Two years ago, members of the community in the village of Barabali, Central Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara, had little opportunity to communicate directly with village government officials. In theory, they could submit their opinions, suggestions, recommendations and criticisms to their hamlet chief, who promised to pass these on to higher-level members of the village government. However, there was usually no direct feedback on this input, so the people had no idea whether it had any impact on how village programs were implemented or whether they had taken their needs into account.
However, with recent developments in technology, some village governments, such as in Barabali, have started to use the Internet to increase transparency and participation by informing the community about village development programs and receiving direct input from citizens. Under the supervision of the village head, Ki Agus Azhar, the Barabali village government has set up a website and ocial media account to enable community members to access information regarding village development programs, to ask questions about these programs, and to submit suggestions and complaints. The village head himself responds directly to many of these inputs. This use of social media has played a powerful role in enabling the community and government agencies to supervise the use of village funds, and to ensure that they are utilized to meet the community’s needs
Building on this successful use of social media, the village government has developed a website that is managed by the village secretary, which contains information on how village funds have been spent; villagers from anywhere in the world can provide feedback. Residents can also use the site to print out official village administration letters at their convenience, including “business statement letters, letters of domicile and police reports”, according to the village secretary. However, since only around 30 percent of community members have access to the Internet through smart phones, the information is also disseminated in other ways, for example by posting it on community announcement boards.
Now that community members can interact directly with village government officials, they are gaining confidence that village government officials will respond to their inputs. As a result, they have become much more motivated and willing to participate in all matters related to village governance, both online and in meetings and face-to-face discussions. This has helped to ensure that the allocation of Village funding is fair and equitable – and is perceived to be so by all members of the community.
Despite the village server’s limited capacity, Barabali is continuing to implement additional measures to ensure open community access to information and “to increase the community’s sense of ownership of the website”, according to the village head. Barabali’s experience has inspired many other village governments throughout Indonesia to develop similar systems for their own communities.