(IAP ’13) Arlene Ducao, G

Arlene is traveling to Indonesia to conduct summative evaluations on the first version of OpenIR, a web app that maps the ecological features and risks revealed by infrared satellite data. OpenIR’s initial use is for flood and forest management. It is going to be the subject of usability studies and co-design sessions with community partners on the islands of Java and Kalimantan.


Arlene’s Indonesia Notes, Part 1

From January 8 to 29, OpenIR’s Arlene Ducao and Juhee Bae are presenting the project and brainstorming with environmental stakeholders throughout Indonesia. OpenIR team member Barry Beagen, a Jakarta native, helped pave the way for the team in its first week, while team member Ilias Koen, back in the US, teleconferenced into several meetings and presentations.  Arlene’s rough notes and pictures are below; they will be synthesized into a more polished report later.
After a long journey that included a 12-hour layover in Tokyo’s Narita Airport (not a recommended airport for an overnight stay), we spent our first week in Indonesia in the relative creature comforts of Jakarta, the capital city. Much of our time was spent meeting with environmental and civic stakeholders, dodging floods, and eating amazing food. Food always helps me to acclimate to a new culture, so this post has a lot of food pictures.
January 10Nisa Fajriyah of the Indonesian Ministry of Communication and Technology, along with her colleague Thoriq, picked Juhee and I up at the airport. It was a rainy rush hour, the worst weather and time to be on the road–it took 3 hours to travel 34 kilometers to our rented apartment in Kuningan (Setiabudi). Welcome to Jakarta traffic! And thank you to Nisa and Thoriq for driving 2 hours to pick us up, and then 3 hours to drop us off.
Our apartment in the Setia Budi neighborhood is full of expats and sometimes cows.


Juhee loved this traffic circle sculpture near our apartment.

January 11

We met with our primary community partners: Harry Surjadi, environmental journalist and International Knight Foundation Fellow who works with indigenous citizen journalists, and Kate Chapman, acting director of Humanitarian OpenStreetMap (HOT) . They explained how they established their programs in Indonesia, and helped us brainstorm our general approach to meetings and workshops here. We also scheduled our larger meetings with their groups, and our travel with Harry to West Kalimantan and Central Kalimantan (Borneo forests).


Since I last visited SE Asia in 2007, Starbucks has replicated its saturation of US streets, but this time in SE Asian malls. We take advantage of this bit of familiarity for our first meeting. Barry snaps this pic of (clockwise from left) Juhee, Kate Chapman, Harry Surjadi, me, and Katrina Engelsted.


From there, Barry took Juhee and me grocery and cell phone shopping. He also took us to a great Indo-Chinese restaurant, OEY (http://kopioey.com/). Juhee and I were too jet-lagged to really enjoy it, but it was still good to get out of the Golden Triangle, the area in which we stayed–very useful for meetings, but a little too Midtowny for me (New Yorkers out there will know what I mean). One thing I do remember about OEY is the super-spicy, super-wonderful ginger tea. I’m always looking for ginger products that taste like actual ginger.


One of the strongest cups of ginger tea I’ve ever had! I’m guessing it’s double brewed. Solace for the severely jet lagged.




Juhee’s getting hit hard with jet lag, but it doesn’t show in this pic.


Thank goodness for strong ginger tea!
January 12
Barry took us to a “Smart City” conference held by the community development group Rujak and coordinated by Barry’s colleagues Elisa Sutanudjaja and Marco Kusumawijaya: http://rujak.org/2012/12/smart-city/
Elisa’s brother Edwin gives a talk on water systems and climate change in Jakarta.


DSC01510Afterwards, Edwin and his colleague Margaret stop to chat. The workshop was held at the French Cultural Centre, a charming venue that was somehow both very Indonesian and very French.

It was a bit spur of the moment so we didn’t present OpenIR, but we scheduled to meet further with some of the folks from this group later this week. After the conference, we went with Elisa, Marco, and their close colleagues for a traditional Indonesian lunch at Restaurant Trio. This was followed by trip around the corner to fabulous, old-time java house. I had kopi luwak, also known as “cat poop” coffee. It was good! Maybe not worth $13 a cup though.

I really enjoyed this coffee shop, which serves java from Java, as well as java from all of Indonesia.

Edwin gives us a personal presentation of his work as a professor in the Netherlands. He’s using ESA remote sensing data to study groundwater reserves.


At another table, Elisa, Marco, and colleagues have a working coffee session as well.

Kopi luwak! Just looking at it, you’d never know that civets had pooped it out.

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Something you don’t find in US coffeehouses: a smoking section. In fact this smoking room was quite nice.

Later, Nisa took some and her friends and me to Ancol, on the northern coast. With its amusement park, souvenir shops, dirty beach, and fun food, Ancol reminded me a lot of Coney Island! Nisa chose a restaurant (name forthcoming) from the Sundan region, her home. And turns out it was Nisa’s birthday. What an honor to share her birthday with her. It was also great to check out Ancol, which flooded a few days later.
Nisa and I enjoy delicious food, Padang style. Look at all the plates on the table!
Rendang, that dark bit of beef in the lower right, is the world’s most delicious food, according to CNN
Feels just like Coney!


January 13
Juhee and I stayed in and started preparing OpenIR for the coming week. Juhee prepared our Summative Evaluation questions in SurveyMonkey and Pages. She also started to handle the complicated logistics for our intra-Indonesia travel. I updated OpenIR’s data viewer UI for summative evaluations. Main updates include overlaying a street map layer, with opacity control, atop the IR data; adding a dynamic explanation with color annotations, and event tracking.
January 14
We met with Tanti Liesman at UN Global Pulse. The Jakarta Pulse Lab (JKP) is still too new to be much of a community partner, but they are a great contact and, as Tanti said, a “Match.com” for Indonesia’s tech and community development leaders. I’m excited to see how how JKP will shake up both the UN and Jakarta. Barry may work more with them as the evolve– he may be involved in their new office’s interior architecture!

After the meeting, Barry took us to a huge, high-end mall near the UN building. We had another traditional meal there and ended up spending 6 hours at the mall, fortunately working much of that time. I haven’t spent that much time in a mall in… maybe never! I did have fun though, especially at Alun Alun, a store that sells traditional goods (high-end of course). I’m a sucker for that stuff. And it was cool to see a cool mall.

Barry also took us to the Beautika restaurant for dinner, named after the beautician who, after finding she made more income from her cooking than from her beautifying, transformed her business into a restaurant. They served spicy, fragrant, herb-rich food from the Manado region, including papaya flower salad and fish soup with lots of pandan (I think). I love seeing lots of green in my meal!
As a lover of hearty vegetables, I was thrilled to see this papaya flower dish. And thrilled to eat it.


Also happy to see/eat this fish soup with pandan.DSC01584
Earlier in the day, we ate this funkily fried fish, shaped to seem, at least to me, like the fish is making a sharp left turn.
January 15
The Rujak folks participated in a civic demonstration, and Barry had food poisoning, so we took another heads down day. With all of our meetings and running around, I find these heads down days to be a helpful chance to recharge and work on coding. I translated the UI updates from the Jakarta to the Kalimantan viewers and made a few bug fixes.
A chill day at home, with a more standard Arlene-style breakfast of coffee and fruit. But the fruits are non-standard: rambutans and snakefruit.
Is it a pinecone, a reptile, or a fruit?
January 16
 THE FLOODS BEGIN. We were scheduled to be picked up at our apartment at 8:30am for a 10am workshop at the ICT Training Center of the Indonesian Ministry of Communication and Technology. However, due to floods, our ride did not arrive until 10am. Fortunately, our driver knew a back roads route, and our meeting was only delayed by 30 minutes. The meeting was coordinated by Nisa’s boss, Fadhilah Mathar, the director of this Center. It was moderated by Elvina Anita, a Center employee trained in IT law, and attended about a dozen of the Center’s software developers and GIS specialists. This and all subsequent workshops had this general structure:
  • Opening remarks by host (i.e. Fadhilah Mathar)
  • OpenIR overview (Arlene)
  • OpenIR demo (Juhee)
  • Community Development brainstorm (Barry)
  • Q&A (Arlene and team)
  • OpenIR Summative Evaluation, “Talk-Aloud” style (Juhee)
  • Closing remarks by host


This was our first large workshop, so we weren’t quite practiced enough to take pictures during the proceedings. However, afterwards, we took a picture with the workshop’s leaders, Elvina Anita (far left) and Fadhilah Mathar (far right).

Later, we had coffee with Barry’s friend John Taylor, a UN consultant and HKS grad who founded Solo Kota Kita (SKK), a group connecting social map data to municipal decision making in the city of Solo. MIT folks like Stephen Kennedy have been involved with SKK. John asked us a lot of questions, and when we started asking him about his work, it became clear that his new project, a UN-organized climate vulnerability assessment in the small Indonesian city of Makassar, could be a great test case for OpenIR, as it will involve both maps and on-the-ground assessment

January 17
RAINS CONTINUE. We talked more with John Taylor over lunch. Unfortunately, Barry couldn’t join because his house and neighborhood, Pluit, were flooded. This motivated him to take lots of photos, which he’ll hopefully post to our Ushahidi deployment. But the lunch was quite interesting, and now Ilias is building a data viewer for Makassar.
Harry Surjadi introduced us to Wahyu (Komang) Dhyatmika, the editor of Tempo.co, one of Indonesia’s largest news outlets. Barry scheduled an OpenIR meeting with Tempo, but because of the flooding, he could not make this meeting. One silver lining of the floods is that traffic in non-flooded areas was very light; Juhee and I were early to the meeting. While watching the news in Tempo’s lobby, we saw that the area near the UN building was quite flooded.
In the Tempo headquarters, the TV news reporters cover the flood…
While outside the Tempo building, it floods.


The presentation to Tempo involved Komang, tech guys like sys admins and coders, and science journalists. It “sparked new ideas” for the news organization, which launched a crowd map of the floods soon after:http://www.tempo.co/topik/masalah/12/Banjir-di-DKI-Jakarta
 That night, we updated our OpenIR/Ushahidi Jakarta build, which we developed as part of Geeks without Bounds hackathons in early autumn, to be an active tracker of the Jakarta floods. More on this in another post.
January 18—-Meetings with AIFDR and Humanitarian OpenStreetMap had been planned, but they were cancelled due to the flooding. Another OpenIR team member, Juhee this time, also “fell in the war on bacteria,” which is Ilias’s colorful term for food poisoning. And Barry was still stuck in the flood, which was up to neck high in Pluit. Because of this, and because his parents needed some help, Barry has to bow out of taking part in the Kalimantan trips. It’s really too bad, but we’re glad he and his family are safe.
So it was another heads down day of updating the software and recharging. It started out as kinda nice, since the coding was under control, even as the flooding wasn’t. But then, Kristy Van Putten of AIFDR called and asked if we do web maps, to which we answered yes, and she said that she’d send current flood maps to visualize on the web, and we said “GREAT!” But it got a little hectic (in my mind). Fortunately, Kristy stopped by after her work day finished, which helped me get out of screen-suck mode. Then it was time to cleanup and prepare to leave our wonderful apartment (offered by a wonderful lady named Indri) and head to the more vegetation-dense island of Kalimantan.

Arlene’s Indonesia Notes, Part 2

January 19—-=We woke up at 4:30 am to catch a cab to the airport. Thank goodness I’m not on my usual computerize-all-day schedule; this would have been near impossible for me back home, with my 1am bedtime.

At the airport, we met up with our incredible community partner, environmental journalist, former newspaper editor, and activist Harry Surjadi. In the pre-flight chitchat, the topic of exotic foods came up, and Harry called his Pontianak friend Ivie to see if he’d cook a snake that night.

We then flew from Jakarta to the small city of Pontianak, the provincial capital of West Kalimantan (formerly West Borneo), with a population of almost 600,000. Unlike Jakarta, Pontianak had not seen rain in 12 days; it was dry, dusty, and full of colorful old buildings, including grand government halls and mosques.


Harry and Juhee prepare to board.


Harry asks Juhee and me what we think of Pontianak. I say it reminds me of parts of Cebu circa 2007, with its old buildings and many semi-paved streets. There are more motorbikes in Indonesia though.

Since 2011, Harry has worked with RuaiTV, a station devoted to covering the indigenous groups of West Kalimantan, primarily the native Dayak people. Harry helped Ruai TV set up Ruai SMS, a FrontlineSMS-based system in which local farmers and workers report on a range of issues, from municipal needs to social observations.


One issue is that of land use. Harry told us of how indigenous farm techniques are geographically cyclical, with farmers burning a small amount of forest to make way for farm land. The next year, the farmer moves on to an adjacent piece of land, using the same technique; this continues for about 10 years, with the farmer moving in a circle until he returns to his original site. Contrast this with the techniques of corporate farming, which uses large machinery to clear, seed, and collect harvest from huge tracts of land.

We arrived in Pontianak and made our way to the Ruai TV station. During Harry’s Knight/IFCJ Fellowship, he lived in Pontinak for a couple months at a time, and his old friend, taksi driver Saifu, picked us up. At the TV station, Harry and RuaiTV’s head Stefanus Masiun coordinated a meeting of local stakeholders, including Ruai TV, BNBP (Indonesia Emergency Management) local officials, representatives from West Kalimantan’s government, local heads of WWF and FFI, and others. OpenIR presented its work to this group and solicited its feedback– by now, Juhee and I had our presentation flow down pat, even as the electricity periodically went out. The local folks said that electricity is not constant in Pontiank, especially on weekends. Nevertheless, thanks to Harry’s facilitation and translation, we had the most lively, productive session of the trip to date.





After the workshop, it’s Ruai TV’s turn to take charge. They interview Juhee and me about the workshop that just took place. I’m hoping to get a copy of this footage when it airs!

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Ruai TV crew stands off-camera during the interview.

We also took a tour of the building– it was a scrappy, and makeshift on the surface, but had some of the latest video, broadcast, and citizen journalist technologies.


Arlene and Juhee on set!


Panca Esti, Ruai’s tech guru; Harry Surjadi, and Ivie, one of Ruai’s directors (and resident snake chef).

The day ended with Ivie, who is also RuaiTV’s co-head, serving up spicy, sliced python and some local wine. The python was deliciously cooked, though full of bones and covered in tough skin. The wine looked like brandy because dark roots were used to make it. I pounced on the wine and Juhee sucked the snake bones clean.

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Snake meat on the left, snake fat on the right. These pics are particularly blurry because of my excitement.

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Homebrew rice wine. The dark color is from roots, not fermentation.

January 20—Sleeping wasn’t too easy because the room was occupied by a small parade of roach-like bugs. Bugs generally don’t bother me too much, but these bugs were audacious–they kept on coming, and they had no qualms about crawling towards me or my stuff. Thankfully, we didn’t have to return to RuaiTV until mid-morning, so I had some time to get a full amount of sleep over a longer period of time.


There may be three stars in the sign, but Orchardz is not a three star hotel.

But this is a small concern compared to that of Barry and his family. We received an update from Barry that morning. After he and his family had been evacuated from Pluit with a relative’s boat, Barry spent a couple of days in the hospital, vomiting for much of that time. He’d caught an infection from the stagnant flood waters. However, by the time he wrote to us, he’d recovered and was back to work, preparing to spend some time on a design project in Thailand. A relief.


Back at the RuaiTV station, I worked with Harry, the station’s computer expert Panca Esti, and his colleague Agus to link their “RuaiSMS” system (a deployment of FrontlineSMS) to our OpenIR Ushahidi deployment for Java/Kalimantan. Thanks to Heather Leson’s guide, the set-up was quite straightforward. After sending few test texts to the RuaiSMS number and tweaking the system, we saw that they appeared in the OpenIR Ushahidi build.

That was the easy part. What was more challenging was determining the new reporting workflow. When Harry originally helped establish the RuaiSMS system, he trained about fifteen citizen journalists, mostly local farmers and works, in the basics of news reporting. Panca trained these journalists to submit reports to the RuaiSMS system. Reports sent to the system are sent to all the RuaiSMS editors, which include Panca, Harry, Masiun, and others. The editors then remove identifying information, correct for grammar and content, and blast the text to all RuaiSMS subscribers in West Kalimantan.

With the OpenIR system, we decided that from now on, the edited text blast would contain the name of the West Kalimantan district to which it pertained. We set up the editors’ phone numbers as “Trusted+Verify” in the Ushahidi deployment, though since the texts are coming from “dumb” phone that lack GPS, these texts would not be geolocated. Every week, the OpenIR team will look for new “Trusted+Verify” messages and use the list of West Kalimantan districts to then place the text on the map. It involves a bit of effort, but could lead to very interesting results in the long term.

DSC01669 DSC01671

While I worked with Harry, Panca, and Agus, Juhee sent updated data viewer and survey URLs to the meeting attendants from the day before. We all enjoyed a big bowl of langsats, a brown-skinned fruit, with the approximate size and taste of lychee, except more mild, more citrusy, and formed in about six sections like an orange.


After the system set-up was complete. Harry and Saifu took us to lunch, in which I had a delicious grilled local fish and Juhee has a chicken meal: ayam goreng (fried chicken) with a chicken foot soup appetizer. Chicken feet are popular in Filipino cuisine, but I’ve never seen chicken feet prepared without sauce, and Juhee says that she grossed her mom from loving to hating chicken feet. We joke that the chicken feet look like baby hands.

DSC01683 DSC01682

We also order tempeh. I never liked tempeh before, but I’m in absolute rapture with the tempeh here.

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After that, we went to the “Equator Monument,” which as its name suggests, is built on the Equator. Juhee and I gave our names and were given very cute printed certificates: proof that we have touched the Equator!


Harry, Juhee, and I then caught a plane back to Jakarta and checked into the FM7 Hotel near the airport. We settled in for only a few hours, in preparation to return to the airport at 4:30am the next morning.



Arlene’s Indonesia Notes, Part 3

January 21

It was hard, but Harry, Juhee, and I made our 6am flight from Jakarta and arrived in Palankaraya, the provincial capital of Central Kalimantan (formerly Central Borneo) at 7:30am. We like the look of Palankaraya, right away, even its airport.

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Juhee is very amused by this sign at the airport.

Rjetje, the Dutch proprietor of Bukit Raya Guesthouse, came with her driver to fetch us from the charmingly designed and well-maintained Palankaraya airport. After the traffic chaos of Jakarta and the dust of Pontianak, our first ride in Palankaraya felt very clean and clear. Rjetje said that her guests tend to be environmental researchers, reminding me how Harry mentioned that much international conservation money is going to Central Kalimantan, which has a rich tropical forest.

Arrive at Sekber headquarters 10am. UNDP asked Harry, through AMAN, to conduct an assessment of “Communication for Empowerment.” After observing that most indigenous folks have mobile phones, he submitted a report to ICFJ to build an SMS-based citizen journalism system for indigenous-focused organizations like Ruai TV and AMAN.

We present to Palankaraya’s environmental stakeholders over lunch. Sekber REDD+ organizes a periodic meeting of these stakeholders, so they all knew each other. Harry made this list of some of the stakeholders:

  • Palangkaraya City Administration representative that responsible on flooding issues
  • Central Kalimantan Administration representative that responsible on forestry (including REDD+) and plantation issues
  • Organizations that run REDD+ pilot projects such as KFCP
  • PW AMAN, Central Kalimantan
  • Sekber REDD+ members that interested in using OpenIR
  • local media

Harry, on the left next to the screen, translates and moderates the meeting.

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Migo on the far left, Dewi in the center (in the room’s corner) and June on the far right. Migo and Dewi are from Sekber REDD+, while June is from UN ORCID. I’m pointing them out because we meet with them next day. 



After the meeting, we stop by Garuda Indonesia’s local office: apparently flights booked online are then canceled if the airline can’t reach you on the phone. We are not happy with this policy, because we have to rebook with new schedules.

We arrive at REDD+ office in the afternoon and set up Sekber REDD+ FrontlineSMS system with OpenIR’s Java/Kalimantan deployment.

Migo and I (seated) start setting up the system, while the system’s report editors make note of how the system works.

It takes a little while…

But we get the system up and running. Rinting, Central Kalimantan AMAN’s deputy leader, will set up the system at the AMAN headquarters the next day. He is sitting behind Migo.

I’m a little concerned that I may get confused between West and Central Kalimantan reports, but we’ll figure this out as we go.

Later, Rinting tries to use OpenIR’s scripts. I have a little anxiety about this– the scripts are still hard to use outside of OpenIR. I plan to ask Ilias for his opinion later and discuss more with Rinting the next day.

Short rest at Bukit Raya, then a delicious grilled seafood meal at Pelangi. Amazing shrimp/lobster hybrids (see below for image of this amazing animal).

We find some cute Indonesian cakes for Rjetje’s birthday. But it turns out she’s diabetic. Oh well, at last Juhee got a crocodile-shaped pastry.

Farewell and a big Thank You to Harry, who flies out early the next morning.

Early sleep back at Bukit Raya. Too hot to computerize.


January 22–A short swim in the wonderfully non-chlorinated, naturalistic, Bukit Raya pool. As usual, I break out in sneezes, as I tend to do in weather that’s not quite hot enough.


I give my partner Chris a video tour of Bukit Raya, including its unconventional layout, mosquito-netted beds, coconut tree, rambutan plant, and its actual treehouse, He says it cheers him up. The weather in NYC this week fell to 7 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s good to be away!


Discussion with Ilias about how to help Rinting set up OpenIR. This is good motivation to build a GUI-based, one-click installer, my goal for Spring 2013.

At AMAN: Discussion between Rinting, Ilias, Juhee, and I of how AMAN would like to use IR data to build its map of indigenous Kalteng (Kalimantan Tengah, or Central Kalimantan) land. Most of AMAN’s work takes place on the floor, following custom.


This is followed by the set-up of AMAN’s FrontlineSMS system with OpenIR’s Ushahidi deployment. This is the third time I’ve done it, and Rinting was at the previous day’s FrontlineSMS set up session, so this was a snap.

Most of AMAN’s members are smoking locally-made cloves, so I try one. Actually, I can only smoke about 1/3 of it, since my smoking days are far behind me.

Dadut, Central Kalimantan AMAN’s leader, shows us AMAN’s maps, plans, books, and diagrams, particularly indigenous areas that have been mapped and still have yet to be mapped.

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AMAN + OpenIR!

After our work session at AMAN, Dadut and Rinting take us to an open air joint serving some traditional Dayak food.


The dish in the lower right, with papaya flower (I think?) and fish, is the most traditional of the Dayak food served here.

They call this animal a “freshwater lobster.” It is truly delicious– lobster meat in a big shrimp body.


After lunch, Rinting drops us back at Sekber REDD+, where we informally brainstorm with Migo and Dewi of Sekber REDD+ and June of UN-ORCID to find map data of Central Kalimanatan. June is trying to collect as much eco-data on the region as possible.

Afterward, Migo kindly drives June, Juhee, and me to BOS (Borneo Orangutan Survival), where we take a look at orangutans who have been orphaned, often from deforestation, and who are being rehabilitated and re-released. As we look at the orangutans, they look at us. The orangutans seem tired, and I’m a bit more entertained by the local monkeys, who are not endangered and not caged– they run about like squirrels.

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So we just chill out at Coffee Toffee for a while with Migo and Rinting. A cool conversation ranging from religion to homosexual politics in Indonesia. As Juhee pointed out, it was the first non-work conversation we’ve had together with people not on our team.

Back at Bukit Raya, we retire early again, because we have to leave at 7am for another flight.



Arlene’s Indonesia Notes, Part 4

January 23– We fly from Palankaraya back to Jakarta at 8:30 am, then wait 3 hours in the airport and fly to Yogyakarta. At the airport, a man is holding a sign that says “Mr Juhee Bae, Mrs. Arlene Ducao.”

Yogyakarta airport.
Statue at Yogyakarta airport entrance.

University Gadjah Mada (UGM), through our host Professor Trias Aditya and his Department of Geodetic Engineering, is kindly housing us at its University Club Hotel.

Dinner that night with Trias and his colleague, Professor Heri Sutanta. I’ve come to eat tempeh every day here. For the nth time, the subject of translating the data viewers comes up.

A short driving tour of the UGM campus. Largest public campus in Yogyakarta, which is both a college and cultural town: one of the most popular tourist destination in Indonesia, second only to Bali. UGM’s campus is orderly and charming. Perhaps most striking to me are its bike share program and its small deer and monkey zoo, maintained by the forestry department.

January 24–Heri takes Juhee and me to Mount Merapi. There is a volcanic eruption about every four years, with an extremely destructive occurrence in 2006. It’s been fascinating to visit locations, so close in proximity, which nevertheless have very different ecological concerns: flooding in Jakarta, deforestation in Kalimantan, and now volcanic eruption in Yogyakarta.

OpenIR does not address volcanic destruction at this time, particularly since volcanic eruptions are not widespread globally, but its risk index algorithms are greatly inspired by academic papers about risk mapping in Merapi.

Danger sign in area affected by pyroclastic flow.
Danger sign in area affected by pyroclastic flow.

Preparing to zoom around the volcano.
Preparing to zoom around the massive volcano. The motorcyclists are locals, many of whom were affected by the volcano’s destruction.

Makeshift Merapi museum.
Makeshift Merapi museum.

The makeshift merapi museum belongs to this man, who used to live here. Fortunately, he and his family evacuated to safety well ahead of time.
The makeshift merapi museum belongs to this man, who used to live here. Fortunately, he and his family evacuated to safety well ahead of time.

More of the makeshift museum.
More of the makeshift museum.

Heri, Mount Merapi (obscured by clouds), and Arlene.
Heri, Mount Merapi (obscured by clouds), and Arlene.

Car and motorbike destroyed by pyroclastic flow.
Car and motorbike destroyed by pyroclastic flow.

Area affected by pyroclastic flow.
Area affected by pyroclastic flow.


Heri takes us to a large batik and souvenir store. I go a little crazy inside! But Heri and Juhee keep their cool:


Afternoon of work: translating the data viewers and updating the Jakarta Banjir deployment with suggestions from Indonesians.

January 25–I’m feeling a bit sick from a low-intensity throat infection. It may have been the Merapi rainstorm.

Morning presentation to UGM. Low attendance, since many students are starting their fieldwork at Klaten.



Juhee, me, and Trias.

That afternoon, we give a presentation to Combine.or.id, a small Indonesian non-profit that focuses on connecting citizen media tools with rural villages. They’ve been very successful in using radio, and have a sister group in Kobe, Japan, another seismically active region.

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After the meeting, we stand outside the Combine headquarters with Ade, Combine’s media director. Combine built its headquarters on the edge of Yogyakarta, closer to the rural areas.

We are beat and eat dinner in the hotel restaurant for a second night, even though the surrounding town looks really cool. I order the perfect dish for my condition: Indonesian chicken soup (sota ayam).

January 26–Some recent graduates who met us yesterday, Rindi and Dinih, take Juhee and me on a tour of the amazing Prambanan Temple, a complex of originally 1000 Hindu temples built in around 900 A.D. Today, only about a dozen of these temples remain; fortunately the central, tall temples still stand, and they are protected as as UNESCO World Heritage site.


The largest temple of the Prambanan complex is under construction and “mostly sound,” so all entrants to this temple must wear hardhats.

Throughout the whole complex, we are made to wear saris to indicate that we paid admission. Dinih is an excellent guide; he has read and internalized much of Prambanan’s history and folklore.



My low-intensity throat ache persists and is accompanied by a headache now, so I return to the hotel and work on this journal as the rest of the group goes to another World Heritage site, the Borobudur temple complex. Several hours later, Juhee returns with a bag of freshly picked rambutans and snakefruits from the Borobudur area. We spend quite a while washing dozens of tenacious ants off the bouquet of rambutans with a toilet hose, the only water source with a strong enough stream to push the ants off the fruits.

Anyway, cultural gems like Parambanan and Borobudur, as well as traditions like batik, wayang (shadow puppets), gamelan, are some of the reasons that tourists flock to the Yogyakarta area. While I regret that I won’t be able to see wayang and javanese ballet while I’m here, I feel lucky to have seen two giants in the natural and cultural realms: Merapi and Prambanan.

Arlene’s Indonesia Notes, Part 5

January 27:

Again, we take an early flight from Yogyakarta and land in Jakarta around 7am. I realize at this point that the funny throat issues I’ve had for a few days is a full-blown cold. Nevertheless, it’s exciting and meaningful to take this flight because it allows me to see, from the air, the area to the immediate east of Jakarta. This is the area that we always discuss in our presentations as completely blank on current street maps, and highly irrigated (most likely via rice farms) on IR moisture maps. Actually seeing this area, aerially, validates that this area has both rice farms and streets.

We make our way back to Kuningan in Setia Budi, to stay this night at Kate Chapman’s apartment, which she shares with her American intern, Katrina Engelsted. The view is amazing, though it can be aurally challenging to be right next to a mosque during the 4 AM call to prayer.

View from HOT apt

Kate, Katrina, and their Indonesian teammates form the core of the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team’s Indonesia operation, though we did learn of their Yogyakarta and Papua mapping through our new colleagues at Universitas Gadjah Madah.

Around 2pm, we try to meet with Kaka Prakasa and Suwandi Ahmad of AirPutih, but there is a schedule mix-up and the meeting does not occur. Next time.

Our evening is for wrap-up activities, namely sending thank-you notes and the translated OpenIR Data Viewers to everyone we’ve met, documenting the trip, and updating our Cost Report with our recent receipts. Juhee really pulls the weight on this night, because I’m too sick to work.


January 28

Our final meeting is, fittingly, with one of our first community partners: Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team. The Indonesia team is about 10 people, mostly recent grads from Indonesian geographic departments. Their coordinator Kate Chapman was away, but her intern Katrina helped to moderate the proceedings. Because each team member is an experienced mapper, they gave great feedback on how OpenIR can improve its user interface, experience, and usefulness with OpenStreetMap.

DSC01958Some of the HOT team scrutinizes OpenIR’s software as it’s projected (offscreen). 

HOT meetingMore of the HOT team, with Juhee.

We then make our way back to the FM7 Airport Hotel and settle in for an afternoon of relaxation, particularly in the sauna and pool, before we leave the country on January 29.

Thank you to all our community partners, hosts, new friends, and kind strangers; we had a truly wonderful and productive time in Indonesia.

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