Twitter Enables DIY Disaster Relief in Indonesia

Indonesians, who were the victims of earthquakes, a tsunami, and volcanic eruptions last month, are finding help from an unlikely source: Twitter.

Indonesian disaster relief

Indonesians, who were the victims of earthquakes, a tsunami, and volcanic eruptions last month, are finding help from an unlikely source: Twitter.

Indonesia is a country composed of 17,000 islands, and organizing aid relief efforts has proved a challenge, particularly in regions where infrastructure was destroyed, reports Reuters. So enterprising and tech-savvy citizens are taking measures into their own hands, coordinating relief through Twitter. Twitter is extremely popular among Internet-using Indonesians, 21% of whom use the site (compare that to 12% for the U.S.).

A group near the erupting Mount Merapi volcano has been particularly effective at using Twitter for relief. Not long ago, someone sent out a tweet announcing that there were packages of food a neighboring town. Within 10 minutes, over a dozen cars were ready to deliver it. "It was so fast I almost didn't believe it," Akhmad Nasir told Reuters. On another occasion, the group announced a need to prepare meals for 30,000 people; within four hours, it was done.

The Mount Merapi group has a history of analogue social networking, which must have smoothed its transition into such a strong Twitter community. In 2006, they set up a radio community and called it Jalin Merapi, the purpose of which was to monitor the volcano. Now Jalin Merapi has its own Twitter account with 33,500 followers. It sent out 12,000 tweets over the past month.

There are 700 shelters around the foot of Mount Merapi, shelters which have housed 200,000 people in the latest crisis. "Little shelters often cause problems in aid distribution. To equally divide aid to 700 different shelters is difficult, almost impossible," one of Indonesia's aid workers said. Again, Jalin Merapi to the rescue. The group has some 700 volunteers tweeting intelligence.

"Info please, which shelters need baby clothing and porridge, blankets, we are on the way," read one recent tweet from a follower, @dkurniawan.

[Image: Flickr user dvids]

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