Highlights From Our Data Revolution for Policy Makers Conference

Prof. Bambang Brodjonegoro, Minister of National Development Planning (BAPPENAS), officially opens the two-day conference in Jakarta.

The ongoing data revolution is transforming our ability to sense changes in our economies, societies and environment. To take stock of progress in Indonesia, Pulse Lab Jakarta co-hosted an international conference in February under the theme, “Expanding the Evidence Base: Government Demand for Advanced Data Analytics in Indonesia”. Below we share a few impressions and the conference proceedings.

With more than 250 participants in attendance over a two-day period, contributions came from researchers, policy makers, activists, data analysts, entrepreneurs, civil society organisations, UN agencies and government representatives. The conference was also co-hosted by KSI (Knowledge Sector Initiative) and the Indonesian Ministry of National Development Planning (Bappenas).

“It’s exciting but it’s also disruptive,” remarked Robert Kirkpatrick (UN Global Pulse Director) on the opening day, referring to the ongoing data revolution.

“We’re moving from a world where we use the best data we have to make a plan and take a snapshot every few years, to actually detecting emerging risks and taking actions to keep them from affecting us. It’s a very different way of working”, he added.

The Minister of National Development Planning, Prof. Bambang Brodjonegoro, similarly spoke about today’s big data sources, particularly highlighting its complementary use with traditional statistics, which may help to create solutions amid rising complexities.

The conference was structured into plenary sessions and data clinic sessions.

During the plenary sessions, representatives from the Indonesian government, the UN, as well as from public and private entities addressed a number of topics, including: taking stock of the data landscape, applications of real-time data for decision making, the policy side of data innovation, synchronising and sharing data, forging data partnerships, reconfiguring citizen engagement, and making sense of the overall data.

The featured panellists shared widely about implementation approaches, based on their areas of expertise. There was an example of how a USSD-based system for reporting malaria cases was developed by South Halmahera Malaria Center (SHMC), which ultimately contributed to decreasing the reporting time for malaria cases.

Data experts among these groups also headed prototype cafe sessions, where they displayed several applications used for real-time data analysis and decision making. Altogether, the prototype cafe sessions were a showcase of work and advanced data analytics tools that can be used to capture citizen opinions, visualise information and provide new insights on behaviour, livelihoods, and economic activity to improve service delivery.

The data clinic sessions, on the other hand, aimed to facilitate direct dialogue between experts and participants on particular topics, as well as to share hands-on skills related to a certain aspect of data innovation.

The data clinic sessions included:

  • A Policy Brief Writing Clinic, by Tempo Institute;
  • Innovation and Synergies Across Different Data Ecosystems, by Pulse Lab Kampala;
  • From Data to Visual Stories, by UN Global Pulse;
  • Bringing Data Innovation to Local Government, by RTI;
  • Ensuring Data Quality with Advanced data Exchange Technology, by AIPEG;
  • Applying the Data Innovation Cookbook, by UN Global Pulse; and
  • Privacy Protection Tools for Open Data Initiative, by Data61.

The conference broadly highlighted how new technologies and data could better inform policy making. Indonesia, the home of millions of digital technology users, is one of the world’s richest sources of digital data. This kind of data, commonly referred to as big data due to its quantity, diversity, and speed of data collection, opens up endless new opportunities for policy making.

As mentioned by UN Resident Coordinator for Indonesia, Douglas Broderick: “traditional ways of collecting data takes a long time. Surveys are costly and focus groups are insufficient to capture the diversity of Indonesia”. As many participants also concluded at the end of the conference, in today’s ever-changing and complex societies, more diverse, integrated, timely and reliable information is needed to help us make informed decisions.


Pulse Lab Jakarta is grateful for the generous support of the Government of Australia.