What lies ahead of Indonesia’s 100 smart cities movement?
The rapid transition of Indonesia from a rural to an urban economy has served as one of the benchmarks for the tremendous growth potential of the country, while at the same time emphasizing the many challenges it needs to face.
According to World Bank, nearly 70 percent of the country's population are expected to live in cities by 2045. Creative approaches must be built by the public and private sectors to allow people to benefit from this rapid shift, so as not to continue to allow them to succumb to traffic congestion, pollution and disasters arising from a lack of sustainable development in the country’s existing cities.
To address this challenge, in 2017, the Communications and Information Ministry joined hands with the Home Ministry, Public Works and Housing Ministry, National Development Planning Board (Bappenas), Presidential Chief of Staff and several private organizations to co-create the “Movement Toward 100 Smart Cities” initiative. This movement has since become the national direction for Indonesia's Smart City Master Plan, which is directly linked to the presidential vision of turning Indonesia into a "smart nation".
At the conclusion of this three-year program last week, a total of 97 cities were awarded the title of smart city, joining their three predecessors, namely Jakarta, Bandung in West Java and Surabaya in East Java.
Indonesia has done remarkably well on its path to becoming a smart nation under the 100 Smart Cities Movement, having been one of the early movers in the region to address the opportunities and challenges presented by the pursuit of smart cities. We have seen how the movement drives significant improvements, with the key objectives to improve public services and boost regional competitiveness.
The smart city concept focuses on how urban development can safely and effectively combine information and communications technology and the Internet of Things to manage public assets and services, including waste management, transportation systems and law enforcement. In this context, the development of Indonesia as a smart nation has been widely supported, particularly with regard to the use of relevant technology and the openness to conduct public-private partnerships to build smart cities.
The progress so far, though, is just the start of a long marathon. There are a number of things that need to be addressed by leaders who aim to create smart urban transformation to ensure that progress can become truly sustainable.
The smart city project financing model is one of several key challenges that need to be anticipated. Since the political reform in 1998, Indonesia’s regions have enjoyed significant autonomy in which cities are expected to function independently from each other. While this autonomy allows for a contextual and tailored approach to development, this also means that cities are expected to fund, maintain and renovate the required infrastructure; while most of their current state budgets are still spent only on salary expenditures. Public Works and Housing Minister Basuki Hadimuljono said alternative sources of funding were crucial to support the development of infrastructure in Indonesia.
Fortunately, there is some help at hand. Asian Development Bank (ADB) has been tasked with managing ASEAN-Australia Smart Cities’ trust fund, which focuses on building livable cities that are green, competitive, inclusive and resilient. Moreover, the World Bank and the Swiss government have also established a US$13.4 million Indonesia Sustainable Urbanization Trust Fund (IDSUN). Swiss Ambassador to Indonesia Yvonne Baumann said that the IDSUN fully supported Indonesia’s effort to prioritize sustainable urban development.
The nongovernment cooperation route could also be an option. Earlier this year, Qlue was awarded a grant project from the Global System for Mobile Communications Association (GSMA) to empower three cities in Indonesia to become smart cities.
Another critical success factor is a clear vision, consistency and continuity of the initiative beyond the people in power. Long-term strategic plans and accountability for the execution serve as a cornerstone to ensure that progress continues even after changes in leadership occur. A good example is the case of the Jakarta Smart City program with Qlue as the go-to platform for citizen engagement, where the program is still running and improving, two years after a change of leadership took place in 2017.
Lastly, the criteria for sustainability can only be achieved by having an adaptive and capable implementing agent within the government bodies. The staff in charge of guiding and executing the plan needs to have the creativity to solve problems and adequate digital competencies, taking notes on the huge discrepancies between the available talents and the software that will be managed. To tackle this, policies that encourage smart city development and a collaborative environment to foster beneficial partnerships with local startups and technology providers would help the education and training process in the long term.
At the end of the day, building a smart city is a collaborative process. To create a truly smart and sustainable city, the city government has to see beyond the conventional and venture to the dynamic realm of its residents and stakeholders.