The Interview: Ridwan Kamil, Mayor of Bandung
Can this architect-turned-Mayor build Indonesia's best city?
As with other dynamic Mayors, such as the Governor of Jakarta and the Mayor of Surabaya, Kamil has a no-tolerance policy for poor performance. The Mayor has set strict criteria for the civil service, and fires those who let him down. “The ones who cannot meet the standards and produce a very slow government, I dismiss,” he says. “And if they are corrupt, we fire [them],” he adds. He recently fired 12 officials who were “proven to be corrupt”, he says. Going digital Kamil is a strong advocate of digital technology in the government. He believes this is key because of the widespread use of internet in Bandung, which intends to be Indonesia’s Silicon Valley. The Mayor invited external consultants to build a smart city platform, combining data from across the city, and he will continue to focus on this area. Bandung also focuses on digital engagement with citizens, prioritising feedback and transparency. “I am a Mayor who can easily ask help from people, because the trust is very high,” he says. The Mayor is also an avid social media user, with a particular focus on Instagram. Pak Ridwan personally has 5.9m Instagram followers, he notes, with a city population of 2.4m.
Many Bandung civil servants are not tech-savvy, he says, so Kamil has evangelised these skills. During his first week as Mayor in 2013, only 10% of civil servants understood what Twitter was, says the social media-savvy Mayor. “Now 100% use it because I pushed,” he says. Kamil has also reached out to the city’s universities for help. As home to one of the best-ranked and the oldest universities in the country, the Bandung Institute of Technology, there is great potential to do more. Students of these universities should be helping to build government technology services, he believes, and Kamil wants to provide opportunities for them to do so. Already, Bandung has 400 public apps, with the majority built locally. Decentralising power As part of his drive to make things move faster, the Mayor has given more authority to local districts. “I have decentralised my power to local districts so that service to public is faster,” he says. If all decisions are made by one person - the Mayor - it would be too slow, he adds. This decentralisation makes Bandung stand out. Typically, Indonesian mayors make 70% of the decisions on their own, while for the rest they consult a senior figure, he says. The Mayor wants to make Bandung more collaborative and creative. “I translate this decentralisation to be more innovative,” he says. By devolving power, it has become tougher to enforce the law, he admits. “Creating an obedience culture to the law is one of my challenges,” Kamil admits. “50% of the problem in Bandung is the mindset of people not obeying the law,” he adds. For this, the Mayor looks to Singapore for inspiration. “Bandung is designed to be as competitive as Singapore, as modern as Singapore,” he says. However, it will retain its “strong traditions as Bali. A combination of Bali and Singapore - that will be my Bandung vision.” The Mayor used to live in Singapore, he notes, studying at the National University of Singapore and staying near Kent Ridge. [blockquote]“A combination of Bali and Singapore - that will be my Bandung vision.”[/blockquote] He also looks to Kyoto City in Japan for inspiration. It infuses tradition into its modern city planning, and that’s what he wants Bandung to be. “That’s why I love Kyoto, because it’s a perfect combination of tradition and modernity. Any city that produce these two values, that must be a very interesting city,” he says. As an architect by training, the Mayor is hands-on when it comes to city planning. Ultimately, Kamil’s goal is not defined by infrastructure or technology, however. He measures his success in happiness. By 2020, Bandung will be a happy city where people live balanced lives, he says. “I think they will see Bandung is a model city, a happier society.” With this, GovInsider leaves the Mayor to his meetings, and heads off into the mist to scour out satay- and maybe get some thinking done as well. Read about the Bandung Institute of Technology, or "Indonesia's MIT", here. Images from Ridwan Kamil's Facebook Page