Indonesia: IT community competes in Disaster Management software development

August 8, 2014

  • Indonesia’s capital, Jakarta, is prone to natural disasters, such as floods.
  • The Jakarta Disaster Management Agency held a competition to explore the potential of using information technology (IT) to manage damage risks and impacts.
  • Competition organizers hope that the initiative will help improve the city’s disaster risk resilience and generate new ideas for applying IT in disaster management.

Indonesia’s capital, Jakarta, is prone to natural disasters. At the height of flooding in 2014, around 134,000 persons were directly affected. During the dry season, fires are also rampant.

The Jakarta Smart Disaster Management Software Competition sought to tap IT potential to improve disaster resilience. The Jakarta Disaster Management Agency (BPBD) organized the competition with support from the World Bank’s Global Facility for Disaster Reduction & Recovery. Among those who joined were university students, IT professionals, and researchers.

 “IT experts and disasters are usually two different worlds apart. Competitions like this help bring them together,” said Onno W. Purbo, a Surya University IT expert who is often involved in IT for disaster risk management initiatives.  

“It would also be good if IT experts, who are interested in disaster management, could get on-the-ground experience by being involved in real disaster situations,” said Purbo, who was also one of the competition judges.

The first category was a hackathon where participants were challenged to develop an additional feature for INASAFE . This is an open-source software currently used by the BPBD that produces natural hazard impact scenarios for better planning, preparedness, and response activities.

“At the moment, the software is mostly used for disaster preparedness, “ says Iwan Gunawan, World Bank Senior Disaster Risk Specialist in Indonesia. “Damage and loss  assessments are still done manually  and we would like to add this feature to the software.”

Through the competition, BPBD intends to speed up its damage and loss assessments following disasters.

“After the 2013 floods in Jakarta, it took our agency a long time to calculate the cost of damages,” says BPBD’s Head of Informatics, Bambang Suryaputra. “We would like to obtain the data much faster and hope to achieve this though collaboration from the IT community.”

" IT experts and disasters are usually two different worlds apart. Competitions like this help bring them together. "

Onno W. Purbo

Surya University IT expert

The hackathon lasted for two full days, with participants spending the evening at the agency’s office. Nonetheless, Indonesians from across the country were eager to participate.

“I’ve worked in the oil and gas sector for 14 years, and I’m interested in applying my IT and data management skills to another field,” said Ahmad Ruswandi. He travelled from Balikpapan, about 1,234 km from Jakarta, just to participate in the competition.

The competition also showcased the government’s commitment to transparency by making their data become more accessible to the public.

 “I’ve noticed that the government is now more open and transparent. It’s involving developers to contribute. I want to be a part of this movement,” said Rizky Maulana, the software developer who won first prize for the Hackathon leg of the competition.

The second competition category sought to obtain ideas on how IT can be used in disaster situations. Participants pitched IT-based technology that could be used for disaster management purposes, such as web-based applications, mobile apps, and innovations, through social media.

One of the participants, who developed the Jakarta Flood Alert app, was among the winners for the Global Code for Resilience competition. The app provides the latest information on 14 flood gates in the city and the probability of upcoming floods in specific locations.  This information can then be shared through social media to inform the wider public based in those areas.

“The eagerness of the IT community to help is encouraging", said Iwan Gunawan. “Their involvement, along with the growth of the internet and smartphone use in Indonesia, will strengthen the country’s response to natural disasters. It will preserve all the gains that were achieved from decades of development work, which can often be easily reversed with just one disaster.”