Published on Sustainable Cities

Geo-powering resilient cities in Indonesia

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Over the last decade, an urban data revolution has taken shape, as cities all over the world started mobilizing geospatial data to address complex urban challenges. In the face of large financing gaps,  geospatial intelligence can help cities prioritize investments for more resilient and sustainable growth. 



Indonesia has demonstrated remarkable foresight by enabling local governments to carry out integrated urban planning  – and linking it to infrastructure investments through a spatially informed capital investment planning system.

To support this, the World Bank is helping Indonesia “geo-power” its cities through two initiatives: the City Planning Labs (CPL) Technical Assistance Initiative and the recently National Urban Development Project (NUDP). While CPL focused on developing scalable and replicable tools to build geospatial data foundations for cities, NUDP aims to strengthen the links between spatial planning, investments, and socio-economic outcomes in 15 Indonesian cities.

Successful geo-powering efforts require a mindset shift not only for those in the city governments, but also for us at the World Bank: to think about data as infrastructure.

What does this mean? Take the example of a common type of infrastructure, such as roads, and think about the supporting elements that enable a road to function:

  • Roads need regulations that determine mutually agreed-upon, acceptable driving behavior – for example, drunk-driving or texting while driving is illegal. Similarly, the use of geospatial data needs policy regulations and a governance system. 
  • Roads also need workers for repairs, regular maintenance, and traffic management. Data verification, updates, maintenance, and verification also require staff with relevant educational backgrounds – in other words, well-trained people.
  • Lastly, roads must be planned, managed, and treated as part of a system. Roads can only function as part of a road network – a single road segment offers limited benefits to its users. Just like roads, data needs to exist within a system, alongside other datasets, to unleash its power.

Seeing data as infrastructure, CPL has developed an innovative ecosystem approach called Municipal Spatial Data Infrastructure (MSDI) with inputs from Singapore Land Authority (SLA), City of Johannesburg’s Corporate GIS (South Africa), Indonesia’s National Geospatial Agency (BIG), and experts from Finland, South Korea, Australia, and Mexico. MSDI is operated under a four-pillar framework: Institutions, People, Data, and Systems (IPDS). This robust foundation is layered with a suite of open-source, scalable urban planning and management tools.

Three Indonesian cities – Semarang, Balikpapan, and Denpasar – have piloted CPL’s MSDI approach. Indonesian National Geospatial Agency (BIG) is partnering with the World Bank to scale up beyond the three cities. Spatial analytics carried out under CPL, such as terrain motion models estimating the impact of land subsidence on networked infrastructure in Semarang and poverty mapping in Denpasar, have provided critical inputs to city-level plans. In 2019, Urban Planning Tools (UPTs) developed under CPL won the Collaborative Data Innovations for Sustainable Development Fund.

Perhaps most importantly, the CPL framework and tools have been implemented in Indonesia under the National Urban Development Project (NUDP) approved in June 2019, generating interest from several other countries.


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Philip E. Karp

Lead Knowledge Management Officer, Social, Urban, Rural, and Resilience Global Practice

Gayatri Singh

Senior Urban Development Specialist

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