Indonesians Helping Disaster Victims With Twitter
As the company that came up with the micro-blogging site claims, Twitter is without a doubt the best way to share and discover what is happening right now. I for one completely agree with that statement. Is there a quake in some country in the world? Just log on Twitter and you’ll definitely find out. Want to know the latest news about restaurants, finance or just about any other topic? If you’ve properly chosen who to follow on the social network, chances are you already know what’s going on. People from Indonesia, for example, seem really grateful that Twitter exists.
They are currently using the site to deliver relief to disaster victims after a tsunami and volcanic eruptions. The country, consisting of 17,000 islands was struck by a tsunami, floods and volcanic eruptions within a short timeframe. According to Reuters the local government is responding quite slowly and finds it challenging to deploy aid in certain remote regions where infrastructure was destroyed by giant waves. That’s why some groups chose to make use of Twitter to keep people informed. A group based near the erupting Mount Merapi volcano known for killing over 300 people so far tweeted that food was piling up in a town nearby and there were no vehicles available to pick it up. Within 10 minutes, over a dozen cars showed up to deliver the food.
“It was so fast I almost didn’t believe it,” said Akhmad Nasir of Jalin Merapi, an information network that was built by local communities living near Mount Merapi on Java Island. The network started out in 2006 with the purpose of monitoring the activity of the nearby volcano. Since then it has helped shelters that can’t receive government aid through 700 volunteers who tweet specific aid needs. Or in other words, when the government doesn’t find a way to help people, other people can make use of all the tools they have within their reach (in this case the web and the popular micro-blogging) site to get things on track.
More users from Indonesia are joining Twitter each day. According to a June comScore survey, about 21 percent of the country’s web users have admitted to visiting the website. This means that Indonesia is the world leader when it comes to the percentage of web users that are also interested in Twitter. The country is followed by the US where about 12 percent of web users go on Twitter as well. Indonesians seem to like social networking in general as they are also the third biggest users of Facebook, the world’s largest social networking site.
Now that we’ve established how useful Twitter can be in certain parts of the world, what does the Indonesian government have to say about all this? Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, the director of disaster risk reduction at the National Disaster Mitigation Agency declared that the government has set up communication systems for volunteers and soldiers but unfortunately couldn’t cover all of the 700 refugee centers based around the food of Mount Merapi. He told Reuters that little shelters often cause problems in aid distribution and that it’s almost impossible to equally divide aid to 700 different shelters.
Since the volcano began misbehaving and spreading ash and lava across the territory, the aforementioned shelters have gathered over 200,000 refugees. To keep in touch, people now keep an eye out on Twitter. Jalin Merapi’s Twitter account has become immensely popular and gathered over 33,500 followers. This month alone it saw over 12,000 tweets.
“Info please, which shelters need baby clothing and porridge, blankets, we are on the way” tweeted a follower known as @dkurniawan. The best thing about it is that people are acknowledging how important it is to respond fast and give a helping hand to whoever requires it. For instance, the community announced that they needed help to provide meals for 30,000 people. Four hours after the announcement was made, the meal was already ready. This goes to show that people can really stick together during tough times. This also goes to show that social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter can also be powerful tools when used properly by organizations, police forces and even individual users.11