Democratizing Decision Support: Platform for Equitable Disaster Resilience

Yayasan Peta Bencana

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Organization Type: Civil Society | Category: Internet for Development

Project Summary

Powered by CogniCity Open Source Software, is a free web-based platform that produces megacity-scale visualizations of disasters using both crowd-sourced reporting and government agency validations in real-time. The platform harnesses the heightened use of social media and instant messaging during emergency events to gather confirmed situational updates from street level, in a manner that removes the need for expensive and time-consuming data processing. These verified user reports are displayed alongside relevant emergency data collected by local and government agencies. By integrating localized knowledge from a variety of sources into a single, robust platform, is able to provide a comprehensive overview of disaster events, enabling residents, humanitarian agencies, and government agencies to make more informed decisions during emergencies.



Seasonal flooding has been a part of life in Jakarta since the seventeenth century. Since 1850, efforts to combat flooding have focused on large-scale infrastructure developments (canals, flood gates, water pumps etc.). Despite these efforts, flooding remains an annual occurrence and major floods paralyzed the city in 1979, 1996, 1999, 2002, 2007, and 2013. With the effects of climate change, as weather patterns become increasingly unpredictable and increase in intensity, the flood is more difficult to prepare for. In these situations, access to real-time information is critical to support decision-making at individual and government levels.

The Jakarta Disaster Management Authority (BPBD DKI Jakarta) & the National Disaster Management Authority (BNPB) are regularly faced with the difficult challenge of anticipating and responding to floods hazards and related extreme weather events. A lack of access to real-time data compromises abilities to make informed, evidence-based decisions concerning urban planning and emergency response. Friction between agencies also makes it difficult to coordinate emergency response, amplifying confusion, conflict, and ineffective resource management.

While rapidly urbanizing megacities like Jakarta are often thought to be data scarce, a wealth of information exists in different forms. Although various localized knowledges exist within cities, these often remain in isolated pockets.

The rise of social media platforms has taken city planners by surprise because these technologies not only provide unprecedented volumes of data relevant to the analysis of urban systems, but, more fundamentally, they change the way residents interact with each other and with the city at large. The tacit knowledge of local communities, government agencies, and first responders in Jakarta, as well as the dense network of mobile sensors connected via social media, provides a data source of unprecedented resolution for mitigating urban risk. In the context of DRM, the challenge for information and communication technologies is not to develop new sensors or additional applications for crowd-sourcing data collection, but instead to seed the evolution of social media networks as a mega-city methodology for resilience to extreme weather events and climate change.

However, extracting knowledge from the “noise” of social media requires designed engagement and filtering processes to eliminate unwanted information, reward valuable reports, and display useful data in a manner that further enables users, governments, or other agencies to make non-trivial, actionable decisions in a time-critical manner.

From December 2014 to March 2015, we deployed website as a joint pilot project led by the SMART Infrastructure Facility, University of Wollongong, in collaboration with the Jakarta Emergency Management Agency (BPBD DKI Jakarta) and Twitter Inc. PetaJakarta enabled Jakarta’s citizens to report the locations of flood events using the social media network Twitter, thereby contributing to a web-based, publicly accessible, real-time map of flood conditions. These data were used by BPBD DKI Jakarta to cross-validate formal reports of flooding from traditional data sources, supporting the creation of information for flood assessment, response, and management in real-time.

The joint pilot project demonstrated social media’s valuable niche within the disaster risk management information ecosystem; as an operational tool capable of providing decision support at the various spatial and temporal scales required by the different actors within city, offered an innovative and inexpensive method for crowdsourcing time-critical situational information in disaster scenarios. Since 2016, under the support from MIT Urban Risk Lab, USAID, Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT), and Pacific Disaster Center (PDC), the platform expanded to two other megacities in Indonesia (Bandung and Surabaya) under the platform (Disaster Map Indonesia).



When we initiate the program in Jakarta, we are motivated because:

  1. Jakarta’s government has embraced social media as a means to communicate with residents; in fact, the Jakarta Disaster Management Authority has a strong mandate to improve communication with the public through social media.

  2. the Jakarta government has already actively endorsed and supported the development of open data projects (such as the extensive district mapping conducted by the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team).

  3. Jakarta has an extremely high proportion of mobile phone users and one of the highest concentrations of Twitter users in the world as well with other social media; because our platform project relies on densely populated urban environments with high proportions of social media users, Jakarta provides an especially compelling environment for understanding the value of social media in a disaster risk management context.

Our program responds to specific needs of government to support the creation of information for flood assessment, response, and management in real-time. However, after we deployed our platform, we received many feedbacks from the community that using our platform and we listen to their needs, for examples:

  1. We improved our platform to be accessible with minimum hardware requirement.

  2. We added more reporting channels by adding popular social media or instant messaging that used by the specific community (i.e. local apps).

Our software behind platform (CogniCity) is designed to be smart and flexible, so we are able to respond needs from government and community.


This project nominated to the ISIF Asia award because…

Since its debut in 2013 (as, the platform has been used by millions of resident users to make time-critical decisions about safety and navigation during emergency flood events; it has also been adopted by the National Disaster Management Authority (BNPB) to monitor flood events, improve response times, and share time-critical emergency information with residents. The platform has enabled greater information sharing and data coordination among residents and government agencies, fostering equitable and collaborative resilience to climate change. Currently, supporting a coverage area with over 50 million residents in Jabodetabek, Surabaya, and Bandung, has proven that community-led data collection, sharing, and visualization reduces flood risk and assists in relief efforts.

The innovation aspects of platform are:

  1. Delivers real-time information about flooding situations on a web-based map;

  2. Fills information gaps between formal and informal agencies operating within urban environments;

  3. Medium-agnostic: integrates various applications and social media channels;

  4. Uses crowdsourced data to support decision making in government and non-government institutions

  5. Shares crowdsourced and government data back to residents to support individual and community decision making;

  6. Integrates formal and informal knowledge

  7. De-credentialize reporting systems

  8. Democratizes decision support by providing everyone with access to the same information


Currently, Yayasan Peta Bencana (Peta Bencana Foundation) is in charge for project implementation in Indonesia. During its implementation, we are working together with relevant agencies.

Badan Nasional Penanggulangan Bencana (BNPB) - Indonesia's National Disaster Management Authority.

As one of our main implementing partners, BNPB provides support at the national level to advocate the platform through the Centre of Data and Information Division. They also actively provide feedback as well strategical advice for future improvement of platform (e.g. expansion to other areas or hazards, adding new features, and integrating with other relevant projects)

Badan Penanggulangan Bencana Daerah (BPBD) Provinsi DKI Jakarta - Jakarta Province Disaster Management Authority

BPBD DKI Jakarta has been involved since our pilot launched in 2014 (as They are working at the provincial level, supporting our ethnographic research to identify gaps and proper solution for better information dissemination during flood situation. Currently, BPBD DKI Jakarta has been using as one of their main platforms to disseminate flood information to the public and other agencies at their command and operational center. Together with Jakarta Province Governor, BPBD DKI Jakarta also actively advocates platform, encouraging the public to send and share information related to flood in real-time.


Objectives platform is developed to improve data and information sharing to democratize decision-support, using the power of digital maps and social media; enabling everyone accesses to the same transparent information so that everyone can make safety decisions and coordinate both individual and collective responses to support climate change adaptation. To achieve our objective, we designed this platform alongside ethnographic studies, so the platform’s performance is driven by its ability to draw creative lines of connection between various formal and informal localized knowledge.


Technical details and contribution to innovation platform is powered by CogniCity, an open source framework for urban data, which harnesses the power of social media by gathering, sorting and displaying real-time situational reports from urgent infrastructure issues. CogniCity builds on Geographical Information Systems (GIS) theory, to gather citizen reports from the social media network and create geospatial visualisations of this information. However, CogniCity extends the traditional GIS paradigm to facilitate the process of resident reporting by programmatically sending “invitation” to users in the city who use the keyword “banjir” (flood). Reports are collected in a centralised geospatial database, and served via a data API to a client-side rendered map showing activity across the city in real-time, or as a data layer within external organisation’s geographical information systems (Figure 1)

Data and operation flow

Figure 1. data and operation flow.

Residents can submit reports through a variety of social media applications. For example on Twitter, if users mention the keyword “banjir” (or ‘flood’ in English) within the designated geographic area, the software will send them an invitation to submit a flood report and confirm flooding. Users are sent unique links, which guide them through four steps to submit a flood report, allowing them to input location, flood height, add photos and descriptions. These reports are immediately added to the map, and stay active for two hours (to ensure that the map continues to display real-time information). Users are sent a link to their report on the map, with the option to share this information with their friends and family on social media (Figure 2).


Figure 2. User guideline to report via Twitter

Acting as a two-way transparent communication interface, government agencies, such as the national level and provincial level Disaster Management Agencies, are also able to submit official reports through the Risk Evaluation Matrix (REM) (Figure 3). Operators can input the areas affected by flooding to alert residents in real-time. Prior to the implementation of the platform, this information was disseminated to the public through static pdf reports produced every 6 hours. The platform has allowed government agencies to communicate time-critical information to residents through a smoother and more efficient work flow.


Figure 3. Risk Evaluation Matrix (REM) user interface


1. Expansion of in other cities

We are actively expanding depending on BNPB’s and local BPBD’s request

  • Bogor, Depok, Tangerang, Bekasi (Completed)

  • Bandung, Surabaya (On-Going)

  • Semarang (Planned)

2. Ethnographic research related to flood in urban area and urban resilience

  • Jakarta (Completed)

3. Sustainers campaign (On-Going)

  • To support our operations (e.g. expansions, server maintenances), we’re running a sustainer campaign that allows individual or organizations to donate via our website.

4. Flood notification system (On-Going)

  • is now developing a customized notification system to further help ensure the safety of residents. Staying notified of customized locations (such as work places, homes, and schools) helps to avoid locations of flooding areas; thereby staying safe, saving time, and minimizing loss.

6. Expansion to other hazards (On-Going)

  • We’re planning to expand our platform to work for other hazards (e.g. fires, volcano eruptions)


  1. Real-time flood information is now available for everyone.

  2. Enabling civic co-management, thus increase flood resilience in urban area.

  3. Bridging the gap between formal and informal data source and using unstructured yet highly important-value crowdsourced data to allow first responders make informed decision during emergency situation.

  4. In August 2017, received Geospatial Application Excellence Award in Geosmart Asia Conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

  5. During recent flood in Greater Jakarta area (February 2017), we received more than 1,000 reports in 24 hours and the public map was accessed by more than 256,000 users including drivers and government agencies.

  6. The governor of Jakarta endorsed during the 2017 monsoon season, calling for residents to check the map in order to stay informed. Emergency management agencies were able to respond to the flooding situation immediately because of the platform.

  7. In 2016, the Federal Communication Commission of the United States recommended the project as a best practice regarding disaster information crowdsourcing.

  8. Indonesian mass media (such as MetroTV and National Geographic Indonesia) highlights platform

  9. is featured as a case study in OECD’s report on innovative governance practices.

  10. The pilot project,, was the recipient of the 2016 ODI Showcase Award. The award supports projects that demonstrate how open data can be used to benefit individuals, organisations, and society.

  11. In the 2015 World Disaster Report of the International Federation of the Red Cross, the project was recommended as a model for community engagement in relation to disaster response.

Publications and dissemination efforts

To solicit active validation from resident reports from Twitter, when CogniCity detects tweets with the keyword banjir (or ‘flood’ in English) within specific geographic areas, users are sent a programmatic invitation to verify if they are experiencing flooding and inviting them to participate in community flood mapping. The platform became one of the first projects in the world to programmatically invite users to participate in a crowd-sourcing effort using Twitter.

Since Indonesia is one of the largest social media users, we also socialize the platform through social media. Government agencies, such as BNPB and BPBD also been very helpful to promote our project to the public and mass media. Additionally, we actively engaged in research and workshops, for example:

  1. GeoSmart Asia Conference Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur, August 2017)

  2. World Meteorological Organization (WMO)/USAID/BMKG First Steering Committee Meeting for the Southeastern Asia-Oceania Flash Flood Guidance (SAOFFG) Project  (Jakarta, July 2017)

  3. Cross Disciplinary Approaches to Analyzing Flood Risk in Jakarta (Universitas Tarumanagara, May 2017)

  4. Annual Scientific Meeting Indonesia’s Disaster Experts (University of Indonesia, May 2017)

  5. Post-Internet Cities (Lisbon, May 2017)

Awards and distinctions


  1. USAID

  2. AustralianAid

  3. DMInnovation

  4. Smart Infrastructure Facility (University of Wollongong Australia)

  5. Australian National Data Service

  6. Twitter Data Grant

  7. Wahana Visi Indonesia

  8. Open Data Institute

  9. Asia Geospatial Excellence Award

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Project Representative

Emir Hartato

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