Linking Freedom of Information
and Open Data in Banda Aceh

BACKGROUND

Quoting our workshop participants as they summarised their gained understanding of the value of open data through this project:

“Through open data, the public can access information without exception, foster open and good governance, and citizens can actively critically monitor and engage with the government. Citizens therefore do not necessarily criticise their government, but instead provide constructive feedback.”

After Indonesia passed a Freedom of Information (FOI) law, the city of Banda Aceh took bold steps to promote government transparency and accountability. Dedicated staff were hired and trained to respond to FOI requests, but the number of information requests from civil society groups and citizens remained low. The city wanted to understand how to stimulate citizen demand for information, and ensure that their investments in the legal framework and the capacities of its administration could be harnessed to yield social benefits.

Together with USAID’s Kinerja programme, the local watchdog organisation GeRAK Aceh, and various government entities, the Jakarta Lab tackled this challenge by designing and executing an action-oriented research project. We determined a specific sector to target first – namely education. Following this, we consulted with interested groups (researchers, civil society organisations, media, and academia) to identify the most pressing issues they wanted to address, and what kind of information would benefit them most in their work. Armed with their feedback and a list of priority data needs, we approached, got the commitment from, and helped the government to release their data in open formats. Finally, we went back to those we’d consulted at the start and trained them in using data for advocacy, including data analysis and visualisation. In this way, we created new “data intermediaries” between government and everyday citizens. A town hall meeting was held where the interested groups presented their findings to government representatives. Ways to improve schools’ performances were identified, with officials committing to address the issues raised.

Emboldened by the successes experienced in Phase I in the education sector, we also undertook a Phase II focused on the health sector, and are now in Phase III, working on plans for open data sustainability. We’re using our learnings to develop a strategy to make open data efforts sustainable in Banda Aceh, based on the approach above that we developed, called the ‘Responsive Open Data Model’. This model promotes the reactive release of information under the FOI regime and based on the identified priority data needs of civil society, while setting the long-term stage for the goal of proactive release of datasets across all sectors, leading to enhanced transparency across the board.

There are more details in our ‘Lessons Learned’ paper and ‘How-to guide‘ here.

PARTNERS

Pemerintah Kota Banda Aceh         GeRAK Aceh          USAID Kinerja

DURATION

PHASE I – EDUCATION
Start:
 August 2014     End: December 2014

PHASE II – HEALTH
Start:
 March 2015      End: July 2015

PHASE III – SUSTAINABILITY
Start:
 August 2015     End: On-going


RELATED RESOURCES

How-To Guide
A concise explanation of the “responsive open data model” we developed for this project.

Lessons Learned Paper
Our insights and experiences from this project, and recommendations for moving forward.

Workshop and Training Modules
Workshop design samples and training modules that we used for Phase I of this project.

Project Flickr album
Photos from the projects’ workshops and public event.