News | October 18, 2017

In Indonesia, we witnessed that the collaboration between village government officials and villagers has built new relationships of trust and transparency, as a result of the participatory decision-making that was facilitated and mediated by the #tech4gov project Game My Village.

In 2014, Indonesia enacted the Village Law 6/2014 - giving villages more autonomy to make independent budgetary decisions, develop village-level governance regulations and conduct their own development planning.

This means all village reforms - from public services, village economic development and community empowerment to the construction of the village’s physical facilities and infrastructures - are to be discussed and decided between the local government and the local community.

However, poor data collection and database systems in the village government makes the development planning challenging. Local policy-makers didn’t have the knowledge or the right tools to make information on local budgets and planning easy to understand, while community participation remained low with most of the citizens lacking the ability to contribute in the village development planning forums.

With these challenges in mind, Sinergantara developed Game My Village.  The software tool features photography of village conditions alongside visualisations of village budgeting to help aid participatory local decision-making processes.

How are citizens ‘gaming’ their village

In four villages in the East and Central Java provinces, villagers used Game My Village platform to produce photography, statistics and digital village maps that illustrate their issues of concern. These were then used to inform a collective decision making process that determines local development priorities and budgets. The locally generated data, maps, photographs, charts and tables are now held in a village level open data repository.

Before citizens would come to the Musrenbang meetings without being able to raise any issues. There were no photos or they would bring some printed photos. Game My Village has made it easier for them to collect data and store them safely in the system. It has strengthen the accountability of the data because pictures are uploaded with geotagging and on real time. - Development Planning Official, Bojonegoro District

Screen Shot from GMV

Screenshot from the Game My Village data repository, where both government and community members can follow the progress of development projects. One of those projects, was to repair the village’s security guard post (in the photo).

Through this participatory data collection, the local district government together with the communities created digital maps of the villages featuring the different houses, markets, government offices, health centres, irrigation and drainage project, etc.

Photos of the objects attached on the digital maps include the date the photo was taken, the precise location of the photo, and a statement by the data collector on the condition of the object, such as good, fair, poor, or damaged. – Local implementer, Bojonegoro Institute

When the project started, villagers were not familiar with the use of ICTs so they were really interested in attending the meetings, seeing the visuals and commenting on the real examples around their villages – participation in governance meetings increased and community members became more engaged than before.

During the implementation, one of the obstacles was that not all villagers could use the technology and if the operators were absent the issue stayed unreported. More volunteers are now in place and more villagers are being trained in using the app. In some villages, the citizens mentioned the technology is too advanced but they acknowledge that with these apps the accountability has increased. Sinergantara has been adapting the tech. – ICT Department official, Bojonegoro District

Women using Game My Villager

Women operators of Game My Village input reports in the system. Photo: Anastasia-Areti Gavrili

What changed? The loudest voice versus the strongest evidence

Through the use of the game, Indonesia’s village data collection system and the village decision-making processes have improved. A huge amount of open data is there to prove this.

But what is more exciting is the noticeable shift in power relations between the local government and the communities – trust, transparency and accountability have been established, allowing for increased and inclusive citizen participation in village planning and development.

The village government has praised the community’s ability to contribute more useful information and opinions in village forums. Previously, only the village elite participated in decision-making processes. Now, due to the visual and dialogic nature of Game My Village, participation is not limited by the villagers’ literacy levels.

The use of Game My Village emboldens the villagers to provide information and clarification on the map and objects displayed on the platform. They have learned that their demands must be based on data and strong evidence. It is no longer having the loudest voice in the room that counts. - Development Planning Official, Bojonegoro District

The district government also understands better the essence of participatory planning in village forums and see them as more than simply a formality.

In Bojonegoro, we are  transforming public service from "ego to eco, selfish to service. - Suyoto Ngartep Mustajab, Bojonegoro Regent

Game My Village is a powerful example of how innovative use of information and communication technologies can bridge social exclusion to increase participation, transparency and hold public officials more accountable. Citizens and officials are brought together in effective co-governance.

The proposals from the villages are coming with visuals and it is more accountable and accurate. In the district level, it has really helped us created policies and take actions for the problems in the villages. - Development Planning Official, Bojonegoro District

Future action

At the local level, four villages now have new inclusive village decision-making forums where villagers are able to take part in participatory dialogue and budget-setting processes.  Ten additional villages are scheduled to start shortly.

The Mayor of Bojonegoro and Sinergantara are now developing the Revolusi Data programme together with the local Bojonegoro Institute, to expand Game My Village and contribute to the Open Government Partnership sub-national government pilot programmes.

Sinergantara received the support of £39,969 from Making All Voices Count and the innovation project was implemented from August 2014 to March 2016. Sinergantara developed a ‘gamification’ tool, which had never before been implemented at village level in Indonesia. Gamification is a method that makes decision-making in the village forum an interesting and engaging process, because it makes participants feel like they are playing a game in a formal forum like Musrenbang Desa or MusDes (village deliberation forums).