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Published on June 19th, 2014 | by EJC

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How Indonesians Use ICT And Social Media for Disaster Management

This article was written by Sofiarti Dyah Anggunia and Larastri Kumaralalita and originally published on Discover ISIF Asia on 13 March, 2014. Republished with permission.

Indonesia’s Internet penetration isn’t impressive – only 15% of its population is online. However, Indonesia is the fourth populous country, and 95.7 of its users who are online, are on social media (IPRA, 2013). 60 million Indonesians are on Facebook, trailing only the USA and India in total number of users, (Techiasia 2012, WeareSocial 2014). According to the social media agency, Semiocast, in 2013 Indonesia’s capital city, Jakarta is also the Twitter capital of the world, with more than 2% of the world’s 10.6 billion tweets .

Indonesia also has the distinction of being at high risk of disaster. Sitting on the Ring of Fire, Indonesia has a history of seismic disaster and is ranked 12th in mortality risk based on the 2009 International Strategy for Disaster Reduction. For example, in 2010, Mount Merapi erupted in Yogyakarta, killing 353 people and since then both Mt. Sinabung and Mt. Kelud volcanos erupted.

The Mt. Sinabung volcano eruption left 16 people dead after four months of eruptions. Around Mt. Kelud, signs of eruption started recently and in February 2014 the government urged for evacuation. The Mt. Kelud eruption occurred on 13 February 2014, and the local government imposed a 10-kilometers exclusion zone to prohibit any activities until March, forcing the evacuation of 100.000 people.

Local government had planned early to alert local inhabitants of the potential for disaster. Prior to the eruption, in the coordination meeting, the vice of local police used several types of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) to disseminate early warning regarding the potential of disaster (Surya Online, 2014) and it is interesting to see how the community has utilized their technology to help them in disaster management to avoid more victims and reduce the risks of the disaster.

A comprehensive disaster management consists of 4 phases: mitigation (prevention to reduce risk prior to the disaster occurs), preparation (action to make sure sufficient response and effective recovery), response (immediate action at time the disaster is occurring), and recovery (after disaster when the victims return to home) (Alexander 2001 cited in Coppola, 2007). According to Anggunia (2011), during the Mt. Merapi eruption case, web, online, and social media tools were used in emergency response.

Here are several examples of how the local community used ICT and social media, by taking the story from the recent Mount Kelud eruption in East Java and surroundings, as disaster management tools.

Mitigation and Preparation

In mitigation and preparation, the related government institutions utilized a web portal JalinMerapi.net, which integrates old and new communication technologies, to support coordination between officials and the local community. For example the Geology agency updated the mountain activity status to help local government decide about evacuation needs. Using ICT, the vice police of Kediri district, near Mt. Kelud, disseminated evacuation orders via text message, allowing farmers to evacuate their livestock to safe places (Surya Online, 2014). In social media, the official Twitter account of National Geology Agency or BadanGeologi, National Disaster Management Body (BNPB) posted early warning on Twitter and Facebook.

Posted on February 5th, the BNPB official Twitter account announced that due to the status of the mountain activity, it was escalating its status to Caution (level 2 of 4: status, normal, caution, alert, and watch out), and BNPB coordinated this message with the three affected districts’ disaster management agencies. Five days later, it raised the mountain activity status to Alert level.

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Response

During the response stage, people used social media for posting latest situation in the area of Mount Kelud eruption. Two hours after the eruption, “Mount Kelud erupts… hopefully no casualties”, said Efa on her Twitter account, who lives 35 km from Mt. Kelud, joining multiple users who shared news and information via social media, especially people who live or have family within the area of disaster. Twitter was full of tweets that talked about the event. At least 10 tweets every second were published, most of them were meant to pray for the areas affected by the eruption (Tempo, 2014). The sand and ash rain were the hottest topics on Facebook in the region.

Social media was also used by people from abroad, especially those who intended to travel near to the eruption, to ask about airport openings and the situation caused by volcanic ash. This widespread information allowed people around the world knew the latest situation in the vulnerable areas. Some people and independent organisations spontaneously opened disaster aid programs and posted and promoted them through social media.

The hashtags #PrayforKelud and #Kelud became trending topics of the week on Twitter. People used them to spread information, raising awareness of when the next disaster might happen. People in other part of the nation also used social media to help friends and families around the areas of disaster. For example, they posted how to anticipate and deal with the volcanic ashe This kind of information was very useful.

In addition, social media helped enhance people’s solidaritiy, awakening empathy to help each other. A face book user said, “Social media helps communication process in managing the disasters, particularly person-to-person interaction which is then going to the broader audiences. This can encourage more people to have empathy and help the victims.”

Recovery

In the recovery stage, this leds to a rise in funds and aid from people across the nation, including spreading information about fundraising events. Twitter was used to manage aid distribution. For instance, users told people about when and where victims were allowed to return home, so aid could be distributed to other evacuation places. “Please note, for friends who want to bring aid, that refugees in Batu city – Pujon already back home yesterday”, said @NgalasAdventure. “Aid can be distributed directly to Selorejo – Ngantang – Pare or districts in Kediri: Kepung district, etc”, said his next tweet.

Even a week after eruption, there were still over 1,000 tweets mentioning #PrayforKelud and #Kelud per day. Most of them shared information of victims returning home, because the status of the mountain already changed into Alert status on 20th February 2014. Other people used Twitter and Facebook to inform others on the things victims needed, such as @RYMovement who said “RYM for Humanity: victims around eruption area need more shovels, hoes, tarpaulins and carpentry tools to clean houses.”

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However, this kind initiative mostly comes from grassroots community activity. There was lack of formal organization in managing disaster communications using social media. But the good news is that people organized themselves based on trust, with less government intervention through social media.

After the disaster, the trend shifted. Twitter became an official channel for Indonesian’s president to give his after disaster testimony through his official personal twitter account @SBYudhoyono :

“After speaking with evacuees in three regencies and two municipalities, I can say that I am satisfied with the disaster relief operation. Thank you.” (@SBYudhoyono in Jakarta Post, 2014)

About the Authors

Sofiarti Dyah Anggunia works as Database Analyst at West Kalimantan Provincial Government, Indonesia. She holds an M.Sc in Information and Communication Technology for Development (ICT4D) from The University of Manchester.

Larastri Kumaralalita is currently member of e-government laboratory in University of Indonesia. She gained an MSc. of Management and Information Systems at Institute for Development Policy and Management (IDPM), University of Manchester, and Bachelor in Computer Science, majoring in Information Systems, at Computer Science Faculty, University of Indonesia.

Photo: Jeff Werner

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