As one of the founding members and the current supporting co-chair of Open Government Partnership, Indonesia has its own experiences dealing with the issues of opening its government. This blog post explores the unique situations and dynamics of open government implementation in Indonesia, with emphases on how it works in the local governments.
After the 1998 political reformation (reformasi), the Indonesian people aggressively demanded openness and accountability of their government. Before reformasi, an Indonesian would hardly be able to get any information from the government bodies. Any effort to obtain information, even the “basic” ones such as government budgets, statistical data, maps, and other documents would be labeled as “subversive”, “endangers national stability”, and given other negative designations.
Realizing the fact that the right to information is an inseparable part of human rights, a decade after the reformasi, Indonesia passed the Public Information Openness Act in 2008. The Act aims at regulating public information in Indonesia, and preventing government bodies and agencies from hiding information that is essential to public interests. The Act also establishes the Public Information Commission (KIP) to enforce implementation and settle disputes between public and government bodies.
The Act mandates that every government body, both national and local, has officers managing documents and information. Consequentially, any information that is not “classified” must be published and available for public access or inquiry. Such information includes the works and activities of public bodies, financial statements, and other information related to the public bodies. Furthermore, the Act also regulates that any information related to the interest of the people and general order shall be published as soon as possible.
At the national level, the Act has been executed successfully, at least by the year 2012. All government ministries have now appointed their respective public information officers. The KIP has also begun settling disputes between the people and the government bodies. Most of the disputes emerge due to the unpreparedness experienced by the government facing the rise in public demand for information, after more than 30 years being “protected” from publishing and opening their documents. Some documents, such as budget details and public tenders, were previously classified as “sensitive/confidential”. When the government bodies are required to publish those documents, the inevitable “information shock” provokes disputes between them and the people. Essentially, although these government bodies at the national level have sufficient resources to build public information systems, they have to learn how to deal with the “information shock”.
Meanwhile, the realities at the local level are not similar to those at the national level. Unlike their national counterparts, local governments (provinces, cities, and regencies) face different problems. Their main problems are lack of proper infrastructure and the technical capability of human resources to fulfill the requirements of the Act. There are no proper documentation systems, because many local governments are located in remote areas where the lack of basic information infrastructure is common. Cultural differences also contribute to the disparities of the level of openness in local areas. The patron-client political culture, more interestingly, makes the publishing of public information seem hard and impossible, because the local bureaucrats need to ask for approval from the head of the local government.
With those facts in mind, the President’s Delivery Unit and its counterparts (the core team of Open Government Indonesia) launched an initiative called Open Government Indonesia (OGI). This movement is a part of Indonesia’s commitment to the promotion of the Open Government Partnership’s principles and norms through the national and local governments in Indonesia. One of its programs is the “Regional Pilot Project”. This project is intended to promote openness in the local governments.
“Regional Pilot Project” is a step-by-step series of programs that are currently applied in three local areas, (1) Central Borneo, representing provincial government; (2) Indragiri Hulu, a small region in Riau, Sumatera representing regency government; (3) Ambon, the capital of Maluku Province, representing city government. The programs include the establishment of information and documentation office, Open Budget (in charge of publishing government budget), Citizen Budget (explaining government budget in simpler ways, such as using infographics), Open School (publishing education budget details to the people), E-Office (using IT to deliver government documents) and the government website re-design. As a result, the heads of government in those areas showed positive responses to the projects. They also showed strong willingness to implement the programs in their regions.
The establishment of the Regional Pilot Projects is regarded as one of the milestones in local governance in Indonesia. It demonstrates big progress and a significant paradigm shift where both the Indonesian people and their governments appreciate the norm of openness. Nevertheless, although different local problems still persist, such as infrastructure and bureaucratic bottlenecks, it is still the collective duty of the government and the people to collaborate in ensuring the continuity, particularly the impact, of these programs.
To conclude, opening government in a big, populous, and developing country like Indonesia is different from that in the developed countries. The efforts have to be done in both national and local level, which at least encourages government undertaking in developing the infrastructure of open government in Indonesia. Most importantly, the awareness of the people should be primarily considered as both the “push factor” and “valuable assets” to develop a more open, transparent, and accountable government.
Further reports about regional pilot projects and other open government issues in Indonesia will be published in future blog posts.