How the Mayor of Makassar wants to fight radicalisation

Danny Pomanto plans to improve public engagement to identify at-risk households.

Makassar’s Mayor wants to fight radicalisation in homes and community streets in the Indonesian city. Danny Pomanto is arming 6,000 community chiefs with smartphones and is building an app, where they will be able to report suspicious behaviour. “We call them ‘social sensors’,” he says, and wants them to “monitor radicalism”. Makassar is a crucial port city, connecting the eastern Sulawesi island to the western archipelago. However, it has historically been a transit point for extremists in the region, according to a Wall Street Journal report. Last year, the country’s most-wanted terrorist was found hiding on Sulawesi island. Local community leaders need to be more engaged with residents in their neighbourhood who may be at risk of radicalisation, the Mayor believes. He has launched a new programme - “Smart RT/RW” - as part of a broader attempt to improve feedback from Makassar’s over two million residents. Monitoring radicalisation The Mayor will ask community officials to report households that are “very closed”, not socialising with neighbours, or if they “don’t know who are the people inside”. “They must knock on the door, take photos, and monitor them,” he says, and report details of their behaviour through the app. Their smartphones will relay the information to an operations centre - the Mayor’s “war room”. If there is an emergency or a threat to safety, officials will be able to send live footage to the centre and the police through the app. The city “does not have enough CCTV” cameras, the Mayor says. He hopes that these mobile devices will do their job by keeping an eye on threats and monitoring the city’s safety. The city will spend 12 billion rupiah (~US$897,000) to buy the smartphones, he says. Tracking staff performance He will also use the new app to monitor community staff’s performance. Staff will earn virtual points for regularly engaging with residents in their area and reporting updates through the app. If officials accumulate sufficient points, they will get bonuses transferred electronically to their accounts. “If the RT/RW [community chief] is not active, he doesn’t get any incentive,” the Mayor says. Community officials are required to visit households every week. In the past, the Mayor monitored their performance through 200 Whatsapp groups, to which they sent selfies of themselves at work. From October, with the new app, officials will also be able to report complaints on behalf of residents, like traffic, litter, crime, births and deaths. Measuring project success He hopes that more accurate data will also allow him to better measure the success of the city’s new schemes and increase citizens’ participation in them. “We have started three months ago to measure every innovation,” he says. Makassar has set up a new unit in its research department to “implement the programme and [understand] how to increase participation”, he adds. The unit is working with an independent contractor to survey citizens every six months on the city’s schemes and how useful they are to them. The research has found that only 37% of residents know about the city’s remote healthcare programme, Pomanto says. The goal is to use technology to better understand this feedback. “I want Makassar to have real-time graphic measures of every innovation and every programme,” the Mayor says. “Every person should connect with the government, and the government should know what the issues for the people are,” he says. [blockquote]“Every person should connect with the government, and the government should know what the issues for the people are."[/blockquote] Fighting drug crime Another issue facing the city this year is drug use among school children. “The distributor of the drugs comes to the school,” Pomanto notes. Children have also been found to be used as drug couriers, according to local media reports. One approach to tackling this is to increase the use of smart cards for school payments, he believes. Without pocket money from parents, students will no longer be able to buy drugs, he hopes. “The first solution is cashless,” he says. The city last year began distributing identity-linked cards to students which they must scan to enter and exit schools. Parents transfer money to these cards for buying food and school suppliers, and get mobile notifications of every purchase made with the card. While Makassar faces risks of drug abuse in schools and radicalisation in communities, it will be crucial that people feel engaged with the government and included in its decisions.