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The Manic Chaos of Indonesian Identification Cards

Indonesian bureaucracy is a special rung of hell.
Photo by Iyas Lawrence.

Being an Indonesian citizen usually means you need a big wallet, not to hold all that money we have, but to store a plethora of government issued cards. e-KTP (electronic ID), NPWP (tax ID), SIM (driving license), BPJS Ketenagakerjaan dan BPJS Kesehatan (social security), Kartu Indonesia Pintar (Indonesian Smart Card), Kartu Pemilu (Voting Card), etc. Each time you lose one of them, or god forbid your wallet, it's a massive pain in the ass.


"I've been back and forth eight times to the district office just to extend my e-KTP," said Iwan, 25, furiously. "I haven't made any progress, one time I even slammed my hand on the officer's table out of sheer frustration."

Iwan, an Air Force officer deployed in Aceh, was only given a temporary KTP form. The reason? They were out of permanent e-KTP forms.

"I'm confused. On the KTP form, it says that there's an expiration date. But after visiting sub-district office for an extension, they said it's not necessary. So who's right?"

Millions of Indonesian citizens have to face the same broken system that in now known as e-KTP. The current state of chaos around e-KTP started in 2011 when massive corruption around the ID card was uncovered. The five trillion rupiah ($375 million) project has turned into a treasure chest for politicians and businessmen alike. It's believed that more than 50 percent of e-KTP funds have been found their way into the pockets of politicians in the House of Representatives and various ministries.

The Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) has named a total of three main suspects involved in the corruption. Irman, former Director General of Citizenship and Civil Records and former Director General of Citizenship Administration Information Management and Civil Records, Sugiharto. In an initial trial last March in Jakarta's Court for Corruption, they were accused of stealing over Rp 60 million ($4,500) from the state's coffers.


At a recent hearing, the KPK announced a third suspect: Andi Agustinos, better known as Andi Narogong, who supplied goods and services to Ministry of Home Affairs while it was led by Gamawan Fauzi. Andi is suspected helping to facilitate kickbacks to members of the house of representatives.

How has the e-KTP program turned into one of the most calamitous bureaucratic fuck ups in Indonesian history? "Technically, the project is 80 percent done," said Sukamdi, a citizenship and policy expert at the University of Gadjah Mada. "It's not impossible."

Sukamdi confirmed that there are a myriad of issues (besides the massive corruption) that are holding back the program from success, namely procurement and distribution of the cards.

"We have a huge number of citizens so it will take some time. Especially for those who live in remote areas, it's going to be very costly. The government isn't ready to deal with the changing demographies of the country, people who are about to turn 17 this year will need an e-KTP. This will become a problem as well," explained Sukamdi to VICE Indonesia.

According to Sukamdi, the e-KTP is the right of every citizen and must be granted by the government. "The state has to fulfill that right. However, the process sometimes makes people reluctant to join, thus there are also so many citizens without IDs," he said.

The 'e' of e-KTP stands for 'electronic,' but according to Sukamdi, the card is still very analogue. "The fact is, there's a chip in e-KTP, so why do we still need to bring a photocopy of the ID when handling citizenship issues? It's ridiculous," said Sukamdi.


Bureaucracy and the staggering number of cards needed to access state programs for Indonesian has triggered a conversation about integrating all these different IDs into one single card. However, according to Sukamdi, this idea is a pipe dream.

The Ministry of Home Affairs has signed an agreement with 57 public institutions to create the Citizenship Administration Information System (SIAK), which would put all public data on a single channel. However, it's still a long way away from actually being put into effect.

"Integrating different public institutions is hard since each has their own system. The implementation is still far from being optimal. Look at neighboring countries like Malaysia with their MyKad, which makes everything easy for their citizens," said Sukamdi.

"In United States, if you're visiting for an extended period of time, to study for example, then you are given a Social Security number. That's the first thing they do for you, all public programs are integrated into that card," said Sukamdi.

Public administration expert Wahyudi Kumorotomo argued that the integration of e-KTP requires the restructuring of many sectors due to Indonesia's bad record-keeping system for individuals.

He's argued that maybe the simplest solution is the best one. "E-KTP should aim for a Single Identity Number (SIN) system. This would also cut the cost of various identity cards. Every Indonesian citizen should only have one card for all their public service needs, from the day they're born to the day they die."