Indonesians flock to mobile app for swift action on civic woes

Reuters News
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Posted: Oct 08, 2015 2:37 AM

By Arzia Tivany Wargadiredja

JAKARTA (Reuters) - Frustrated Indonesians are using a new mobile app to give their sleepy bureaucrats a wake-up call, demanding immediate fixes for persistently shoddy public services in the capital of the world's fourth-most populous country.

President Joko Widodo has grown exasperated with Indonesia's bureaucrats over delays to road and port projects crucial to reviving an economy growing at its slowest in six years, and which have fueled impatience among investors.

The public surveillance app, which has won backing from Jakarta city authorities, lets residents post online photographs of problems ranging from potholes in roads to broken traffic lights, in an effort to spur action.

"Jakarta has a lot of problems and these problems inspired us to complain, using social media," said Rama Raditya, chief executive of the company that developed the app, Qlue, which has drawn 80,000 users since its launch eight months ago.

Jakarta this year topped a list of 78 cities afflicted with the world's worst traffic congestion. The city of 10 million also suffers annual floods and pollution that rank among the worst in Southeast Asia.

Indonesians number among the world's most voracious users of social media, a phenomenon that Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahja Purnama has embraced, to keep public servants on their toes.

"What's for sure is that if the bureaucrats don't respond, we will fire them," said Purnama, who has ordered city authorities to act on complaints made through the app.

As many as 90 percent of complaints are now followed up, city officials told Reuters, against 30 percent when the app was launched.

"We believe that information and technology will help to slash bureaucracy, and that is what Qlue is aimed at," said Setiaji, head of Jakarta Smart City Program, which the government set up to respond to social media complaints.

He has only one name, like many Indonesians.

Some residents say the app, which uses images and Google Maps to pinpoint the location and nature of a problem, can be cumbersome. But others say it forces the city to act faster.

"Now people don't have to make bundles of reports," said user Irawan Endro Prasetyo, who complained about a broken traffic light, which was fixed within a day.

Raditya said he hoped to roll out the app to other cities in the archipelago of 250 million people, but did not elaborate. Smartphone use is growing in Indonesia, where research firm Canalys estimates fewer than a third of citizens use the devices.

(Writing by Kanupriya Kapoor; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)