Following the recent post, ‘Flood-risk communications should be specific, tailored and utilise social networks’ a project based in SE Asia’s Jakarta demonstrates how social media can be utilised to capture flood related data, enhancing early warning systems for the city.
The metropolis of Jakarta sits in a delta with thirteen rivers and eleven kilometers of canals. One-hundred-year-old floodgates and increasing canalization of its main river adds to the unpredictability of the city’s complex hydrology – and uncertainty for the people that live along the water’s edge. 28 million live in greater Jakarta and each year the city’s population has to deal with the inevitable flooding the comes from the monsoon rains, which are made worse when any of the city’s locks, canals, gates and pumps that diverted the water around the city and out to sea fail.
Dr Etienne Turpin and Dr Tomas Holderness from the University of Wollongong, Australia’s SMART Infrastructure Facility have developed PetaJakarta.org, a system that maps flooding in real-time using crowd-sourced data from Twitter to help emergency response agencies make time-critical decisions and coordinate response efforts. The web-based platform runs on open source software developed by the SMART Infrastructure Facility, called CogniCity, which turns the geotagged Tweets into valuable data.
“You have 28 million people sitting in a large bowl and when it rains that bowl fills up,” Dr Tomas Holderness told ABC radio. “You can’t evacuate people, [you can only] move them around and put them in the driest place you can.” Their solution came from tapping into Jakartans’ existing communications habits. 2 per cent of the world’s Twitter traffic comes from the capital Jakarta, alone.
The social media platform was already used in some organic form as residents warned each other of rising flood waters or parts of the city to avoid. Researchers harnessed that information then verify and collate it to provide a more complete, real-time image of the situation. A pilot study was conducted during the 2014-2015 monsoon season in collaboration with the Jakarta Emergency Management Agency (BPBD DKI Jakarta), and Twitter Inc., forming a world-first collaboration between Twitter, a university, and a disaster management agency.
“We ask people on Twitter to tell us the situation where they are right now. We’re not passively listening or collecting Tweets, we listen for keywords ‘flood’, or ‘banjir’ in Indonesian, and we send them an automated message asking if they are experiencing flooding and if so to drop us a message and photo to our [Twitter] account @petajkt. We put that on a publicly available map so everybody can see that information in real-time.”