January 19, 2021

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Indonesian government prepares to digitise social assistance programmes

Several government agencies in Indonesia are banking on the increased reliability of technology to improve their organisational frameworks and in the long run, see an uptick in operations. One of these agencies is the Ministry of National Development Planning which announced plans to address challenges in social assistance through digital transformation. 

Minister Suharso Monoarfa said in a statement that to ensure accuracy of data in social assistance programmes of the government, there must be innovative tools in place. These tools, the Minister added, are crucial in providing speed, ease and accuracy in social assistance services. 

He stated that the Ministry is intent on setting up social protection system reforms in the near future. These policies are anticipated to cater to 55% of households that are now reliant on government assistance applications to mitigate livelihood impacts during the pandemic. 

The Minister suggested a reintegration of programmes in the social services sector to cater to the needs of the citizen base. The Minister added, “[N]ot all Indonesian citizens have the same ability in terms of social security and also in terms of obtaining or not getting social assistance. So, going forward, we rearrange, we redesign, we design the things that we have done today, for us to integrate in such a way.” 

The Minister explained in depth that future reforms in the sector shall be implemented continuously through 2024. A majority of policies that are now being carried on separately shall be closely integrated so that in the coming years, there will be more efficient strategic programmes in the social services sector. He also highlighted that data gathering and analysis is a “necessity” that form the backbone of social assistance. 

To further outline the importance of digital transformation in the social services sector, the Minister said that there must be an improved data programme that can harness relevant information from beneficiaries of social assistance programmes.  

The initiatives laid out by the Ministry are pursuant to a directive from Indonesian President Joko Widodo. The directive is to restructure the Social Protection System. The Ministry was tasked with formulating new policies to shore up the current operations in providing social assistance. One of the current practices that the Ministry is planning to streamline is the payment of contributions. 

Reducing poverty through social reform 

 Mitigating the impact of the pandemic is the tip of the iceberg for the Indonesian government. One of its long-term goals, according to the Ministry, is to reduce poverty by improving human resources and boosting the public sector’s purchasing power. 

 This vision is in line with the Government Work Plan of hitting the Human Development Index target of 72.95%. It also plans to reduce the poverty level to 9.7%. 

 To achieve this, the Minister stressed that the government must refocus on its existing social assistance programmes “in such a way as to target basketball groups that are vulnerable and chronically poor to achieve poverty reduction.” 

This is part of the six strategies underscored by the Ministry to reduce poverty. Among these are data transformation, as well as enhancement and coordination in social assistance operations. The development of a digital distribution scheme for cash transfers and other social protection schemes is also a priority. The Ministry is likewise looking at digitising the distribution of social assistance through online and fintech payment platforms.  

Digital transformation is one of the goals the Indonesian government is bent on achieving. As previously reported by OpenGov Asia, many agencies, including the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology, are digitising. The Ministry said that this year, its main focus is boosting frequency spectrum management, an effort that will help drive technological advancement not just within the department but to various government agencies.