Indonesia’s third largest city is increasingly earning a reputation as a smart city. A knowledge partnership between ADB and Singapore ETH Centre is now ensuring it goes beyond the use of information technology—uniting people to become more engaged both online and offline.
Indonesia is not immune to the rise of smart cities around the world. Bandung, its third largest city after Jakarta and Surabaya, is one of those leading the charge in the country. For Bandung, a smart city is a means to becoming a livable city.
Bandung, the capital of West Java province, is an attractive city with a fast-growing economy. And with an urban population that grows 3.5% yearly, it is also fast expanding its metropolitan region in the province. Bandung is famous for its cool climate, lush greenery, active art scene, and numerous fashion outlets.
Its thriving economy is powered by about six million tourists (primarily Indonesians) and a young population of 2.4 million people. Like most rapidly urbanizing areas however, the city is experiencing immense pressure on its public infrastructure. Traffic congestion is most evident, and flooding is also an oft-cited issue.
When current Mayor Ridwan Kamil first took office in 2014, he introduced a dimension that has characterized his administration to date: design, technology, and social innovations.
Under his administration, inclusive approach to city planning resulted in a strong sense of identity among residents making them fully engaged in improving the city’s quality of life. His design and technological innovations include partnering with the private sector to develop “urban acupunctures” (small-scale interventions towards livable city). As an example, a 450-meter elevated market bridge called Cihampelas Terrace is a typical urban project that has helped ease the traffic congestion on a major shopping street. The Bandung Command Center, which is the repository of the city’s digital information from CCTV footages and data from mobile-based apps, best sums up his penchant for technology and ‘smart’ solutions.
A visit to the Bandung Planning Gallery near Balai Kota Bandung (City Hall) helps “paint the picture” of Bandung’s overall vision of becoming a livable city. In this modern creative space, a romanticized Dutch colonial past is merged with an ideal Bandung of the future through various visuals of urban designs.
Some of the proposed urban infrastructure projects – especially those that require big investments – are showcased using virtual reality such as simulating a light rail system to alleviate traffic.
Residents can attest on how technology has become a more prominent aspect of governance under the current Bandung administration. Mayor Kamil has championed the cause of smart city and community-building initiatives in a push for efficiency, inclusivity, and livability.
A 2017 study by Singapore ETH Centre (SEC)/Future Cities Laboratory, a research organization specializing in sustainability, has shown that this high ICT literacy and participation is not reflected in many of the city’s kampungs or urban settlements.
Fixing the disconnect
The city administration has put an emphasis in delivering better local services and leveraged technology in the process—the foundational elements of a smart city. Supported by a young urban population with a high level of accessibility and literacy of information and communication technology (ICT), about 680 new mobile apps were developed, from an online registration system for small businesses to a municipal staff performance monitoring system that allow citizens to keep public officials accountable.
But here lies the rub. As a university city, Bandung’s smart initiatives are mainly accessible to the tech-literate public. That is, the voices being heard in this technology-driven process are typically from middle-income groups and who are relatively well educated.
A 2017 study by Singapore ETH Centre (SEC)/Future Cities Laboratory, a research organization specializing in sustainability, has shown that this high ICT literacy and participation is not reflected in many of the city’s kampungs or urban settlements. In the three kampungs reviewed – Dago Pojok, Sablon, and Lokomotif – many of the residents are not yet connected to the internet; and when they are connected, they mostly use it for communication and social media. The overall usage of the existing apps and online systems developed by the city government from this segment of the population is minimal.
So while Bandung is poised for a progressive smart city transformation, getting the involvement of the vast number of urban population living in its kampungs has proved to be a challenge.
3D visualization of urban planning aspirations showcased in the Bandung City Planning Gallery. Photo: Chee Anne Roño.
Building a smart city for all
In February 2017, around the time of SEC’s study, the city government upgraded its national participatory planning system, called *Musrenbang, with online data components. This e-Musrenbang allows for more direct inputs from local community leaders. It is a potentially empowering system; but without the participation of those who live in kampungs, it is not inclusive enough.
ADB and SEC, through a knowledge partnership complementing the Smart Systems technical assistance, developed the Kampung Smart Systems project concept to address this gap. This project proposes an integrated data system that widens the communication channel; or simply put, it enables locals to directly communicate their concerns through a kampung-level data hub, which then enhances or feeds into the existing e-Musrenbang.
The hub, called E-mah Warga, is a two-way facility. Aside from capturing grassroots level data, it also provides the community with relevant information on government programs, subsidies, and employment opportunities—all of which are often scarce or hardly known in kampung settings.
In addition to the e-mah Warga, another smart solution proposed is a visual data platform called ur-scape. It is a data-driven and integrated planning support tool that enhances the quality of the decision-making process. The tool, which will have a visual and interactive interface, collates and curates spatial data from different sources such as the household, neighborhood, city, and regional level. It can help decision-makers to verify the situation on the ground, assess it in relation to the sectoral and larger development plans and strategies, and validate it with relevant geo-located statistic figures.
In 2018, the project team behind ADB’s Smart Systems technical assistance specifically plans to demonstrate the ur-scape platform as an evidence-based planning tool that could support municipal budgeting decisions. Another idea is to position this at the multisector decision-making forum (Forum Perangkat Daerah) within the Musrenbang process.
The Japan Fund for Poverty Reduction finances the ADB Smart Systems technical assistance and more partners are signifying support to build on the ADB-SEC smart initiative in Bandung, expanding at multiple scales in the Bandung Metropolitan Region and West Java Province.
With this growing support for the Bandung Smart Systems project, an integrated and inclusive participatory planning system that truly connects people could become a trigger for other smart(er) initiatives. The notion of smart city comes in different shapes and sizes. For Bandung, it is not only about the amount of technologies employed or the streams of data gathered, but more importantly, it is about how well technology and data are utilized to foster urban development, innovation, and new forms of citizen participation.
*Musrenbang is started at the local level through community discussion or Rembug Warga (RW). It was meant to gather aspirations and ideas from all the residents. However, due to the large number of the residents, the leaders claimed that it is not possible to involve everybody in the community. Rembug warga, therefore, mostly involves a number of formal community leaders and some representatives from the local organizations and other informal community leaders. Residents claimed that not all their concerns were well represented during rembug warga, therefore not so inclusive.
The Kampung Smart Systems research project is a collaboration between ADB, Singapore ETH Centre/Future Cities Laboratory, and Riset Indie-Bandung in close cooperation with the City of Bandung.