Almost a decade ago, the regency of Padang Pariaman in Indonesia was almost levelled. In September 2009, it was at the heart of two big earthquakes, 20 minutes apart, that left villages levelled and buried under rubble.

Over a 100,000 homes were decimated in the area, leaving over a quarter of a million people homeless. Infrastructure such as roads, hospitals and schools suffered extensive damage and made post relief efforts difficult.

Today, the regency is finding its way back and rebuilding itself to develop as a smart city. GovInsider caught up with Padang Pariaman’s Regent H. Ali Mukhni to learn about his plans for the next 10 years.

Preparing for the future

While Padang Pariaman is a rural regency on the western tip of Sumatra, the area is slowly developing into urban centres that has left the region to balance on an unique edge of rural and urban development.

As part of its investment into the future the regency has committed building an integrated smart university campus that incorporates four universities and healthcare facilities in an area covering 700 hectares. According to Mukhni, the area named as ‘Tarok’ is the first in the country to integrate four universities and healthcare facilities in one place.

The regency has made several advances in healthcare and patient monitoring in recent days. With hospitals the regency developed a system through which released patients could be monitored digitally from the hospitals.

“So every second, a patient or anyone with difficulties in health in Padang Pariaman can automatically be monitored digitally from the hospital,” the Regent points out. Last month, the patient monitoring system was picked up by Indonesia’s Ministry of Health as an exemplary case study and the regency was awarded for its efforts in patient monitoring.

Data driven regency

Increasing smartphone usage has also seen the regency shift strategies to connect with its residents. “We are seeing increasing internet and smartphone penetration in the population due to urbanisation in our regency,” Mukhni notes.

The regency is taking advantage of this with plans to deliver government services on smartphones. For instance, it is building a mobile app that will connect various sections of government to provide essential services.

This will provide a platform for the regency to interact with its citizens and internally monitor staff to track absences and help create a structure for rewards and punishments based on the app data. “Not only for the benefit of the public and urban services but for internal government to monitor all staff KPI’s,” he elaborates.

Jakarta’s former Governor Ahok used this approach to monitor officials’ performance on an app on his phone. The app ranked his officials on how well they responded to citizen’s complaints. Consistently low ranking officials would be asked to explain their poor performance and fired if unable to respond appropriately.

Currently, the regency is improving internet connectivity infrastructure so people can access services online. In the future “citizens can register e-ID cards from home,” for instance, he says. As a first step towards this, Padang Pariaman is digitising its government documentations.

Data will be an important part of service delivery, he adds. “It is vital for us to drive IoT technology adoption at the public policy level to connect with our people and understand their needs,” the Regent notes.

Balancing urban – rural needs

As Padang Pariaman moves from a rural to urban society, it is building up infrastructure needed for a modern city. Padang Pariaman will be working with Dassault Systemes, a leader in in city planning, to help plan its smart city. “The next step is to design the region more, as the region decides to become more developed,” says Managing Director (Asia Pacific) of Dassault Systemes Masaki Konno.

The regency needs to strike a balance between urban infrastructure and greenery to aid sustainable development. “There’s a tradeoff between getting rid of some of the gardens and the greens and adding more buildings. How do you do that in the best way, that is not ruining the landscape of the region,” Konno expanded.

Padang Pariaman and Dassault will work together to visualise how new buildings, and much-needed infrastructure such as roads will be added as the region expands, while maintaining its greenery.

Agricultural roots

Even while it looks to develop, Padang Pariaman’s economy remains largely agricultural with more that 80% of land used for farming. The regency is using technology to improve the quality of produce. “Padang Pariaman has successfully modernised its agricultural system, producing superior agricultural commodities,” Mukhni says. The region produces a wide range of commodities ranging from palm oil, natural rubber and vegetables including oyster mushrooms.

Pariaman city in the area has implemented a rural financing system, which allocates funds to villages and tracks spending to report back to the provincial finance and development agency.

With technology backing the region’s development plans, Padang Pariaman is setting a precedent for rural regions across Asia.