Pacific Institute Insights

Notes from the Field: Community Learning Sessions in Malang

by Misha Hutchings, Research Associate
July 30, 2011

At the beginning of one of the WATER SMS Project learning sessions in Malang, Indonesia, resident Pak Suep said, “We feel that we are small people. We don’t have any right to complain.” By the end of a learning session in the Klojen district of Malang, Ibu Lis, energized by the activity and passion of her fellow participants, stated, “This is an amazing group –I think everyone in here should become leaders and legislators so we can accomplish these goals!”

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On July 26 and July 28, Indonesian NGO PATTIRO, the Pacific Institute, and Nexleaf Analytics conducted three learning sessions with communities in Malang, East Java province. The goal was to understand what improvements residents wanted to see in water services, recognize what information they needed to improve their water supply, and identify organizations and agencies that could respond to these needs. The learning sessions in Malang and engagement sessions with water managers and stakeholders will help the Pacific Institute and our partners define key aspects of the Indonesia WATER SMS system, a mobile-phone-to-web-based communication and transparency system to improve water services in Indonesia.

Information from these learning sessions will be taken to the local government and the water utility to help understand and determine what issues agencies can commit to immediately resolving, what they can incorporate into planning, and how they can provide necessary information and tools to respond to community requests. Based on this, issue areas for the WATER SMS tool can be defined.

Learning sessions were conducted in Klojen, Kedungkandang, and Blimbing districts. In each of the sessions, 25-35 engaged and enthusiastic participants brimmed with ideas on what improvements they needed, who should be responsible, and how to continue this process. The problems identified with PDAM (government water utility service) included high costs, lack of transparency or consistency in water pricing, low water volume at certain places and times, lack of service in some areas that had already paid, poor water quality, and poor complaint redressal. Some residents were also served by local water user groups called HIPAMs. People complained that HIPAM services were not consistent, and that they often did not get enough water.

Many residents requested further information to learn if their water was safe to drink, when water services would be shut off, and about transparent rate information. Residents who self-supplied water through private wells also wanted information on how to protect this supply. “I just want to know what the solution is — when I was a child, even in the dry season water existed all the time. Now, in dry season there is absolutely no water,” stated Ibu Srihanaratani during the Klojen session.

Participants at several of the learning sessions noted that the increase in malls, government buildings, and paved areas provided no way for water to infiltrate and recharge groundwater supply. “We need integrated septic systems and forests and ways for the water to enter the ground,” said Ibu Kris from Kedungkandang. If we keep and protect our water supply, we will have no problem with water.”

The learning sessions in Malang kicked off a very exciting series of engagement sessions in Malang and Makassar that will lead to the development of a WATER SMS system to meet the information and communication needs of all water sector stakeholders, and ultimately, help improve water services for the poor in Indonesian cities.

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