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The power of social media in framing natural disaster issues at BMKG Indonesia

Posted by suradigorontalo on 26 April 2017

Indonesia is prone to tsunami; from local to a giant tsunami. The giant tsunami hit Aceh on December 26, 2004. An estimated quarter of a million people around the Indian Ocean region dead by the 2004 Tsunami. The arrival time of local tsunami is very short, between 10-60 minutes (the golden time, red.) that makes the tsunami early warning information dissemination becomes challenging. Its golden time will have a direct impact on evacuation procedures and evacuation time which is very short.

Figure 1: Photo documentation of the Rahmatullah masjid and surrounding affected by the Giant Aceh tsunami

1

Source: AFP (2004)

Figure 2: The writer’s inside Rahmatullah masjid at Lhok Nga district

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Source: private collections (2017)

Based on this fact, the Indonesian Agency for Meteorology, Climatology, and Geophysics (BMKG) the official agency which has the responsibility to provide and disseminate weather, climate, climate change, air quality, earthquake and tsunami warning in Indonesia, developed the Indonesia Tsunami Early Warning System (InaTEWS) uses social media platform to maximise public safety. One of the platforms is Twitter. BMKG’s Twitter account through the social networking @infoBMKG has exceeded three million followers since officially launched on February 2014  to disseminate climate change, earthquake and tsunami information (M. Adriyanto, 2017).

Figure 3: The official BMKG’s twitter account

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Source: M. Adriyanto (2017)

Availability and ease of public access to this information services, not only to answer the challenges of mitigation but also can be used for public education. Social media is also utilised to raise awareness and community preparedness for a potential disaster and public engagement in Indonesia. Kirilenko and Stepchenkova (2014) found that  in Jakarta at least issue of climate change was tweeted 20 times per day. From figure 4, the triangle symbol represents a tweet value at least one tweet per day while the bar represents tweet over 20 times per day.

Figure 4: The number of tweets on climate change issue

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Source: Kirilenko and Stepchenkova (2014)

In comparison, attention to environmental issues especially climate change was undertaken by the old or traditional media (i.e. newspaper, printed magazine, etc.), also has a positive trend in Indonesia. Schmidt et al. (2013) found that there was an increasing trend in the Indonesian newspaper attention to the issue of climate change up to 10 percent of the data from 1996 to 2010.

Figure 5: The attention of the Jakarta Post newspaper for climate change issues in Indonesia

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Source: Schmidt et al (2013)

Using blogs and social media are tools for involving the public (Mangold and Faulds, 2009). Publics feel more involved with the products and organisations when they can submit feedback. The feedback contributes to a sense of community that is honest; open communication is encouraged and enhanced public engagement. Use both internet-based information and traditional tools to engage the public is the best way to keep public up-to-date with the information.

Figure 6: The six progressive levels of participation

6Source: Parent et al. (2011)

Parent et al. (2011) state that there are six stages of public participation, from viewing, forwarding, commenting, creating and finally arbitrating (figure 6). This progressive participation is associated with the levels of involvement distinguished by Hallahan (table 1).

Table 1: Level of involvement

t1Source: Hallahan (2000)

Along with the development of technology, when numerous studies on various aspects of social media grow, but no one has made a formal categorisation of social media. Frased and Dutta (2008) divide social media into five major categories at the very first time named: egocentric, community, opportunistic, passion-centric, and media sharing sites.

Table 2: Categories of social media

t2Source: Frased and Dutta (2008)

Utilisation of social media in the government officially to support the public services is still considered relatively new when compared to the private sector and individual interests. To date, social media as knowledge management systems, particularly subject to disaster and emergency management began to be used for communicating risk. For example, social media applications and technologies have been used by government responding to disasters in Haiti earthquake (Yates & Paquette, 2010). Mendonca et al. (2007) examine that social media is able in response support disasters preparedness, including the need for cross-boundary collaboration.

Taylor and Kent (1998) became a pioneer in a study of organisational strategy in building a relationship over the internet with a dialogical two-way communication. Taylor and Kent noted that the internet provides the opportunity to create a public relations organisation through a dialogical component that allows input and communication to the public. Examples of the dialogical component which are proposed including forums comments and e-mail contact form. By having a two-way dialogue through social media, in the case of the American Red Cross uses social media reports providing faster service for publics, generating more media coverage, and receiving negative and positive feedback from stakeholders to improve the organisation (Briones et al., 2011).

However, there are many obstacles in implementing of using social media. The most frequent barrier in using social media is resources, specifically time and staff.  The agency must provide staff who specialised in managing social media accounts every time, and it becomes a problem as not enough staffs. Also, another problem is that of the aged staff. The staff who is from older generation is usually unfamiliar with new advanced technology (generation-gap). The generation gap is translated into a view that the aged staff alienates to use social media.

All in all, related to technologies advanced, in addition to using a rich variety of social media, we should also continue to use old media to accommodate the wider public attention. H K B N – #SiapUntukSelamat, #BMKG

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