A Spotlight on Indonesia – Disaster Response Working Group summary

The GSMA Disaster Response (DR) programme recently hosted a workshop in Jakarta, Indonesia alongside Mobile Enabled Community Services (MECS), another of the GSMA Mobile for Development teams. This workshop brought together mobile operators and members of the mobile industry, ICT4D practitioners, the humanitarian and NGO communities and representatives from Government agencies.  As stated in a previous DR blog, Indonesia has a very high disaster profile with regular flooding, seismic activity and volcanoes. In addition to being the 4th largest market in APAC, Indonesia has a high rate of connectivity, with people spending more time looking at screens than any other Asian nation. This presented a prime opportunity for our team to strengthen regional relations and to enable others from across industry divides to establish and build partnerships.

One of the most common issues for operators and emergency responders in the aftermath of a disaster is a lack of power due to commercial power failure.  This means there is quite often an overlap between DR and MECS in terms of the off-grid solutions that communities need. Day one of the two day workshop reflected this intersection. The agenda focused on issues relevant to both programs with speakers from Telkomsel, Inmarsat, AT Kearney, Ericsson Response, UN OCHA and AirPutih, as well the GSMA. Inmarsat presented their satellite solution as one of the numerous options available to increase infrastructure back up and resilience. The satellite company has recently been selected by the Indonesian National Board for Disaster Management (BNPB) to ensure disaster recovery teams can remain connected during a response. Ericsson Response outlined the challenges faced by both responders and communities when lack of power infrastructure impacts relief efforts. A Telkomsel demonstration of the operators Compact Mobile Base Station (COMBAT) took place, demonstrating the speed and agility of both the team and the technology of this emergency solution.

Participants in the Disaster Response stream had the opportunity to visit the Indonesia Agency for the Assessment and Application of Technology (BPPT) where we witnessed the work they do in collecting data from weather radars, rain gauges, sea level meters and the public to issue warnings to disaster management agencies on impending disasters. The group noted that whilst there was a huge collection of data, the BPPT is not authorised to share this information in the form of advice or instruction to the public, and instead only displays the information and passes it to key contacts. However, BPPT staff noted the increasing volumes of traffic to the site during times of disaster, demonstrating a desire for information from members of the public.

This site visit provided a launch-pad for the discussions which were to take place during the Disaster Response workshop on the second day of the event. This session consisted of a spotlight on risk and vulnerability in Indonesia with brief presentations from players in the national disaster response area. Breakout discussions were held, with participants spilt to ensure discussions were diverse, with voices from each of the different sectors represented. The idea was to explore the following issues:

  • Lessons learned from collective experience and identification of the key developments from previous disasters
  • The partnerships models, informational needs and tools and services which would enable more effective partnerships
  • Construction of consensus around shared priorities and challenges
  • Establishment of a network for peer-to-peer knowledge sharing and capacity building  in Indonesia

One of the common threads throughout the day’s discussion was that it can be challenging for all stakeholders to plan for disasters, establish frameworks and carry out simulations particularly when by their very nature disasters are catastrophic but infrequent. Other disasters are frequent, to the point that some participants commented that the yearly floods were no longer ‘disasters’ is the same sense. However, as these events continue to cause damage to property and infrastructure and threaten livelihoods and lives, they remain a common challenges for organisations in Indonesia. The importance of communities was highlighted; both the need for both community level engagement in the response and the need for effective means of sharing information with communities as an early warning tool. The main outcomes of these discussions, while focussed on Indonesia, produced numerous parallels to the outcomes from similar workshops the DR team have held in the Philippines, Barcelona and Lima. This verifies that although disasters can differ in nature, scale and impact and be of a particular localised hazard, the preparation for them and the response to them can be somewhat turn-key through the prior building of partnerships and establishing effective information sharing.  Private, public and humanitarian sectors are starting to work together more effectively and technology brings hugely important tools.

The Disaster Response programme intends to continue to engage with Indonesian partners on issues raised during the event. If you would like to request access to the presentations given during the event, please contact [email protected]

Photo: Workshop attendees in front of Telkomsel’s Compact Mobile Base Station (COMBAT) demonstration.