The COVID-19 pandemic hit Indonesia hard: at one point in 2021, the country had the worst daily rate of infections in the world. More than 160,000 Indonesians lost their lives, and economic progress stalled. Rather than lock down the entire country to curb spread of the disease, the government implemented social restrictions and limitations on community activities. This approach made it essential to understand how COVID was affecting individual neighbourhoods, not just cities or villages, a difficult task with traditional government sources of information.

UN Global Pulse Jakarta helped by taking a novel approach that revealed trends and patterns of behaviour by combining traditional data with extremely large data sets gleaned from social media. We worked with Jabar Digital Service in West Java,  Indonesia’s Ministry of National Development Planning (Bappenas) and UNICEF Indonesia to develop data insights for a dynamic, localised approach to COVID-19 lockdowns. 

We helped develop a transmission risk assessment map based on government data and social media to understand the potential for transmission down to the very local level in West Java. As the pandemic evolved, the map was updated and integrated into the provincial government’s Command Centre, known as PIKOBAR. In partnership with the Australian government’s scientific research agency, CSIRO, the team created a simulation model to show how different social restrictions would likely affect infection trends right down to the village level.

Our impact

UN Global Pulse Jakarta’s collaboration with UNICEF Indonesia and the Indonesian Ministry of Health impacts a broad range of stakeholders involved with the e-PPGBM application. This includes all levels of system users, health officials, and, indirectly, communities that are beneficiaries of better nutritional monitoring. Furthermore, the project’s recommendations have influenced the Digital Transformation Office’s (DTO) and Ministry of Health’s (MoH) operations and future programs.

The project’s expected depth of impact is transformative. It is not just improving the functionality of an application but is rethinking its design and use in relation to wider systemic issues, like data governance and sharing protocols. In the process, it has identified and begun to address significant gaps, such as the visibility of data on vulnerable groups like people with disabilities. These actions, combined with the promotion of regular partnership discussions, are expected to bring about systemic changes to data use and data-driven decision-making in the health sector.

Our lessons

  • In West Java, one of the areas hit hardest by COVID, our results were so detailed that we were able to pinpoint in which small villages it was safe to reopen classrooms at a time most surrounding schools were closed. The project demonstrated the power of data analytics for health policy, sparking further collaborations.