Home Articles Rebuilding Aceh: The Role of Spatial Information

Rebuilding Aceh: The Role of Spatial Information

Spatial Information & Mapping Centre,
SIM-Centre, BRR NAD Nias,
Jl. Muhammad Thaher no.20,
Lueng Bata, Banda Aceh 23247,
E-mail: [email protected]

Spatial Information & Mapping Centre,
SIM-Centre, BRR NAD Nias,
Jl. Muhammad Thaher no.20,
Lueng Bata, Banda Aceh 23247,
E-mail: [email protected]

NGIS, 47 Burswood Rd,
Burswood, WA 6100,
E-mail: [email protected]

Within days of the devastating tsunami of December 26, 2004 that hit the coast of Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam, Indonesia, spatial information was being used to assess damage and plan emergency response. Initially driven by the United Nations and later by the Spatial Information & Mapping Centre located at the Bureau of Reconstruction and Rehabilitation (BRR), spatial information has supported the recovery activities of many agencies (government and non-government) working throughout Aceh. As many of the immediate needs are now met and reconstruction programs are well underway, the focus has turned to building capacity within local government agencies. A component of this is the ability to use spatial information and technology for planning and operational support. This paper reflects on how spatial information was used during the emergency and recovery phases and the lessons learnt. It also describes the plan to build the capacity of government agencies to use spatial information, no small task considering the decades of neglect and conflict suffered by this area prior to the impact of the tsunami.

1. Emergency & Relief – United Nations
Within days of the devastating tsunami of December 26, 2004 that hit the coast of Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam, Indonesia, spatial information was being used to assess damage and plan emergency response. Initially driven by the United Nations, spatial information was used to prioritize areas of greatest need and to help coordinate the response of the plethora of agencies that came to Aceh to provide assistance. The United Nations Humanitarian Information Centre (UN-HIC) became established as a provider of information products and services and enabled the humanitarian community to deliver assistance more effectively; it also acted as a focal point for data collation, and in later stages data analysis, and data dissemination in support of the provision of humanitarian assistance. It collated and facilitated access to a wide range of data sets including national base maps, custom map product, and high resolution satellite imagery. As the relief efforts transitioned into recovery and development, the focus of the HIC shifted as well. In September 2005 the HIC was renamed the United Nations Information Management System (UNIMS), concurrent with the establishment of the Office of the United Nations Recovery Coordinator for Aceh and Nias (UNORC).

As examples, spatial information was used during the emergency and relief phases to:

  • Help plan the movement of trucks and prioritize shipments.
  • Assess and map road damage and conditions – over 3000 km of roads were impassable and 120 arterial bridges destroyed.
  • Prioritize and coordinate health activities, leading to the setting up of field hospitals and mobile health clinics.
  • Measure health indicators to quantify progress, such as areas of malnourished children, number of maternal deaths, number of midwives, immunization rates. These indicators were used to prioritize health programs (such as measles immunization), identify areas of greatest need, and develop integrated health programs and training needs.
  • Identify and monitor housing requirements – over 150,000 houses were damaged or destroyed.
  • Coordinate food and other supplies to people living in barracks and IDP camps – over 600,000 people were homeless.
  • Prioritize education reconstruction activities – over 2100 schools were damaged or destroyed.

2. Recovery – Bureau of Reconstruction & Rehabilitation (BRR)
As UNIMS reached the end of its mandate, a successful transition of capacity was achieved between the UN and Government of Indonesia. Located at the Badan Rehabilitasi dan Rekonstruksi (BRR) NAD-Nias office in Banda Aceh, the Spatial Information & Mapping Centre (SIM-Centre) was established in February 2006.

The SIM-Centre had two objectives:

  • To develop a sustainable spatial information and GIS capacity within BRR ensuring that data are available to support the recovery and reconstruction activities of BRR and the recovery community; and
  • To increase the capacity of Provincial Government Agencies to use spatial information for decision support, planning and in routine operations and in so doing facilitate the transition process from BRR at a later date.

Over the past 18 months, the SIM-Centre has supported over 1500 clients, both government and non-government and produced in excess of 6000 maps and other information products. It has support the BRR activities in housing, infrastructure, sea defence and emergency response to floods. It established a GIS User Group and has conducted a number of training courses in the use of GIS and GPS. It has played a major role in supporting the use of spatial information at the BRR, including developing on-line mapping tools and an on-line data catalog.

The SIM-Centre recently won the coveted ESRI Award for Excellence for its services to the recovery community.

Figure 1 GeoSamba: On-Line Mapping Tool

3. Capacity Building
The mandate for the BRR will conclude in 2009. Consequently, it is imperative that the local government agencies acquire the skills and capacity to use spatial information and technology prior to this date. The SIM-Centre has been in the forefront of building capacity within provincial government agencies through a number of activities.

3.1 Spatial Information Strategy for NAD
An over-arching strategy for the use of spatial information (SI) in Aceh was developed. The purpose of the Strategy is to establish the conditions that enable effective use of spatial information. It provides a strategic framework for the continuing development of the spatial information industry beyond 2009. The Strategy focuses on building capacity to use spatial information, having in place policies and protocols to facilitate the management and sharing of data and providing the framework for making this possible. A primary intent is to raise awareness of the value of spatial information and how a cooperative whole of government approach can further improve this value.

The Strategy has the following Vision:
Planning and decision making in Nanggroe Aceh Darussalum (NAD) are supported by an integrated and sustainable spatial information system, based on accurate and reliable base data that are common throughout all Provincial and District agencies. Information is maintained by the responsible agencies in a timely manner to agreed standards with open access and a focus on delivering products and services to meet user needs.

The Strategy is summarised below. It has three components:

  • Develop a common framework including institutional arrangements, standards, data, access mechanisms and technology use.
  • Capacity building that focuses on building the skills to use spatial systems and the knowledge to understand their potential.
  • Engage user communities and delivering spatial information products and services to meet specific user needs (service delivery).

The Strategy consists of a number of activities and a number of Donors are currently funding these.

3.2 Spatial Data Infrastructure
The term “Spatial Data Infrastructure” (SDI) is used to denote the relevant base collection of technologies, policies and institutional arrangements that facilitate the availability of and access to spatial data. The SDI provides a basis for spatial data discovery, evaluation, and application for users and providers within all levels of government, the commercial sector, the non-profit sector, academia and by citizens in general.

The word infrastructure is used to promote the concept of a reliable, supporting environment, analogous to a road or telecommunications network that, in this case, facilitates the access to geographically-related information using a minimum set of standard practices, protocols, and specifications.

A SDI is not just a selection of base datasets and GIS technology. It must provide the means to discover, visualize, and evaluate the data and some method to provide access to the geographic data. To make an SDI functional, it must also include the organisational agreements (standards and policies) needed to coordinate and administer it on a local, regional and national scale.

The SIM-Centre has been leading the drive to establish an Aceh SDI. This has included the acquisition and implementation of appropriate hardware and software to support it, the development of guidelines and policies for the use, management, sharing and dissemination of spatial data, the appointment of data custodians and the further development of on-line tools, such as the Data Catalog. The implementation of the SDI has Gubernatorial support and regulations for the use and sharing of data are expected to be written into the Qanun (law). Where possible, Open Source solutions are being used for the SDI framework.

Figure 2: Proposed SDI Connectivity Diagram

3.3 Aceh Geospatial Data Centre
With the support of the SIM-Centre, the Aceh Geospatial Data Centre (AGDC) was established at Bappeda in December 2006. The objectives of the AGDC are to:

  1. Provide access to spatial data easily and quickly
  2. Promote the utilization and integration of spatial data to support decision making
  3. Improve the understanding and use of spatial information

The AGDC brings together staff from up to 14 provincial departments to be trained in the use and potential of GIS. One of the first activities is the acquisition and development of base or fundamental datasets. These data provide an essential basis for improved decision making and resource management. Other activities include training, the development of on-line web mapping applications, awareness raising and rapid response mapping, when emergencies occur.

The AGDC is a major step towards establishing a SDI and promoting the use of spatial information to support economic development, environmental management and decision making throughout the province.

3.4 GIS Consortium
Many international and national agencies used GIS for their project planning for the rehabilitation and reconstruction of the province. This led to a large influx of GIS professionals working in Aceh. Initially coordination between this group of GIS professionals was managed by an informal GIS User Group. However, within this user group there was a strong desire to promote improvement of the local GIS capacity. This led to the formation of the GIS Consortium (in April 2006) with the aim to promote and improve the use of GIS province-wide.

This consortium is comprised of more than 14 different organizations, both local and international. All the members are volunteers and come together to share their knowledge and experience with the local government in the province. The GIS Consortium develops GIS capacity building programs, enabling and enhancing GIS services to local communities, and supporting the implementation of a Spatial Data Infrastructure.

Some of the activities supported by the Consortium include:

  • The development of a GIS training course in bahasa Indonesia
  • The conducting of training courses throughout the province
  • The promotion of GIS to senior government officials, including the Governor
  • The hosting of workshops for international bodies, including Conservation International and the International Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions
  • Contributing to the development of a Master Degree program for Spatial Development Planning at the University of Syiah Kuala.

3.5 GIS Centres at Kabupatan
Many of the long-term reconstruction activities in Aceh are at the District, or Kabupatan, level. Hence, it is imperative that there is an understanding of and skills to use spatial information at Kabupatan offices. This activity has been supported by the GTZ project: Support for Local Government for Sustainable Reconstruction (SLGSR). This project currently supports three of the most heavily Tsunami damaged districts and supports the district government of Aceh Besar, Kota Banda Aceh and Pidie. At the request of these local governments, the project has established a GIS Centre in each of these districts, based in the department of planning offices (Bappeda). These Centres provide GIS training and the opportunity for staff from all district agencies to use spatial technology to support their activities. There are currently plans to establish GIS Centres at other Kabupatan throughout Aceh and link these centres to the AGDC.

4. Summary & Future
Spatial information played an immediate and essential role in supporting early relief and ongoing recovery activities after the tsunami. This was led by the UN and later by the Indonesian Government, through the BRR. However, many of the achievements were as a result of the work of a loose group of GIS practitioners, the GIS Consortium. By working with government officials at all levels, they were able to achieve progress that would have been almost impossible for international advisors.

The framework is now in place for SI to support planning for the longer-term economic development and sustainability of Aceh. There is considerable good-will by Donors and government agencies to establish a solution, supported by information sharing, that will provide benefits for all stakeholders.

It is important to capitalize on this good-will and available funding. While technology plays a major role, it is ensuring that relevant policies and protocols are in place for data management and sharing that will guarantee success. This is the challenge for senior government officials and the parliament. If achieved, Aceh will become a leader in Indonesia in the effective use of spatial information to the benefit of its people.