When Mawar* from Kekait Daye hamlet in West Lombok in the south of Indonesia became pregnant, she had no idea how to register her baby with the national health service. It was difficult to find out what to do and even speaking with the head of the community did not help. Her friends Abdurrahman and Dinna decided to assist her.
To do so, they had to travel 30 kilometers to several government offices in Gerung, the capital of West Lombok Regency. They gathered all the information they could and brought it back to the village to help their friend.
The law requires every public agency in Indonesia — governmental or independent — to provide information to citizens on time and at a low cost. The law also calls for transparency and accountability.
But in practice, these standards are rarely met. This is due to undertrained officials, flawed methods of sharing information, and a lack of public awareness of the right to it.
Stories like Mawar’s show how difficult it can be to get basic information. To help citizens like the residents of Kekait Daye, Transparency International Indonesia developed a Public Information Disclosure Index in 2017. They used it to analyse the experiences of Indonesians who had recently accessed public information services, with the aim of finding out how much people knew about their right to information and how to access it.
The results were discussed in public workshops, which were attended by representatives from a number of information offices and institutions, including the Communication and Information Agency (Diskominfo), the Health Office and regional governments.
The public information disclosure index helped local government to better understand some of the weaknesses in public information services. Now comes the work of strengthening them. — Information officer in Indonesia
Participants agreed on areas in which public information provision was lacking and discussed possible improvements.
For example, one of Diskominfo’s information officers identified a key problem: “Many officials do not understand the Law of Public Information Disclosure. They just want to learn the law when handling applicants who dispute information… In addition, there are still public officials who are closed-minded about public information.”
While still a work in progress, the Index has already helped to improve information access and reform public information institutions, making it far easier for residents like Mawar to get the information their community needs.
*Name has been changed.
This blog post is an extract from Transparency International’s publication, Real Lives, Real Stories: The Power Of Information In Asia Pacific. It contains stories of citizens from ten countries across the Asia Pacific region who have used their right to information to demand accountability from their governments. Read the other stories.
We would like to thank Transparency International Indonesia for writing and sharing this story.