Crowdsourcing Community-Based Disaster Relief in Indonesia

I just came across a very neat example of crowdsourced, community-based crisis response in this excellent report by the BBC World Service Trust: “Still Left in the Dark? How People in Emergencies Use Communication to Survive—And How Humanitarian Agencies Can Help.” I plan to provide a detailed summary of this important report in a forthcoming blog post. In the meantime, this very neat example below (taken directly from said BBC report) is well worth sharing.

“In Indonesia during the eruption of Mount Merapi in November 2010, a local radio community known as Jalin Merapi began to share information via Twitter and used the network to organize community-based relief to over 700 shelters on the side of the mountain […].”

“The Jalin Merapi network was founded following an eruption of the Mount Merapi volcano on Java, Indonesia in 2006. Three community radio stations who felt that the reporting of the eruption by the mainstream media had been inaccurate and unhelpful to those affected joined up with a group of local NGOs and other radio networks to produce accurate information on volcanic activity for those living on the mountain’s slopes. By the time of the 2010 eruption the network involved 800 volunteers, a presence online, on Twitter and on Face-book, and a hotline.”

“During the first eruption on 26 October 2010, the team found that their online accounts–especially Twitter–had become extremely busy. Ten volunteers were assigned to manage the information flow: sorting incoming information (they agreed 27 hashtags to share information), cross referencing it and checking for veracity. For example, when one report came in about a need for food for 6,000 internally displaced people, the team checked the report for veracity then redistributed it as a request for help, a request re-tweeted by followers of the Jalin Merapi account. Within 30 minutes, the same volunteer called and said that enough food had now been supplied, and asked people to stop sending food – a message that was distributed by the team immediately.”

“Interestingly, two researchers who analyzed information systems during the Merapi eruption found that many people believed traditional channels such as television to be ‘less satisfying’. In many cases they felt that television did not provide proper information at the time, but created panic instead.” […] “The success of initiatives such as the Jalin Merapi is based on the levels of trust, community interaction and person-to-person relationships on which participants can build. While technology facilitated and amplified these, it did not replace them.” […] “The work of Jalin Merapi continues today, using the time between eruptions to raise awareness of dangers and help communities plan for the next incident.”


6 responses to “Crowdsourcing Community-Based Disaster Relief in Indonesia

  1. Thanks Patrick for this! The underlying lesson regarding the importance of existing community information networks and trust systems to effective use of tech in disasters is a particularly important one, I think. Just to say if anyone wants to know more about Jalin Merapi they are also a case study in Matt Abud’s excellent report for Internews published in July on Indonesia (Indonesia: New Digital Nation?).

    And also examined in more detail in this paper from AMARC:

    Click to access CR_ResponseJALIN_MerapiEruption_EN.pdf


    • Wow, thanks so much for the additional info, Imogen, this is super. Might you know the answer to Michael’s question above? I fully agree that social capital is important for collective action. I think social networking platforms can also build social capital between digital volunteers and increase social capital between offline volunteers. Thanks again for the links!

    • ps. many thanks for all the tweets as well, Imogen!

  2. Michael Kleinman

    Fascinating – and, was this entirely a community-led effort, or did it receive funding from outside sources? I suspect the former, but just wanted to be sure. And, if so, what does this say – if anything – about the role (or lack thereof) for outside funders in supporting these kinds of initiatives? What are the prerequisites for a successful, community-led early warning / response network? Is it a sufficient level of internet penetration? Local media and NGOs with a certain level of capacity? Both? Other factors as well?

    • Many thanks for your comment, Michael, I’ve been trying to document these kinds of citizen-based crowdsourced efforts as much as possible–see previous posts on Philippines & Beijing floods as well as the Libya convoys one. Re your question, perhaps Imogen might know the answer–also have a look at the links she kindly shared in her comment below. Thanks again.

  3. Pingback: Crowdsourcing Disaster Response in Iran: How Volunteers Bypassed the State | iRevolution

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