A New York Mayor once described his city as a “gorgeous mosaic” on account of its diversity. That is an even better description of Indonesia.

Our interviews with four Indonesian mayors show great diversity in their approach to governance, and in the needs of their cities.

But there is also common ground. Here are a few key points:

Government by gadget

One Mayor uses an iPad to track detailed city metrics. Another is a member of 200 Whatsapp groups, and asks employees to send selfies on the app to show that they are at work. The chat app is hugely popular with most of the cities, and three of the four Mayors are active on Twitter – Indonesia’s favourite social network. Only the Mayor of Yogyakarta prioritises the newspapers over social media outreach.

Cleaning and greening

Improving city cleanliness is a big priority for two of the Mayors we interviewed. Surabaya’s success probably has something to do with it: by massively improving the city’s sanitation, Tri Rismaharini made it an investment hub and improved citizens’ job prospects. Makassar is eyeing her success and has put its own initiatives in place.

Infrastructure, Infrastructure, Infrastructure

Big building projects were priorities for all of the Mayors, be it housing, roads, business parks or train lines.

What’s our edge?

All of the Mayors have been astute at finding a niche for their city to fit into the broader Indonesian ecosystem. Marketing seems to be a Mayoral strongpoint.

Varied backgrounds

One Mayor used to be an architect, and is now personally designing public housing units. Another ran a hospital, and is now heading up a free healthcare initiative. A third worked in a parks department and has improved the city’s greenery. The Mayors we interviewed are using their backgrounds to get ‘hands on’ when developing their cities.

But the interviews give a much fuller description than this summary can. So why not delve in?

GI interviewed: