Danny Pomanto wants to turn a little-known Indonesian hub into the country’s smartest city.

It’s been two years since the Mayor of Makassar city pledged to make the change, and there has been a buzz around this place for the past year. He is ambitious in his use of new media to communicate his message, creating a strong brand.

“For every city now, it depends on the branding. This is the global code,” he says. He has branded Makassar as the “Sombere [kind hearted] and Smart City”. This he hopes will make the city’s future better, and get “support from global companies and governments”.

GovInsider checked in with him to find out what’s happening behind the scenes. In particular, he is using data to boost three key delivery areas: education, government services, and support for businesses.

High-tech schools

”I want to make an education revolution in Makassar,” Pomanto says.

The Mayor has introduced smart cards in schools, allowing parents to track students’ activities and ensure they attend. Students scan the card to enter and leave school, and access libraries and transportation. Parents get notifications on their mobile phones of these activities.

Parents also receive report cards directly from teachers, ensuring they feel included in the process. In this way “we can control the quality of education”, he says, as action can be quickly taken by families when problems arise.

Nutrition is third area of concern in schools, he believes, and he plans to monitor this as well. Left to themselves, students would buy unhealthy food. “I want to make smart canteens”, he says where students’ calorie and nutrition intake will be monitored. Parents will get notifications on what children eat and how much they spend at school canteens.

Data-driven government

War Room

Data is also transforming decision-making in government. The Mayor wants real-time information from local communities to make decisions. “We need real and accurate information to make solutions for the big issues”, he says.

From next year, Pomanto will get real-time updates from community leaders in his command centre – the “War Room”. He will hand smartphones to 6,000 newly elected community leaders, and they will use an app to submit data on the “social response” of the community to services, reporting on cleanliness, tax collection, greenery, crime and mortality.

Pomanto will also use this tech to pay officials more, giving community officials monetary incentives to “support the government”. These are closest to the people in the community, he says, and they are meant to convey citizens’ aspirations to the top of the government. The incentives – going up to 1 million rupiah (US$75) – will be transferred electronically through their smart cards, he says.

Support for business

Small businesses are at the heart of Makassar’s economy, and the city has launched a new scheme to support them. It is building vertical farms in its thousands of alleyways. These will be run by the local communities and the produce will be sold to a city-owned company for a “good price”, the Mayor claims.

Data will help ensure people spend their income well. The money will be deposited directly to the sellers’ bank accounts, and can be used only for two purposes: education and re-investment in their businesses. The city will pass a regulation requiring this, he says: “Then we can control the [spending of] money”.

The Mayor is using data to give himself more control. This, he believes, will allow him to push forwards his ambitious vision.

So far, so popular with citizens, and the city is increasingly talked about across the nation as well.