JAKARTA (AFP) – The Indonesian capital – a chaotic metropolis with shaky Internet access – is hoping to turn its fortunes around with an ambitious online platform that allows residents to report problems, from crime to traffic jams, with their smartphones.
A concrete jungle with a population of about 10 million, Jakarta is infamous for monster traffic snarl-ups, rubbish-strewn, pot-holed roads, heavy pollution and flooding that engulfs poor slum areas every year.
After successive leaders failed to get to grips with the myriad problems, new governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama is seeking to harness technology and tap into residents’ love of social media in the hope of driving through real change – but the initiative has its share of sceptics, not least amongst the city’s luddite officials.
Launched a week ago, the Smart City plan gives people a platform to report problems – such as floods, rubbish left lying in the street, potholes and crime – with the idea that nearby officials should then quickly respond.
“We hope people will be active in reporting. If you want to be served well, then help us monitor the city,” the governor, who has two million Twitter followers, said at the launch of the project.
The initiative’s main website, smartcity.jakarta.go.id, uses Google Maps and is integrated with Waze app, owned by Google, which allows drivers to share real-time traffic information.
The site also links up to two smartphone apps that have been specially designed for the project. The first, Qlue, is for residents to report problems, while the second, CROP, allows officials nearby to respond.
When a problem is reported, a red marker appears on the main site and when it is resolved, the marker turns green.
Purnama, famed for fiercely reprimanding bumbling officials, hopes the initiative will speed up a bureaucracy criticised as bloated, ineffective and crippled by corruption.
The governor, known by his nickname Ahok, has also ordered the 30,000 neighbourhood chiefs in Jakarta to prove they are doing their jobs by tweeting reports of problems in their area along with a picture, and is threatening to base their pay on how many messages they post.
The Internet had already become a popular tool among Jakartans for reporting problems in the city – particularly traffic – but Purnama’s is the first comprehensive plan by authorities to use the web to run the metropolis.
While observers welcomed the initiative, they also expressed serious doubts about whether it would work in a city with patchy Internet access and technology-shy officials.
“It is a good idea, but I am not sure it will be effective,” Ahmad Safrudin, a campaigner for cleaner air in Jakarta, told AFP.
“In my experience, many in Ahok’s administration are not even familiar with e-mail.”
Suhono Harso Supangkat, an IT professor from Bandung Institute of Technology, pointed out there were still some black spots in the capital where it is hard to get online.
Internet penetration in Indonesia remains relatively low, with fixed broadband reaching below five per cent of the population, although many more people are logging on via smartphones, particularly in big cities such as Jakarta.
But the biggest downfall of the initiative, critics point out, may be the failure of city officials to get to grips with the technology.
A district head, Fidiyah Rohim, said that many officials were confused about the system and had not even attempted to use it yet.
“I have neither accessed the website nor downloaded the application,” he told the Jakarta Post newspaper.a