‘GovTech Edu wants to become a thinking partner of Indonesian government, not a feature factory’

(L-R) GovTech Edu COO Kevin Emeraldi and CPO Prayudi Utomo

GovTech Edu is a private organisation aiming to make an impact in Indonesia by building user-centred, high-quality technology. It partners with the government to develop and deliver solutions to transform various industries, starting with the education sector.

According to GovTech Edu, it goes beyond mere feature development and brings findings and recommendations for appropriate technology interventions based on an in-depth understanding of the problem space. The goal is to holistically improve the archipelago’s education system, which impacts millions of students, teachers, schools, and universities.

In this interview with e27, GovTech Edu COO Kevin Emeraldi and CPO Prayudi Utomo share insights into the organisation’s working model, long-term objectives, and the impact it has made in the education sector.

Excerpts:

Can you provide examples of how GovTech Edu has partnered with the Indonesian government to develop and deliver technology solutions for nationwide transformation in the education sector?

Emeraldi:

  1. Mindset changing: Becoming a tech development partner for the government is not just about developing the tech/platform itself but building and sharing an understanding of the importance of a user-centric mindset and delivering the tech properly. We need to change the Ministry’s mindset in building tech products by inviting them to understand the needs of their users instead of directly executing the Ministry’s requests. We want to become a thinking partner, not a feature factory.
  2. Iterative process: We transform the working process from a linear process to an iterative process — Discover, Deliver, Distribute:
  • Discover: We gather insights into the problem through various methodologies and user research. This process informs the initial design of the product, ensuring its relevance to the users’ needs. For example, during the development of one of our platforms, Rapor Pendidikan, a dedicated Design & Research team is responsible for feedback from the field directly with the school principals, teachers, and operators, using these insights as a foundation for product and feature development with the Ministry team.
  • Deliver: After discovering the actual needs of our users in the field, we work closely with the Ministry team to develop and build the product based on the agreed scope and workflow. We also iteratively manage the content production process and quality control to ensure quality and scalability.
  • Distribute: After the public launch, the product will be monitored continuously to anticipate the need for improvement. We oversee content contributors, curate materials, and engage with local government and user communities as part of our retention strategy to maximise socialisation and implementation in the field.

How does GovTech Edu go beyond feature development to bring findings and recommendations for appropriate technology interventions, and how does this approach contribute to solving complex problems in the education space?

Emeraldi:

The scope of the problems handled by the ministry is always on a national scale, involving millions of people: here, it is about three to four million education actors, from teachers to school principals and local governments with diverse backgrounds. Meanwhile, the nature of regulation development is top-down, where a ministry will create a regulation based on its consolidated vision.

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This is where a user-centric mindset, bringing findings and recommendations from direct users, becomes important to fill the gap between the top-down regulation from the ministry and the bottom-up needs of the user.

For example, the evolution of Platform Merdeka Mengajar (PMM) — a mobile app aiming to empower K-12 teachers — triggered hockey-stick adoption. In the early age of PMM development, we found that teachers’ nature in upskilling themselves is by learning from their peers/community-driven. Hence, we grew the platform from a prescriptive to a collaborative platform. We experienced a drastic growth by considering users’ feedback and adding more relevant features. As of today, PMM has been used by 3.5 million teachers and 3 million monthly active users and supports over 100k organic learning communities organised by teachers on the platform.

Another example is the development of the Rapor Pendidikan platform, which provides a data-driven report and recommendations for the government, school principals, and teachers. When our research team conducted research and a visual audit together with the users, we found a gap in the school principals’ ability to read and analyse data. This insight changed the design strategy from the original brief to creating a data visualisation for national assessment to providing school improvement recommendations that triggered real action.

What are GovTech Edu’s future plans and initiatives for further enhancing the education system in Indonesia through technology, and how does it continue making a positive impact on millions of students, teachers, and educational institutions?

Emeraldi:

Currently, we focus on providing more access to quality training and teaching materials so that teachers can share their best practices in the classroom with peers.

User adoption is growing not only for teachers in the first-tier city but also for teachers in rural areas. The tech platform also helps to open access to quality training, teaching materials, and peer learning.

Earlier this year, we integrated all those functions with teacher’s career development and progression. Previously, a teacher’s career progression, especially the teachers with civil servant status, was a bureaucratic process. This new function will help to simplify the bureaucracy and improve the fairness of their career advancement process with its online nature. We need to ensure that all the activities in the platform that help teachers become better teachers integrate into the teacher’s career development and progression, so not only that the platform helps them to access quality teaching materials, but also to document their improvements and contribute to their career progression, as well as help them to get the appreciation they deserve.

What specific methodologies does GovTech Edu employ to conduct field research across Indonesia and gain a deep understanding of the challenges faced by users in the education system?

Utomo:

We focus on having a first-principle understanding of the problem faced by citizens (our users) and the Ministry (as the regulator).

As Emeraldi pointed out, we are the ministry’s thought and development partner. Thus, the main methodologies are conversations and joining the echelons and their teams to understand the problems they face. This defines the Ministry’s strategic vision and mission.

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For citizens, we use design research methodologies such as design sprints, qualitative interviews, and quantitative surveys to really understand our users. We encourage everyone on our team to participate to gain direct exposure to our user problems and challenges. User-centricity is the core value and mindset we want every team to have.

Could you elaborate on the co-design process GovTech Edu undertakes with relevant stakeholders to ensure that its products meet the diverse needs of the Indonesian education ecosystem?

Utomo: We believe that users’ presence is essential in the product design process, as they provide insight into what they really need and what works best for them. An example of the co-design process was during the development of the Rapor Pendidikan (the education report card) platform, which aims to provide school principals and teachers with an action-oriented report on schools’ literacy, numeracy, character traits, and school environment.

The brief, research, and findings: There was a gap between the regulation and the ministry’s request regarding the condition on the ground. This was proven when our team conducted the research with direct users before developing Rapor Pendidikan. They found a gap in the school principals’ ability to read and analyse data, which changed the design strategy from the original brief (to create a data visualisation for national assessment) to school improvement recommendations that triggered real action.

The co-design process or visual audit with the Ministry’s counterpart: After evaluating school principals’ ability to read and analyse data, we mapped out which visuals are familiar and can aid in the absorption of information and data through our product together with. The process includes determining which colours are needed to use their language within the platform so that the platform can be more easily understood by them, especially when they want to evaluate the school’s condition and make improvements in the future.

The implementation and product refinement: From these processes, we understand that data should not only be presented comprehensively but also require a specific narrative and curation so that school principals know what action recommendations need to be taken for school improvements. The next step was to iteratively design the product and produce the platform to find the right model to present the national assessment results that would trigger real action on the ground. In the process of finding the right product solution, we ensure close alignment with Minsitry’s counterpart, too.

The result: Rapor Pendidikan has released its second version due to this iterative process and is now available to the general public (as the previous version was only available for school principals). Additionally, the platform has become the single source of truth for discussing school improvements and triggering actionable steps. School principals can now engage in discussions with local governments and other institutions to support improvements within their schools using Rapor Pendidikan data.

Can you explain how GovTech Edu develops a robust adoption strategy for its technology solutions and what factors are considered to ensure successful implementation and usage?

Utomo:

a) When we release a product, we ensure that our users will have support from a holistic ecosystem, such as the community and customer ops team. The goal is to assist them so they can experience the product’s benefits in their daily lives.

For example, we provide:
Local and grassroots community activation: For context, K-12 education is under the purview of the local government with a high level of variation from one state to another. To ensure meaningful implementation by regularly socialising with local government and direct users such as teachers, school principals and operators. We believe that clear communication can reduce the learning curve. Therefore, we make sure that we use the right language in communicating any material related to our platforms, such as the benefits of the technology, how to use it, address any concerns or questions that arise from users, etc. The communication team also has a pre-mortem session with the customer operations team to mitigate any potential misconceptions & risks during the implementation process.

Responsive customer operations system with proper SLA (customer’s issues are responded to within four hours and resolved before 12 hours) to serve or answer feedback, questions, and complaints from nationwide users. We want to make sure that our system can address user’s feedback and complaints in a timely and satisfactory manner, improving user experience and satisfaction.

Alignment and coordination with the policy and transformation team to ensure that relevant regulations are aligned with the development of tech solutions. They also oversee the socialisation process to ensure that users and stakeholders understand our innovation and its compliance with regulations.

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b) Numbers and beyond: Numbers are inevitably one of the necessary factors in measuring a successful implementation; for example, Play Store rating—Platform Merdeka Mengajar was rated 4.9, the highest rating amongst Indonesian government apps. One of the resulting examples of our holistic adoption strategy is when we improved the Platform Merdeka Mengajar (super app for teachers) based on direct feedback.

By adding learning community features in the app, teachers can now connect with over 100,000 cross-regional communities across nations through PMM, allowing them to seek inspiration and share best practices not only with teachers in their own areas but also nationwide.

However, we don’t see our users merely as statistics; instead, we focus on the transformative journey or paradigm shift that serves as a testament to Indonesia’s commitment to fostering a robust foundation.

One of the real examples would be the rise of the self-learning culture amongst active PMM users: where upskilling activities used to be limited and a top-down instruction, now it’s accessible for everyone, everywhere, and the active users are choosing their learning materials at their own pace. Another example is a shift in how school principals plan school improvements—which used to be based on assumptions, and now it’s based on valid data from Rapor Pendidikan.

How does GovTech Edu ensure the impact of its technology solutions on improving student learning outcomes, teaching capabilities, and career growth opportunities within the Indonesian education system?

Utomo:

Inclusive access: Prioritising inclusive access to quality education would thereby unlock the potential of millions of teachers previously marginalised by bureaucratic barriers.

Inclusive access is very important because previously, teacher training was centralised only in the big cities and Java island, and reached only 20 per cent of all teachers in Indonesia.  This was because of Indonesia’s vast demographics, resulting in very limited access to training from the central government.

Now, training participation has increased 7x or reached 80 per cent of all teachers in Indonesia with our technology (through the Merdeka Mengajar Platform) compared to 2019. High-quality teacher training can now be easily conducted online and can be tailored to the needs of each teacher and school.

Promotion of lifelong learning: After the learning access is opened and more equal, we empower educators to be lifelong learners by providing what their needs are through our tech, so the usage of our platform becomes more natural and sustainable.  On the other side of the same coin, we use technology to reduce the administration and reporting of our educators by doing business process transformation, through simplification of business processes, improvement of user interface, and automation of the processes.

Policy and technology that complement each other: The long-term goal is for policy and technology to work side by side, even influencing each other. Thus, when there is a paradigm or cultural shift, the system and regulations can also change to become more relevant to users to support irreversible transformation through tech.

Can you share any challenges GovTech Edu has encountered during its end-to-end development process and how these challenges were addressed to ensure the success of its products?

Utomo:

An old legacy system that has been deeply rooted for years: Previously, working with the government involved a top-down culture within the policy-maker in designing solutions, therefore we actively engage in the ideation process right from the start, ensuring that our developments align with the ministry’s objectives rather than just adhering to specifications, as well as to influence the systemic changes while still pursuing quick wins that must be achieved.

Massive and diverse ecosystem: Indonesia has a massive educational ecosystem with approximately 3.5 million teachers and 400,000 schools scattered nationwide, with a wide distribution and varying geographical conditions and technological readiness. Another significant challenge is the persistently low educational quality due to the limitation of infrastructure and inequality of access, which hinders improvement. These challenges require the technology team to deliver inclusive and reliable technology products in most circumstances.

For example, the size of the teacher’s super app, Platform Merdeka Mengajar, is only around 6 MB, and it has become an inclusive product for teachers in a diverse environment.

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Decentralised regulation spanning 38 provinces and 514 cities and regencies: The nation’s decentralised regulation presents a huge challenge in tech implementation. For example, when we launched the Talent Management feature in Platform Merdeka Mengajar, one of the main challenges was that every local government had their own application to manage teachers’ teaching performance in the region, hence presenting greater resistance to the use of the integrated system we offer on the platform.

Therefore, we have a dedicated team that works closely with both the central and local governments, involving them during the iterative process to close the gap between top-down regulation and bottom-up solutions. This helps them better understand the benefits of our platform compared to previous applications.

The post ‘GovTech Edu wants to become a thinking partner of Indonesian government, not a feature factory’ appeared first on e27.

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