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How Accessible Data Technology Empowers the Impact of a Community-Driven Initiative

Aria Nurfikry|

It’s a sunny and pleasant Sunday in Bojonegoro, Indonesia. Several housewives living in the village of Sumberrejo are preparing to go out. You might think they are heading for a gathering where they will have brunch and socialize with the other neighborhood housewives, but you are mistaken. They are on their way to a weekly meeting at the village’s community center. As part of the Dasa Wisma (a Sanskrit phrase that literally means “10 houses”) program, they are women representatives from 10 families who are assisting various initiatives on improving public health or economic prosperity in their own villages. This initiative has played a significant role in assisting multiple government programs in Indonesia, from the “Keluarga Berencana” program (a planned family program to maintain birthrate) to “Pos Pelayanan Terpadu” (the opening of neighborhood health centers to administer vaccinations and monitor children’s health).

This week, they are tackling a different project: household data collection. Since their regency joined the Open Government Partnership (OGP) Subnational Pilot Program, the government of Bojonegoro has aggressively mobilized the Dasa Wisma volunteers to acquire household data of all citizens (consisting of family size, education level, income level, economic activities, home ownership status, et cetera).

As a pioneering local government participating in OGP, Bojonegoro is pursuing steps to improve the transparency and efficiency of its public services. The key ingredient to this effort is household data, which can give civil servants a comprehensive understanding of the issues and concerns faced by citizens. The Dasa Wisma volunteers will be the spearhead that interacts with their neighbors in gathering valuable information.

The efforts undertaken by these volunteers should not be taken lightly: it involves intense legwork, and these amazing volunteers did this all in the belief that what they do will directly improve how the government can help alleviate the problems in their community.

Sadly, despite these amazing efforts, sometimes the government still faces challenges in delivering the best policy and aid to citizens, and we believe these challenges can be tackled with improved data management.

The Dasa Wisma volunteers interact with their neighbors, conduct interviews, and record the data from those interviews onto paper forms. These forms are then gathered, and are supposed to be entered into a central database . However, there remains confusion among the Dasa Wisma volunteers regarding the proper way to conduct the process. It has been deemed too complex, burdensome, and even expensive, as volunteers need budgeted funds to print out the papers and forms – especially if you consider that not all Dasa Wisma volunteers are proficient in using computers. Even if the government did manage to collect the data, there are no centralized facilities where they can comprehensively review all the data from a macro perspective. The data may be scattered, and some might never be digitized at all.

Picture 1: The paper-based household data collection form

Picture 2: Dasa Wisma women volunteers discussing the data they have gathered

So, what’s the impact? The government has received incomplete information about what’s going on in the field, which may lead to unsuitable policy and misallocation of government assistance. In one case,  the government provided livestock to boost farming activities in a particular village, when, in fact, that village had never had any experience with animal farming. Not only is this situation unhelpful to the public, in the long run it may lead to ineffective government spending.

These are serious problems that need to be solved immediately, and the data analytics company Dattabot has a potential solution to the issue: developing a system that can increase the effectiveness of data utilization.

The main problem that we aim to solve is the issue of data entry and digitization. We have created a practical solution that is best suited to the situation. Creating a tool that can easily merge and import the data in Microsoft Excel digital spreadsheet format, the files can be stored even without an internet connection, and can be uploaded into the database when there is an internet access. This is vital, considering that some rural areas of Bojonegoro are not covered by internet services. With these tools, the efficiency of data collection process has already dramatically improved; as of May 2017, 50% of the data collection target had already been achieved.

Picture 3: The forms and books of household data that are still undigitized

Picture 4: Data Entry Process

Data collection is just the first step. The next step is making sure that the data can be gathered, combined, and analyzed in such a way that the government can easily understand and identify the condition of the people in all villages. To make sure this happens, we created a solution where we truly capitalize on our capabilities: by building a data analytics platform.

In the platform’s dashboard, we can view all the data visualized in various categories. There is a main dashboard that shows an overview of all the household data, as well as a map that demonstrates the distribution of the data. We then have the ability to see the deeper data down to the village level, giving us a precise and granular insights of the condition in each village. The dashboard also highlights various insights regarding important issues for the public in each area of Bojonegoro: areas that are underserved by education services and healthcare facilities, adoption of birth control methods, or even statistics about families that utilized their yards for horticultural activities.

Picture 5: Overview of the household data from all villages in Bojonegoro

Picture 6: The deeper data insight from the village level

Picture 7:  A Panel highlighting an area that is underserved by education services

With our data analytics platform, the government of Bojonegoro – or any government that wants to deploy our solution – will have a powerful tool at their fingertips to accurately understand the issues and problems faced by their citizens, as well as to measure the success of the assistance programs they deploy to certain areas of the area in question. This is a prime example of how technology can enable a truly transparent government and effective public service.

Even though these tools are powerful in providing insights about citizens, in the end, it doesn’t mean we can cut out the human and community element of these endeavors. The wisdom of people who understand the local culture is important in drawing conclusions and insights from these datasets, in order to prevent any bias and hidden nuance which may not be captured through statistics and numbers. After all, this data is gathered through the hard work of the Dasa Wisma volunteers: without them collecting data on the ground, the data visualization dashboard would fail to serve its function.

However, we can now take pride in knowing the data management system that Dattabot created has successfully ensured that the results of the hard work of Dasa Wisma volunteers in Bojonegoro can be fully utilized to bring improvements to society.

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