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Tech innovators seek to minimize casualties of natural disasters

News Desk

The Jakarta Post

Jakarta  /  Mon, August 5, 2019  /  05:19 pm
Tech innovators seek to minimize casualties of natural disasters

Saving what’s left: Police officers help locals salvage belongings from a collapsed house at Carita Beach in Pandeglang, Banten, following a tsunami triggered by the eruption of Anak Krakatau. (The Jakarta Post/Dhoni Setiawan )

The frequency with which natural disasters strike the country has inspired technology innovators to create new devices and applications to help minimize casualties.

Among the recent innovations, three students from Brawijaya University in Malang, East Java, created a device called Deoterions to help detect victims of earthquakes buried as deep as 100 meters under building debris.

Deoterions, which is shaped like a bank card, has to be in the victim's possessions for them to be detected. The rescue team only needs to have the mobile application installed to activate the card and begin the search.

While Deoterions can help with rescue efforts, a different mobile application released by Atma Connect called AtmaGo aims help people get out of harm’s way before disaster strikes.

Atma Connect works together with Qualcomm Wireless Reach of Qualcomm Inc., a telecommunications semiconductor company based in California, the United States.

AtmaGo gives users early warnings for fires, flood and crime, so they have time to prepare and take shelter, while also offering advice and solutions about jobs, education and health.

Besides giving notices, AtmaGo also provides advice on what people should prepare to anticipate a disaster, such as clothing, basic food and healthcare supplies and clean water. Users’ posts will also be responded to by local government and NGOs.

Declaring the company’s commitment to assisting Indonesia’s disaster mitigation efforts at the Djakarta Theater ballroom in Central Jakarta, recently, Meena Palaniappan, founder and CEO of AtmaGo, said Indonesia had been picked as the flagship country of its ambitions to operate throughout Southeast Asia.

“There’s an opportunity and need here with the gotong royong [people helping people] culture.” Meena said.

Established in 2015, AtmaGo currently has 2.5 million users in 1,100 locations across Indonesia, having been used in communities that have been affected by natural disasters in places like Aceh and Palu and Donggala in Central Sulawesi.

One of the users invited to speak at the event, Sumiyati, a member of the Jakarta’s cleaning and maintenance team known as the “orange troops”, said that AtmaGo was not only useful for disaster mitigation.

“People are becoming more aware of the need for environmental cleanliness,” Sumiyati said. She added that if a picture of a dirty area was posted on AtmaGo, soon enough a collective cleanup initiative would be started by locals or orange troops.

Meanwhile, another user named Zainudin, an app-based ojek (motorcycle taxi) driver, said AtmaGo had prompted the government to act faster in response to people’s complaints.

“I was on my way to pick up a customer and I saw a road in need of repair, I took a picture and posted it on AtmaGo,” he said, “By the time I came around to the same spot, [the road] had been fixed.”

According to AtmaGo’s case study, the early warning feature has the potential to lessen property damages caused by floods and other disasters at a rate of almost Rp 4.4 million (US$315) per household.

By working with the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG), AtmaGo hopes to gain more reliable information on natural disasters in the future to improve its early warning feature.

Also present to declare their support for AtmaGo were representatives from the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) and the Indonesian Red Cross (PMI).

“I appreciate the enthusiasm [of the people] gathering together to contribute and help each other at the same time.” Arifin Muhammad Adi, the head PMI’s disaster mitigation division said.

Arifin added that the application required expert supervision in case there were questions that could not be answered by fellow users.

Challenges come when users do not have good signals in urgent times, Meena said, adding that AtmaGo’s information could still be shared via bluetooth.

“We’re also working on improving our offline services.” she said. (dmy)

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