Exclusive: Citizens as the key to a smart Jakarta

By Apala Bhattacharya

How Indonesia’s capital is boosting engagement with residents and local entrepreneurs.

“Our goal is to make 200,000 new entrepreneurs,” says Mr. Setiaji, head of the Jakarta Smart City Unit.

Setiaji works at the forefront of technology and innovation in Jakarta. And yet, he emphasises, the focus is not at all on the gadgets and gizmos that epitomise portrayals of a smart city – it’s on the people.


Chatting about his priorities for the year, Setiaji lays out Jakarta’s plan to become a citizen-centric smart city, the challenges ahead, and what the city hopes to gain from the network.

For citizens, by citizens


The city is first crowdsourcing for policy ideas from its citizens. The BERiDE app allows citizens to populate ideas and solutions for the city on the app. The city hopes to collect 1,000 ideas in six months, says Setiaji, and then choose which to implement.


The Smart City Unit has also launched a mobile app to improve support for local entrepreneurs. OK OCE brings together the community of local entrepreneurs to collaborate and provide education, vocational training, and even access to funds.


For example, the unit recently launched an OK OCE programme to help apps and games entrepreneurs to find investors. Participants also receive business training from established entrepreneurs. The programme aims to provide market access and business leader mentors for budding entrepreneurs, as well as help tie up with banks for the funding they require, according to Setiaji.

Nudges to go green


The city has set up a new behavioural research team that collaborates with the Smart City Unit, and universities and institutes to research ways to influence citizen behaviour for the better.


“We hope we can maybe not change behaviour, but make some differences, to better our environment”, Setiaji notes. Pollution is a big obstacle the city has to overcome; currently Jakarta ranks as the third most polluted city in the world. Nudging citizens towards behaviour that can reduce pollution and clean the city will go a long way to improving their health.


There is also a focus on improving public safety, amidst a growing concern of complex security threats. In 2016, Jakarta was victim to a Paris-style terrorist attack with explosions and gunfire. Setiaji is currently working on a roadmap to be fleshed out in the next five months to reduce the crime rate and help Jakarta become a safe city. This includes increasing the number of CCTV cameras by tenfold, and introducing an analytics system which uses facial recognition.

Data is king


Jakarta’s strength, Setiaji notes, is also in data-driven policy implementation. Before implementing any policy, data is analysed to see whether its findings supports the decision being made. “It allows for an effective allocation of manpower and limited resources”, Setiaji points out.


For example, in transport, bus fleet management is now data-driven, and the city partners with local startups such as ridehailing platform Go-Jek and public complaints app Qlue to track bus arrival times. Data from travelcards helps the city to change the way it makes agreements with bus companies, and helps inform new routes that increase citizens’ mobility.


Data-driven policy is making an impact in the environment as well. To tackle Jakarta’s waste management problem, data is being employed to analyse the approximately 67,000 garbage stops around the city. With data analysis, the government plans to create a ‘bank of garbage’ which could later be made into a waste sorting and recycling plant as well as a composting centre.

Learning from others in the region

Jakarta has recently joined a smart city network with 26 other cities across ASEAN. Setiaji notes that with the introduction of the initiative, “we hope we can learn from other cities in ASEAN.”


One such challenge is to build a platform or body for an integrated payments system for Jakarta’s public transport. The city wants to learn from Singapore’s EZ-link card model to set up its very own seamless payment system on OK Otrip.


Another obstacle is getting SMEs to adopt digital payment systems. Setiaji notes that the private sector is behind compared to the government, where all transactions are now cashless. But more needs to be done to get citizens to adopt cashless payments in their day-to-day.


Jakarta is on its way to becoming an innovative city, with unique technological solutions across various sectors. The key to its success, however, lies in taking Jakarta’s citizens along for the ride.

Image by Jakarta Smart City