If a government employee tries to find out the total amount of farming area in Indonesia, the answer will often depend on which government agency's data is being used.

This scenario - where multiple maps and conflicting information abound - makes urban planning in one of the world's fastest-urbanizing countries even more daunting. By 2025, Indonesia will have 68% of its population living in cities, yet unfamiliarity with systematic data sharing and lack of ICT platforms to do so, limit the ability of cities to manage information and the challenges they face.

To help Indonesia strengthen capacity for evidence-based analysis and up-to-date data on spatial planning, the World Bank established the City Planning Labs (CPL) initiative, which supports cities' efforts to develop unified infrastructure to collect spatial data.

Specifically, the CPL aims to enable the development of a Spatial Information Strategy for each participating city, including: a Municipal Spatial Data Infrastructure that establishes processes and procedures for agencies and technologies to interact; ICT platforms for data sharing; production of up-to-date data; and building technical skills of city staff to use data better.

Arifin Rudiyanto, Deputy of Regional Development from the National Planning Agency, notes that City Planning Labs will take city governments closer to an integrated system of data management and utilization. "Good city planning will require good statistical and geospatial data which at present are kept in various government agencies," he said.

"We are rich in data but poor in information," said Doni Widiantono, Director General of Planning for the Ministry of Agrarian and Spatial Planning, referring to the multitude of data owned by different government ministries.

Some countries, such as Singapore, have successfully leveraged geospatial technology in order to address the challenges of city planning. But the key to success, said Ng Siau Yong, Director of Geospatial and Data Division from the Singapore Land Authority, was not the technology but the inter-agency collaboration. "Breaking down silos of information was key in policy making so we can act as one government," said Yong.

" Breaking down silos of information was key in policy making so we can act as one government "

Ng Siau Yong

Director of Geospatial and Data Division, Singapore Land Authority

Indonesia has initiated a One-Map Policy to build an integrated spatial data system. Khafid, Head of Geospatial Information Management and Dissemination at the Geospatial Information Agency (BIG), describes One Map as "a super databank for all of the country's data."

By 2019, they plan to have synchronized maps of 85 different themes, a challenge made more difficult by the limited number of skilled personnel at the regional level.

So far, two cities are benefitting from pilot projects under the City Planning Labs.

In Denpasar, Bali, they are starting to better understand trends in slum expansion. For example, slum residents are choosing to live closer to their jobs despite the higher land values.

"We've identified and cleaned the maps so that they can be used for the future planning of our city," said Rini Ambarwati, Head of Physical Infrastructure Division at Denpasar's Regional Development Planning Agency. "We now have detailed maps of informal settlement growth and established a portal to share data."

Denpasar is incorporating the CPL within the core of its Smart City initiative.

The analytics conducted by the CPL team in Semarang, Central Java, in preparation of the city's medium term plan, incorporated data on land reduction, water supply networks, health centers, schools, green spaces, and poverty rates. These analytics allow city planners to see the broader picture of how infrastructure gaps interact with poverty and land subsidence.

In Northeastern parts of the city, residents of areas without water supply are forced to extract ground water, which in turn has increased land subsidence. Land subsidence has led to cheaper land prices, making the areas more affordable to poor families, who are now more exposed to flooding risks. Without different water supply options, the vicious cycle of groundwater use and land subsidence will continue, putting urban residents in harm's way.

"We have explored all aspects of Semarang to see what the city needs in future and current conditions. Plans made with the support of City Planning Labs will be incorporated into our medium-term development plans," said Purnomo Dwi Sasongko, Secretary of Semarang's Planning Agency.

As the City Planning Labs initiative is scaled up to more locations, Indonesia's growing cities will be able to get better answers to the challenges they face.

City Planning Labs has received multi-year support from the Indonesia Sustainable Urbanization Trust Fund supported by Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO). The trust fund supports Indonesia's efforts to better harness the benefits of urbanization, by providing technical assistance, and sharing international experiences and financing solutions for successful urbanization.

Source: World Bank