Crowd-sourced data harnessed to improve flood response in Jakarta

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, 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.

jakarta flood

“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.

jakarta flood2

“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.”

The team is looking to see how version 2.0 of their flood maps will improve emergency response and community engagement. “Now we’ve got a map that’s connecting the government’s formal information system and the informal information from social media all into one space,” says Tomas Holderness, co-founder of “It’s the connection of all those pieces in one pipe that’s never really happened before. The point of it all is to build an information ecosystem that improves resiliency in disaster situations that’s enabled by open software and open data. It’s a really important point and something we’re pioneering in many ways with this project.” The way in which residents and emergency responders engage with the system is having a tremendous impact that would be impossible to achieve through traditional infrastructure engineering. Further info:
Further information:
A GeoSocial Intelligence Framework for Studying & Promoting Resilience to Seasonal Flooding in Jakarta, Indonesia Dr. Tomas Holderness, Dr. Etienne Turpin and Dr. Rohan Wickramasuriya, SMART Infrastructure Facility, University of Wollongong, Australia
“Deriving from the idea of making Jakarta a Smart City, The Pemprov (municipality) DKI Jakarta under the current government initiated, Jakarta Smart City. It is a one stop portal where the transparency and up to date information is made accessible from everywhere and for everyone. We are talking particularly for people of Jakarta. The hope is to that openness of information will stop misuse and corruption of the many system that runs in Jakarta, to mention a few; application to identity card, taxation system, land permit/license and price, connectivity & transportation, to crime and flood alert. The Jakarta Smart City Map is currently up and it is still going through improvement and addition of information. For particular flood control system, it always monitor the rising canal water level and will prompt the respective canal gate post to manually open or close the canal gate.”  Raymond Tirtawijaya

One comment

  1. Pingback: Jakarta Smart City – Flood Response | Landscape Interface Studio

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