Understanding Indonesia Fisheries & Communities

Field Research, Ethnography, Development, Market research, Policy, Systems mapping


Working in a mixed team composed of Dalberg Design Impact Group (DIG) & SatelliteApplications Catapult from Harwell UK, we used Human-centred Design (HCD) methodologies to help us understand the behaviors and needs of fishery communities, rapidly prototype new ideas and solutions, and eventually define and design Satellite-based Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) services that we hope will improve the lives of fishery communities and promote inclusive and sustainable fishing practices, particularly in Indonesia in the near future.


Inmarsat Satellite (UK), Indonesia Gov (Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries), UK Goverment (Partnerships), and numerous private companies.


Project director: Ravi Chhatpar (Dalberg DIG)
Project leads      : Markus Boelter, Chum Wong (Dalberg DIG)
Team                      : Daniel Watson, Delia Di Felippeantonio (Satellite Applications Catapult)
                                    Citra Pramana Putri, M. Hanif Wicaksono (Independent research partners)


Throughout two fieldwork phases, 70++ interviews has been done to multiple profiles around Indonesia’s fishing ecosystem, with focus on selected topics and areas of interests. We also identified who are those people and what role do they play at the systems level.


Formed from thousands of large and small islands thus made it an archipelago country, Indonesia is a country filled with enormous aquatic resources. The Indonesian fisheries sector proliferated since 2015 under the direction of the government’s renewed focus on Indonesia’s competitive advantages within maritime industries, along with improved law enforcement against illegal fishing. As a design researcher, I was part of a team who went to the field, understanding the behaviors and the underlying, hidden needs of the people within the fishing ecosystem. 

Some of the snapshots of Indonesian fishing communities

Field Research

To gather insights and uncover the needs, the team did not recruit any participants prior. Instead, we just showed up in the harbor and having in-depth talks with local fishers who are hanging out there. As the native people in the team, I was the one who’s responsible for approaching the research participants and leads the conversation while also providing local-related logistics, guidance, and translations for the rest of the team. Participant profiles includes: fishermen, families, businesses, middleman, government officials, companies, NGOs, and others.

Techniques & Methodologies

Various methods were used in fieldwork. Most of the time I started the conversation with general questions regarding participant’s daily basis before talking about in-depth topics, implicitly digging for aspirations and motivations, while also empathizing and analysing their habits. I used different approaches depending on the participant’s profile and their level of education. In the second trip we tested ideas with card sorting to articulate rough concepts help imagining the scenarios of certain features in their natural environments.

Co-creation workshop with government officials and business stakeholders

Synthesize & idea generation

We started our synthesis progress by sorting out and recalling the insights from our notebooks, recordings, pictures, making phone calls to previous participants for confirmations, and any other touchpoints that could help us determine and confirm the insights & needs that was in our guts using post-it notes and discussions. After the findings are grasped, we prepared for the next step of the project which is the readout and workshop. At this moment I was responsible for developing all the design and logistics for the workshop activities. We ran through this intensive process in four consecutive days.

At the end of each research phases, there was a co-creation workshop to collaboratively explore what a minimal viable product (MVP) for the VMS could look. MVP describes the minimum set of features that meet the most critical needs of all users (particularly initial users) that is feasible and viable to deliver. The workshop participants included key people from various companies involved in the project, Indonesian government officials, and NGOs in maritime and fishing industry.


    First Phase: Key findings & Insights

From our first round of Human-Centred Design fieldwork, we have developed insights from our interventions to enable a transition to sustainable practices, grounded in from our work with fishery communities. We distilled five opportunity areas we see as critical to enhance their daily practices and benefits. The insights were read in the workshop and we used them as our basis and stimulating their empathy that leads to co-creation activities. Taken together, these insights suggest a model of behavioral change that align aspects and areas of interests within fishery communities.

We also developed two visual keys that help visualizing the ecosystem of fisheries in Indonesia:

The Relationship Map portrays the interactions between roles in Indonesia fisheries, divided into formal relations, personal-trust relations, and a mix of both.
The Communications Map portrays what, how, and why certain kinds of informations needs to be passed from one to another in the fishing industry.

    Second Phase: Feature concepts & testing

During our previous trip, at the end of the workshop we collaboratively created 49 initial MVP concepts. These concepts have been refined and prioritized, and acted as an input to generate a set of 20++ features grouped into four focus areas. In the second round, we visited Bali and Probolinggo again to further gather user feedback on the initial prioritized MVP
and focus areas. These insights will help refine the MVP further.

The insights from second trip was presented in form of personas. Personas are archetypal users that represent the needs of larger groups in the fishing community, describing personal characteristics, motivations and needs. Although fictional characters, they act as ‘stand-ins’ for real people and aid in guiding decisions about functionality and design. These personas identify the users’ attitudes, motivations, expectations, goals and barriers that are responsible for driving a persona’s behavior. We created five personas that would be the initial users of the system we’re going to design for, along with design principles and features prioritization based on the importance of needs.

    Steps Forward

Product & business development is in process along with the planning of new law, policy, & regulations. In 2 years, the product will be implemented in most fishing vessels that are operating in Indonesia,  affecting the Indonesia’s $20 billion++ fishery sector, combat illegal fishing, & promoting sustainable practices in fishery.

    Impact / Implementation

On 09 May 2018, three Indonesian fishing vessels taking part in a satellite communications pilot scheme have been rescued thanks to onboard connectivity.
Source: http://www.inmarsat.com/news/vessel-connectivity-project-highlights-fishing-dangers/