.

“If you have seen in the past five years, infrastructure was always on the frontpage. You will see in the next five years, human capital will be on the front page”. The President will prioritise universal healthcare and education, to reduce inequality and increase the prospects of his people.


“In the next five years, human capital will be on the front page”

Education is a top priority for the President, who wants to expand universal education to universities, not just high school, Nugroho reveals. There is also a drive to get at least five universities ranked in the world’s top 500 by 2024, with investment given to teaching and research to make this happen.

Arts and culture will also see a boost. The President will commit US$350 million to support the work of local artists. And by 2024, the amount is expected to be ramped up to US$3.5 billion, cementing the nation’s reputation in the field, and boosting other initiatives such as tourism campaigns.

On healthcare, the president plans to expand government-funded health insurance to 150 million people by 2024, up from the current 97 million. Inequality was a theme of the election campaign, with concerns that only the richest are benefiting from Indonesia’s rapid economic growth.

In the sprawling archipelago, there is a wide discrepancy in healthcare access. Indonesia certifies around 13,000 new medical doctors a year, but 70% of them only want to work in Java, the country’s most prosperous island. Government has offered these doctors an incentive to relocate, with 5,000 healthcare workers moving so far through this programme.

Nugroho was first appointed by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, and was kept in post when Jokowi came to power due to his reputation for getting things done. The past term has been spent designing three core regulations that patch together Indonesia’s bureaucracy, and creating the foundation for digital services.

What’s next? Nugroho doesn’t want to assume that he’ll be reappointed, he says. So instead, he’ll be spending his next five months holding hammer, spanner and glue, and making sure that these plans stick.

Images from Presiden Joko Widodo Facebook page.