How Indonesia’s national data centres promise to overcome digital governance barriers

Oleh Mochamad Azhar

Indonesia’s green-tier 4 National Data Centres have been slated to become the key pillars for the country’s digital government efforts. GovInsider speaks to Bambang Dwi Anggono, Director of Informatics Application Services at the Ministry of Communication and Informatics, Indonesia, to learn more about how these data centres promise to drive public sector efficiency.

The Indonesian government is building National Data Centres to support digital government efforts. Source: Canva

When it comes to rolling out e-government initiatives in Indonesia, a key challenge the country faces is that each agency operates independently when trying to achieve the same goal, resulting in duplicated efforts and inefficiencies. 

But this is all changing with the Sistem Pemerintahan Berbasis Elektronik (SPBE), the country’s e-Government architecture. The system aims to integrate e-government efforts across central and local governments to ensure that Indonesia meets its goal of digital government by 2025

Critical to the success of SPBE will be the country’s Pusat Data Nasional, or National Data Centre, which will help agencies overcome silos and meet e-government goals, says Bambang Dwi Anggono, Director of Informatics Application Services at the Ministry of Communication and Informatics, Indonesia.

"The PDN will be the digital infrastructure that ensures the proper and sustainable implementation of e-government according to the president's directives," says Bambang to GovInsider.

Overcoming duplicated efforts across agencies

Though Indonesia only has one state, the country resembles a union of states when it comes to data, highlights Bambang.

According to data from the Ministry of Communications and Informatics, there are currently more than 2,700 data centres owned by 629 agencies, at both central and local levels. The Ministry also noted that there are more than 24,000 government and public service applications developed by these agencies.

There are many duplicate databases owned by each agency, making it difficult for officers to identify and use the right data. This can impede the effective rollout of government initiatives.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, the distribution of social welfare was uneven for those in need, as local governments had their own databases that did not always tally with those of the central government. This resulted in residents receiving multiple aid packages or no aid packages at all.

"The development of PDN is expected to integrate all the current data centres and resolve these overlapping data," says Bambang.

In addition, not all data centres have stable electricity. When the electricity is poor, data centres may not be able to function properly and hinder e-government efforts. Furthermore, poor connectivity in remote areas means that data clerks may be manually inputting data into databases that are disconnected from the Internet.

“The PDN aims to ensure that databases are available 24/7 as it will receive electricity from its own power plant,” explains Bambang.

Once these data centres are established, all agencies will be required to integrate their current data centres within the PDN programme. “This requirement will be accompanied by a stipulation that agencies are no longer allowed to submit new data centre project expenditures within the state budget,” says Bambang.

According to Bambang, the PDN programme is a strategic national initiative that involves procuring megaservers with a processor capacity of 25 thousand cores, 40 petabytes of storage, 200 terabytes of memory, and supported by 20 megawatts of electric power capacity.

Government cloud computing

But the end goal of PDN is not simply to consolidate data centre infrastructure, but rather the implementation of more effective e-government and higher quality public services, says Bambang.

First, the government will revamp the thousands of government applications to be more efficient and more streamlined.

“Merging these applications into one superapp is a possibility, such as one application for health services, employment services, business licensing, and immigration," says Bambang.

Next, the government aims to implement services that will enable PDN users to support government administration and innovate, such as cloud computing, big data analytics, and artificial intelligence.

Various services such as infrastructure as a service (IaaS), platform as a service (PaaS), software as a service (SaaS), and security as a service (SECaas), will be provided free of charge by the government for users to adopt independently.

"The government will ensure that the quality of cloud services in PDN is on par with leading service providers such as Google, Amazon Web Service or Alibaba with a reliable level of security," Bambang says.

PDN will also aim to protect citizen data by providing security controls in accordance with the Personal Data Protection Act.

Even though the data centres will be managed centrally, all agencies will be involved in developing relevant applications. The Ministry of Communications and Informatics will collaborate with all central and local government agencies to build operating systems tailored to their own needs.

"We will also provide training for digital talents in each agency to be able to use cloud computing services properly and responsibly," Bambang continues.

Savings in the trillions

Finally, the PDN will help make the state budget more efficient. Currently, government agencies in Indonesia spend more than IDR 20 trillion per year (about US$1.3 trillion) on data centres. This figure does not include electricity costs, maintenance costs, cloud computing services, and cyber security services.

"If thousands of data centres can be integrated into just 5-10 data centres, just imagine how many trillions of rupiahs can be saved each year," Bambang emphasises.

While waiting for the National Data Centres to be completed, the government is making parallel efforts to integrate all data centres through temporary centres. The government is currently parsing duplicated data and determining data centres are still viable and which can be closed.

The ministry is currently working with all data centre management agencies at both central and local levels to ensure the smooth rollout of the PDN initiative.

"The president's directives are clear that the implementation of a unified digital government will not be realised if we don't work together," concludes Bambang.

The first PDN groundbreaking was carried out on a land area of 14,000 square meters in the Deltamas Cikarang area, West Java, last November 2022. Three other PDNs will be built in Batam, Labuan Bajo, and in the Archipelago Capital. 

Phase I of the PDN project cost 164.4 million Euros (around US$180 million) or the equivalent of 2.7 trillion Rupiahs, with 85 per cent funding coming from the French government and 15 per cent from the Indonesian government. This facility is targeted for completion on October 20, 2024.

Read more: 3 ways Wifi 6 and the cloud are enhancing governments

This article was originally published in Bahasa here.