Promoting Open Data to Fight Corruption in Indonesia

(Online), 3 June 2021 - The use of open data is a crucial tool to enable a culture of transparency, accountability, and information accessibility as part of efforts to prevent corruption. In 2015, this was distilled into six principles by the International Open Data Charter (ODC), which was launched by the United Nations General Assembly:

Principles of Open Data by the International Open Data Charter

Within Southeast Asia, progress on open data has been mixed. Challenges such as the digital divide, the limited realization of civil and political rights and persistent barriers towards the full involvement of civil society organizations have affected the implementation of open data commitments, including under Articles 9, 11 and 13 of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC).

Indonesia was one of the eight founding countries of the Open Government Partnership (OGP) in 2011, and has since established a movement called Open Government Indonesia (OGI), a collaboration between the government and civil society to improve transparency and the quality of public services. Currently, Indonesia is seeking to enhance its open data practices through the enaction of its latest National Action Plan (2020-2022) (NAP). The NAP focuses on numerous sectors, including on issues such as open contracting in procurement, public service complaint mechanisms, the access of marginalized groups to public services, Covid-response budgeting, electoral accountability, the utilization of beneficial ownership data and rolling out One Data Indonesia to the local government level.

Selection of Participants from Workshop on Open Data, 2-4 June 2021

To promote the application of open data standards in the context of Indonesia, UNODC held a Workshop on Open Data from 2 – 4 June 2021, for sixty officers from the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) based in prevention and coordination teams at national and subnational levels. The event, which was held online, looked at ways to enhance transparency through the use of open data, particularly with respect to administrative budgets, public contracting and beneficial ownership.

Some of the key issues discussed during the workshop are summarized below:

An open data approach to procurement has numerous benefits

According to Indonesia’s Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK), 80% of corruption cases detected across the country relate to public procurement.  The government introduced a major electronic procurement system in 2018, but reports that the risk of corruption within the procurement system remains high. The system builds on the Public Information Disclosure Law (No.14 of 2008), which gives the right to the public to access information managed by the government and requires any public agencies/bodies to disclose public information. However, information on the government’s procurement of goods and services, including contract documents, are excluded from this requirement. The National Action Plan aims to enhance contracting transparency around public procurement through further regulations on information disclosure and improvements to community monitoring.

However, an open data approach to public procurement has potential benefits that go far beyond the prevention of corruption. Mr. Warren Smith, Director of the UK Government Digital Service (GDS) Global Digital Marketplace Programme, showed that open data can enhance competitiveness and increase the quality of goods and services. Reflecting on the experience of the UK Government, he explained that of approximately £16 billion GBP of government spending in 2009, 80% was spent on only 18 supplies. In the years that followed, enhanced digital transparency led to a rise in the bidding and awarding of Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs) in public procurement (see below). It also facilitated an upswing in the number of bids per opportunity, limiting corruption risks and enabling a more diverse array of suppliers to access funding and to meet the needs of the public sector.

Slide by Mr. Warren Smith of the UK Government Digital Service (GDS) in which open data platforms enabled increasing participation of SMEs

Slide from Mr. Warren Smith of GDS showing SME participation per number of bids

This was consistent with expert input from Open Ownership on the issue of beneficial ownership, which looks at who owns, controls and benefits from companies. Given that 70% of corruption cases globally involve the use of anonymous companies, beneficial ownership has come to be recognized as a powerful tool against corruption. However, there is increasing evidence that high-quality and connected data on this topic can also contribute to the reduction of investment risk, the improvement of governance, the enhancement of public trust and the indirect support of other transparency and anti-corruption initiatives.

Slide from Open Ownership showing how data users can benefit from beneficial ownership transparency

Open data initiatives should be user-friendly and receptive to fine-tuning

A number of speakers illustrated that it was not enough for information to be made technically available, but instead that developers need to ensure that data is meaningfully arranged and user-centered. Experts from the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) gave the example of JAGA.ID, a platform through which information on public services can be accessed and verified (see below). Since its launch in 2016, an important challenge for the team has been contextualizing raw data so that it is accessible and relevant to the public. Progress has been made by building partnerships between organizations to draw on connections between datasets, and to create feedback loops that enable the development of user-friendly interfaces. Another major challenge is maintaining engagement with government stakeholders, to ensure that they are receptive to feedback from the public on the basis of the data shared. This reduces the risk that users will be disheartened from participating in instances where institutions do not respond to their input.

Slide from Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) on the JAGA.ID initiative

In many instances, the finetuning of open data initiatives can be a long-term process. However, because it can generate the data needed to improve the way information is collected, analyzed and presented, such programs can be highly receptive to being adapted to meet new challenges and to being scaled up over time. In the case of JAGA.ID, this has allowed information on Covid-response handling to be added to the platform, to complement the existing focus on education, health, villages, regional budgets and licensing.

UNODC led a discussion with the participants on possible way forward for the KPK to encourage more transparent government and improve public participation to reduce corruption. Important considerations include:

This event was part of activities funded by prosperity programming of the Government of the United Kingdom. Footage (where available) and written summaries of UNODC activities are publicly available via our website.

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