Navigating openness, reforming business processes - Dari KANTOR STAF PRESIDEN

Yanuar Nugroho Deputy Chief of Staff, Executive Office of the President, Indonesia Can open government (OG) help eradicate poverty? How do...

Yanuar Nugroho

Deputy Chief of Staff, Executive Office of the President, Indonesia

Can open government (OG) help eradicate poverty? How does OG restore public trust in government? To what extent OG can improve the quality of public service delivery? Why openness count in ensuring environmental sustainability?

Does OG matter in development at all?

Those are major questions addressed in the Asia Pacific Leaders Forum (APLF) on Open Government, in Jakarta, 14 December 2017. Attended by no less than 750 participants including prominent guests from 18 countries, the Forum was aimed at finding ways to navigate government openness in addressing development challenges faced by, and in, the region.

The outcome provides a clear directive forward: OG is not just enabler for development; it is both the necessity for and the substance of development itself. In facing challenges such as poverty, the shrinking of civic space, degradation of environment, and poor public service delivery, openness in government becomes an inherent indicator.

The question is: How should we operationalize such directive?

The success of OG rests on the operating environment. As a global movement, Open Government Partnership (OGP), founded back in 2011 by 8 countries now has 74 members, aspires to provide a platform where government and civil society could really collaborate and create inclusive governance. But there is the dynamics. While in many countries government becomes more open and transparent and work hand in hand with civil society, in other places public trust in government is declining and extremism is rising.

At the global and regional levels, even five OGP member countries are reported to have a repressive environment for the people. They are losing freedom of speech and freedom of association. From 75 OGP countries, it is reported that 31 countries have decreasing freedom in public space. This certainly is a very difficult situation. Government openness reputation relies on partnership principle between government and civil society to create the enabling environment to effectively deliver development.

At the national level, true partnership between Indonesian government and civil society, although now better, remains questionable in the context of OG. While Presidential Regulation on the implementation of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) mandates collaboration between civil society and the government, many CSOs feel that they are just being used as stamp for legitimacy for government decisions such as the formulation of SDGs National Action Plan done solely by the government. From this perspective, the spirit of co-creation is in serious need to be revived.

Navigating openness

Openness has been widely believed to be a characteristic of a modern state. It will eventually lead to public participation and thus collaboration to tackle wicked problems. But how do we measure its impact?

Measuring the impact of openness, one should not stop at looking bureaucracy improvement index such as those of democracy, anti-corruption, etc. What is fair for public is to question whether openness eventually makes their life better – which means better public service delivery, alleviated poverty, growing economy, more sustainable environment. Does openness really matter?

The answer is yes.

Openness is needed in ensuring the effectiveness of public services and poverty reduction programmes. Delivery of subsidies and social insurance for the poor to directly combat poverty, for instance, requires openness in terms of data. The government must be transparent in the way it collects check, verify, and validate demographic and poverty data. Without such openness, it is guaranteed that programmes on subsidies and social insurance will fail and poverty is not eradicated.

Openness is vital for government in recruiting, training, and deploying health-workers. It is also the case for procurement of medicines, management of primary healthcare facilities or hospitals to be all-time ready for emergency cases.

Similarly for business: one main indicator for Ease of Doing Business (EODB) is permit. The process of issuing permits, which was commonly done behind closed doors with hidden fees, must now be open and traceable.

When the government is open about development planning particularly spatial and land use, plenty of issues related to environmental sustainability could be resolved. Openness in spatial planning through the use of open thematic map can solve problems from overlapping land use, double registry, to issuance of permits.  If openness in beneficiary ownership in extractive sector is added to the equation, so that the real owners of business exploiting natural resources is revealed, we could do so much in ensuring environmental sustainability. The forest fire, for instance, could be prevented because information on consolidated spatial data and the permit holders of the area is disclosed and responsible stakeholders can be identified.

Finally, this is all about people’s trust to their government. Many would worry that government that is open is weak and risky for being attacked. The fact is simply the opposite. Government that is open is stronger, and gets full support from their people.

The APLF revealed evidences that support the arguments. The examples cover those of national and subnational level government, including the story of Bojonegoro regency which attributes openness to the success of reducing poverty by half in less than a decade.

Reforming business processes

It is clear now how and to what extent OG could deliver and accelerate development programmes. More than just creating impacts, it accelerates development – with one condition: there must be changing business processes.

To ensure that civil registration and vital statistics are real-time updated, it requires fundamental changes in business processes across ministries and government agencies. Birth registry taken by hospitals under Ministry of Health must be able to automatically update the civic registry at the Ministry of Internal Affairs. At the moment, this still cannot be done due to conflict of ‘authority’. Ministry of Internal Affairs would not allow other ministries, such as Ministry of Health, to update their database.

The same happens in other sectors, including law enforcement. For instance, the databases of police, supreme court, attorney, and the Ministry of Law and Justice are not only disconnected from each other, but this disconnect reflects an acute problem of collaboration. And this is despite the MoU already signed by those four entities. What is worse is that each ministry/agency claims to have their own political and legal backup to not change their business processes.

The key in opening up government is the willingness to change the business processes – both the government and civil society. For government, changing business processes means allowing changes to disrupt bureaucracy for a more efficient and effective work. In some cases, it means allowing non-civic servants to take role as officials leading a project management office (PMO) to ensure delivery. Acceleration of infrastructure development, One Map Policy, Agrarian Reform and Social Forestry –all are open for public scrutiny—are just few examples, among many others, in which the government cannot but change their business processes and leave their comfort zone.

Not only that, the government needs to change their business process in collaborating with civil society. Having civil society on board government’s programme is not always common and could risk creating rejection by the bureaucracy and in the end hamper the delivery. Yet such risks need to be taken in order to transform the business processes.

As for civil society, the main changes would be the way they interact and work and collaborate with the government. While being critical to the government is main and key characteristic of civil society, they must build their capacity to take part in development undertakings

CSOs like AMAN (Alliance of Indigenous People in Indonesia) and its networks actively engage with the government to help accelerate One Map Policy. INFID maintains critical views towards the government but is at the forefront in SDGs implementation in Indonesia. CSOs working in knowledge sector are closely monitoring the development of One Data Indonesia. And so on, and so forth.

The way forward

In retrospect, open government (OG) is clearly both a process and an outcome. As a process, it helps government and civil society alike to deal with the advancement of society and technology. As an outcome, government openness must be able to be traced through development programmes.

Here, knowledge exchange is perhaps crucial. Forum such as APLF is indeed useful as a platform for sharing experience and practice. The platform is created to facilitate reformers to meet, share ideas and experiences.  But the real homework awaits at home. OG has to be implemented nationally through a systematic approach within the OGP National Action Plan. Last but not least: leadership. It should be transformational, rather than contractual. The leaders’ loyalty is solely to the people, not the political parties or other interest groups.

Only with this we can have a meaningful OG, that matters to the people, because it makes their life better. Only with this, the government can hold their head high and say: I am here for my people. Saya hadir untuk rakyat.

Yanuar Nugroho – Deputy Chief of Staff for Analysis and Oversight of Strategic Issues on Social, Cultural, and Ecological Affairs at the Executive Office of the President (KSP), Honorary Research Fellow, University of Manchester UK, and National Focal Point for OGP Indonesia.

As published on The Jakarta Post, Wednesday, December, 20th, 2017



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Ayo Pilih Presiden Jokowi Sekali Lagi !! - Salam 2 Periode: Navigating openness, reforming business processes - Dari KANTOR STAF PRESIDEN
Navigating openness, reforming business processes - Dari KANTOR STAF PRESIDEN
Ayo Pilih Presiden Jokowi Sekali Lagi !! - Salam 2 Periode
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