Jakarta turns to Twitter to help tackle floods

Jakarta turns to Twitter to help tackle floods

Monsoon season is here, and so are the floods.

To help mitigate the effects, the Jakarta government has launched a crowd-sourcing website to gather updates on floods in real time and map out flood- prone areas this rainy season.

The site, PetaJakarta.org, is designed by Australian University of Wollongong researchers in collaboration with Twitter and the Jakarta Disaster Management Agency.

Geo-tags of tweets sent by Jakarta residents who report floods will be overlaid on the map for the authorities to take appropriate action and address infrastructure gaps.

Residents will just need to add @petajkt and hashtag #banjir, which means floods, and the tweet will be automatically geo-located if location sensors are enabled on the user’s smartphone. They can also search Twitter using those tags to avoid flood- prone areas.

The move to use tweets is deliberate – Indonesia has one of the world’s largest number of Twitter users, and Jakarta is the city which sends the highest number of tweets.

Mark Gillis of Twitter told reporters this is its first such tie-up and that PetaJakarta.org is a programme that shows an innovative use of Twitter data in order to overcome the serious problems of flooding for millions of people.

Jakarta, which lies below sea level, is prone to major flooding that brings the capital to a standstill.

In January last year, the capital saw its worst flooding in seven years when unusually high levels of rain, coupled with high tides and a burst dam in the city centre, caused floods to overwhelm central Jakarta. Some 250,000 people were also displaced across the capital. Earlier this year, 30,000 people were displaced by heavy flooding.

Flooding across Jakarta in the past week has caused massive traffic snarls, with journeys that would otherwise take half an hour taking over three hours.

In the long term, researchers say they will use the crowd-sourcing data to study the resilience of residents in dense cities such as Jakarta in coping with extreme weather and climate change.

Prof Pascal Perez, director of research of the Smart Infrastructure Facility at the University of Wollongong, said the project extends beyond just data collection.

“We do not need a lot of data, but we need smart data, and the smartest form of sensors we have is the community itself,” Merdeka.com quoted him telling reporters. “Through this, we empower people to report flooding problems,” he said yesterday at the website launch at Jakarta City Hall.

Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, who launched the programme, said he plans to use it to check on the flood levels of his sub-districts.

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