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Democracy 2.0: How Qlue Makes Indonesia’s Government More Accountable

No more clueless government officials

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BY Tanya Mariano - 27 Dec 2016

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

It was only a matter of time before Indonesia’s dynamic start-up ecosystem found a way to enhance public participation through technology.

Since the fall of Suharto in 1998, the country has become more democratic and increasingly decentralized. A lot of power has devolved from Jakarta to the provinces, there is greater press freedom, and citizens demand accountability from government. This created the environment that made it possible for apps such as Qlue to be conceived. 

Tech solution for a better city

Developed by Rama Raditya and Andre Hutagalung and launched in Jakarta in December 2014, Qlue is a platform that lets citizens file complaints to their local government. Users snap a photo – of a heap of illegally dumped garbage, of flooding, or of potholes on the road, for instance – tag the location and add some comments, and the report gets routed to the responsible officials. The app also lets citizens connect with each other, and anyone can view the progress of pending reports. It's available for free on Web, iOS, and Android.

Over the years, Qlue had grown into more than just a reporting tool and now offers real-time information on traffic, navigation, safety, healthcare, education, even entertainment. It’s part of the Jakarta Smart City program, an initiative launched by the Jakarta administration in 2014 to use information and communications technology – such as smartphone apps and a network of CCTVs – to improve conditions in the city.

From prototyping in 2012 to an $8 million valuation in 2016

Raditya says he and Hutagalung had the idea for Qlue since 2012. The two had met “by fate” in 2012, in a house somewhere in Pondok Indah, when Raditya needed to build a prototype of Qlue. “I was in the US for almost ten years since high school, [and] forced to return to Indonesia by my parents to help build our country,” Raditya says.

Both founders have bachelor degrees in Computer Science and a masters in Management Information Systems – Hutagalung’s from Universitas Indonesia and Raditya’s from Strayer University in Washington DC. “I have always been fascinated with designs and I became the product guy,” says Raditya, “while my partner does the engineering part.”  

“Then we funded Qlue around 2014, met Jakarta Government [and] offered them to work with us, we work[ed] with other companies, and here we are,” he says. “We didn't expect to have even ten thousand users, let alone close to a million now.” 

In May 2016, Qlue secured over $1 million in funding, raising the company’s valuation to approximately $8 million, Raditya told Tech In Asia. According to the report, city-specific apps based on Qlue are now available in 12 other Indonesian cities, and the company is working with all five major telcos in Indonesia – XL Axiata, Telkomsel, Tri, Smartfren, and Indosat Ooredoo – to fuel its expansion across the country.

Government action still needed

Is the government responding to Qlue’s complaints?

Yes and no. Whereas Qlue is the citizen-facing app, on the government side, there’s CROP, or Cepat Respon Opini Publik. CROP, which is developed by the same company, is the platform that lets city officials receive and respond to public reports. Once the complaint has been addressed, the app requires officials to upload a photo of the location as proof of action.

Support from the government is crucial in making the system work. Raditya says his team provides the tool but, ultimately, has no control over their partner’s performance, which is why “the governor is key on keeping everyone account[able] and perform[ing] consistently.”