2020 has really tested PLJ’s capacity to work cohesively as a team. New ways of working and undertaking projects have had to be configured, and six new team members filling in vacant positions hit the ground running and are fully engaged in the work of the Lab without ever having met other members of the team beyond virtual interactions!
The nature of COVID-19 which has hindered traditional data gathering and analysis approaches due to the risk of infection, has drastically increased interest in the use of big data, leading to many projects and partners now experimenting with data innovations. Aside from supporting key partners such as the provincial government of West Java in combining and analyzing big data with conventional datasets, we saw COVID-19 as a unique opportunity to gain an overview of Indonesia’s data ecosystem by assessing how 34 provinces across the archipelago were publicly reporting on the pandemic. This provided a very interesting snapshot of issues in the underlying data ecosystem which need to be addressed if new data innovations are to be effectively adopted.
Old and new partnerships have also emerged during 2020. Building on successful collaboration in 2019, PLJ again teamed up with UN Women and Gojek Indonesia to look at the extent the pandemic has affected women entrepreneurs and women-owned micro and small businesses, providing insights for new and responsive programmes that address gender inequalities further exacerbated by COVID-19. PLJ also took on a new role in providing technical and communication support to Global South institutions applying artificial intelligence for COVID-19 responses through grants awarded by IDRC and Sida in their Global South AI4COVID Program. This and other experiences have been pivotal for PLJ in reconsidering its role in going beyond its initial function as a data innovations lab, and transitioning into a role as an analytic partnerships accelerator. With so many emerging players prototyping data innovations, PLJ no longer needs to demonstrate what is possible in terms of utilizing new data sources, and so our focus has pivoted towards adoption and uptake of innovations.
To be increasingly impactful, PLJ has adopted an “impact creation logic” that has further defined how the team operates and how we progress analytic partnerships as a deliberate move towards more ecosystemic and operational impacts. We are continuing to contribute to the body of knowledge and the application of data innovations, AI and human centered design for development and humanitarian action through academic papers cited by a range of academicians and development actors. Our emphasis however has been on building solid partnerships and coalitions to collaborate effectively and create effective relationships within Indonesia’s broader development ecosystem, which has included international partners such as CSIRO which will extend beyond PLJ’s direct involvement. This is where data innovations, analytics and capacity building combine to change the way institutions and/or communities operate and is sustained without PLJ’s ongoing inputs.
So despite being an immensely challenging year, we’re pleased to share our annual report that provides an overview of how 2020 has also been a year where PLJ has repositioned to help build back better through data innovations and partnerships resulting in improved analytics for development and humanitarian action.