The Mayor of Pontianak believes the city’s future is to be “cashless”, and wants to beat other Indonesian cities to it.

The central government asked cities across the country to boost mobile payments from next year. “But we decided to start earlier,” Mayor Sutarmidji tells GovInsider. “We will make all the payments for parking and gas stations cashless,” he says.

Pontianak, a city of about 650,000 on the tropical island of Borneo, is named after the legend of ferocious ghosts that are said to have once roamed the coastal town. Its first Sultan got rid of them by shooting cannonballs and began building the city in the 18th century, the story goes.

Today, the city faces a very different kind of challenge. Mayor Sutarmidji shares his plans to make payments more convenient; cut air pollution from the yearly haze; and boost the city’s tech startups.Indonesian AliPay?

In September, the city will launch a payment app, built along with a local startup, Gencil. The functions will be “similar to [China’s] AliPay”, Sutarmidji says, “but we will call it GencilPay”, allowing citizens to pay from their phones and without cards. AliPay allows people to make a wide range of daily purchases by scanning a code on their phones, including bills, bus tickets, taxi rides and groceries.

Crucially, mobile payments may help address corruption by digitally verifying and tracking transactions. “It can be used to prevent the misuse of government money in corruption,” the Mayor believes. Already, in the city government, “we do not have any more cash transactions in making payments”, he says.

In the future, the city will “encourage all people to use bank transfers or GencilPay to do any kind of payment towards the government”, he explains.