Poor skills in data management, lack of cooperation from senior officials and weak citizen awareness have plagued Jakarta’s open data initiatives, according to a new report.

These are the findings of new research by the Centre for Innovation Policy and Governance in Indonesia. The city has been publishing government data online since 2014, aiming to engage citizens in public service delivery. “We want them to participate and give us recommendations on policies”, says Setiaji, Jakarta’s Smart City chief.

He spoke to GovInsider, discussing these challenges and and how his team is overcoming it.

The skills and IT gap

The report found that government lacks skilled data analysts. Officials in the role lack the capacity to synthesise, draw insights, and utilise available information, Setiaji says, and he admits that “we need more”. As a result, data was displayed on Jakarta’s public portals, but that wasn’t used to boost city services.

The published datasets also lack quality, and some are duplicated across agencies. “The way they set up the data” is problematic, Setiaji says. For instance, Qlue, a citizens’ complaint app, and Peta Jakarta, a flood management platform, both submit information on floods to the smart city’s central platform. This gave way to inefficiencies for the city government to follow-up on such cases.

To boost the quality of submission, Setiaji’s team is training officials and has published guides that standardise the requirements for submitting data. Data from both platforms, Qlue and Peta Jakarta have also been merged together to prevent repeated submissions.

The government must also improve its productivity in dealing with the data, he believes. Currently, “we only have 30% of data that is fed directly to the system, while 70% of it must be updated manually”, he says.

To ease delivery, the government has developed data input apps for agencies to pool and collect data on the conditions of public facilities. And the city’s housing agency has also been pushed to develop direct platforms that officials can use to update details like the occupancy of housing estates.

A lack of cooperation

It has also been a challenge for Setiaji’s team to get officials on board the open data journey. Many government work units were reluctant to disclose their data because it was lacking and hard to source for. The research report also found that officials made fake citizen reports through the Qlue app to increase their performance rankings on the app.

“We have to make some changes to their behaviour”, says Setiaji. Feedback from citizens has been made a key metric in their performance assessment. Every week, they must provide Governor Basuki Purnama Tjahaja with updates on this. “They can be fired” if complaints aren’t resolved in a timely manner, or they don’t submit data regularly, he adds.

Citizen awareness

Further, the report also uncovered that 50% of citizens surveyed were not aware of the city’s open data initiative, despite using apps that are linked to it. “We have published more data, but it isn’t read by citizens”, Setiaji says.

The team wants to spread the word to the public by sharing its data with open data labs, journalists and NGOs, so they use it for their research and publish the findings. “We have a lot of open data, and you can use it for your research, to your ability”, he says.

His team also wants to reach people who are not connected to the internet. To increase awareness, budget data – for instance – will be printed on posters and brochures in community centres so the public can know about the funds allocation for their neighbourhood, he says.

As Jakarta looks to open up its data, the city must be open for change from within. It must improve quality of its data, sharpen officials’ skills, get buy-in from senior officials, and improve citizens’ awareness.

Image by Ignatius Win Tanuwidjaja, licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0