Indonesia’s PetaBencana.id is the first online tool that harnesses the power of social media reporting to produce real-time maps of urban flooding. This integration of local knowledge to a single, robust platform provides a comprehensive overview of disaster events that helps government agencies, humanitarian organizations, and ordinary citizens make informed decisions in times of disasters and emergencies.
Background and Problem
Greater Jakarta, the second-largest megacity in the world, has a serious flooding issue that affects the lives of about 30 million people. These floodings, which occur most often during monsoon seasons, are intensified by existing vulnerabilities of the city (i.e. continuous sinking at 6 cm every year; rapid urbanization and population expansion) and threats of climate change). It does not help that technical government agencies find it difficult to model the city floods because of the city’s complex water system and tropical weather conditions. As a result, disaster risk managers lack sufficient and accurate information for planning and designing interventions. People lack adequate knowledge of flood situations as they develop.
Solution and Impact
PetaBencana.id, initially named as PetaJakarta.org, took inspiration from the fact that the large metropolitan area of Jakarta has one of the highest concentrations of Twitter users in the world. Developers of the project observed that when flooding occurs, the flow of information from social media networks predates official warnings and people at the grounds level have the most accurate information to flood situations as these incidents develop. Realizing that there is potential behind social media mechanism and the flood data they generate, developers of PetaBencana.id decided to complement this mechanism with scientific data from hydraulic sensors to create real-time models and maps of flooding. But how does PetaBencana.id work in reality? When someone tweets “banjir” (flood) or tags @PetaJkt, the system behind the platform automatically reacts and confirms the tweets with geotagged photos. The platform then cross-checks and consolidates all incoming reports with official data from the city government to produce an up-to-the-minute, online flood map that will be released to the public. It uses “CogniCity”, a free and open-source software application that can produce visualizations at the megacity scale using social media information. As an innovative tool, PetaBencana.id has aided millions of Jakarta residents in making time-critical decisions about safety and navigation during flood events. The platform significantly helped BPBD in terms of effectively monitoring flood events, improving emergency response time, and cascading time-critical emergency information to the public. The fact that it was able to facilitate greater information-sharing and data coordination between government agencies and residents suggests that it also contributes to promoting equitable and collaborative resilience to climate change.
PetaBencana.id has made a convincing track record as a disaster information crowdsourcing platform that can effectively contribute to the reduction of flood risk and speeding up of relief efforts. Since its inception in 2013, the initiative has been recognized in several international recognitions such as the 2015 World Disaster Report of the International Federation of the Red Cross and the 2016 Federal Communication Commission of the United States. To sustain its growing network of active resident reporters and stimulate effective sharing of disaster information, PetaBencana.id partners with academic institutions and local emergency units within the city in organizing workshops and outreach events to familiarize its potential networks of the system’s mechanisms and to encourage them to use PetaBencana. Currently, PetaBencana.id is undergoing systems upgrade to incorporate mechanisms for other additional hazards and other geographies in Indonesia.