Humanitarian Intervention and ICTs in Indonesia

Welcome back to the ICT4D Disability Kaleidoscope. In this fourth and final post, I will connect many of the points made in the previous posts of this mini-series by focusing on the humanitarian intervention in Indonesia after the country was recently hit by a series of earthquakes, aftershocks and a devastating tsunami. With this post, I don’t claim to fully cover the event or all discussions at stake. Rather, I want to invite you to reflect upon ICT4D tools in light of disaster interventions by considering the fact that current humanitarian interventions and reports show that there is still much to do before the invisible 1 billion become visible in disaster situations and subsequent interventions.

“What you cannot see are “hidden persons” who have
no access to humanitarian asisstance although their
needs are amongst the highest. These “hidden persons”
might include older people or persons with disabilities.” (ASB)

Background Information:

Since the end of July 2018, Indonesia has been incessantly in the news because of four strong earthquakes that had first hit Lombok Island (29/07/2018 – 6.4 magnitude; 05/08/2018 – 7.0 magnitude; 09/07/2018 – 5.9 magnitude; 18/08/2018 – 6.4 magnitude) followed by several aftershocks, and then the province of Central Sulawesi on September 28th, 2018 with a 7.4 magnitude earthquake and a fatal tsunami. 2077 people have been confirmed dead with many people still remaining missing. There are over 211.000 people internally displaced after the disaster in Sulawesi. With heavy rainfalls kicking in, the situation is getting more difficult.

Please check out the fact sheet published by Relief Web for more detailed information.

Humanitarian Intervention:

Humanitarian intervention in both Lombok and Sulawesi has been diverse. However, Indonesia has been in the news, due to its restriction of international humanitarian intervention both in Lombok Island and Sulawesi. The Indonesian government had limited access for international assistance aiming at authorising international interventions and channelling these through their local offices or local institutions and organisations. “A spokesman for Indonesia’s foreign affairs ministry told media that without the regulations, “the presence of foreign aid workers, who have good intentions, may hamper the rescue and recovery work carried out by the national team”.” However, many of the local organisations and institutions had been affected by the disasters themselves. By mid-October, international organisations were negotiating with the Indonesian government on possibilities for interventions in the territory, especially as many organisations fear that current interventions aren’t ample enough. At the international level, concerns are rising as to whether the international aid sector needs to rethink its humanitarian interventions with governments becoming more restrictive in terms of the coordination in the field, channelling of funding, aid implementation etc..

Disability Inclusive Humanitarian Intervention:

Although humanitarian intervention has been continuous after the earthquake and the tsunami in Sulawesi, reports still remain scarce on disability inclusive interventions. Arbeiter-Samariter-Bund (ASB), a German relief and charity organisation, is working for instance through and together with local partners to enhance the inclusion of disabled people and other vulnerable groups in disaster interventions on-site. ASB has published a so-called Disability inclusion rapid assessment report (implementing an assessment methodology) presenting key findings and recommendations after the Lombok earthquake. The report covers the following 5 key inclusion musts:

  • Identification
  • Accessibility
  • Meaningful Participation
  • Empowerment
  • Rights

Many issues that have been covered by our blog posts become evident in the report as the difficulty of disseminating information to the disabled community due to communicative barriers, lack of information about the size of the disabled population affected, difficulties in overcoming physical barriers to access relief services etc.

The right’s issues are especially interesting as, according to the report, people with disabilities are not aware of or informed about their rights in disaster situations. Additionally, local organisations lack information on inclusive interventions since information is often only accessible in English and not in local languages. These two factors show that disability inclusion is not only about what can be done on-site once a disaster has happened, but also sheds light on the importance of disability inclusion in programs on disaster-preparedness. It is here that data should be collected and stored on vulnerable groups, people should be informed about their rights and tools for facilitating intervention and communication should be explained to staff, volunteers, but also to relatives of disabled people and the disabled people themselves.

Coming back to the inclusive disaster intervention, one interesting ICT-tool proposed by the report for collecting information on vulnerable communities is the KoBo-Toolbox, which was developed by the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative and co-funded by many international organizations. 


The advantage is that information can be both shared and stored and questions, for example to identify the disabled population (if data is not available yet), can be based on existing questionnaires such as The Washington Group Short Set of Questions on Disability, but also edited based on users’ necessities.

We all know that there are a lot of downsides to ICTs in development interventions as discussed before and whether they can be properly used in humanitarian interventions depends on connectivity, power supply and accessibility of such devises, but many of the apps and technologies work on tablets, phones etc. Devices that should be familiar and accesible to many of the aid workers.

Connecting the different points raised by this post, ICTs could additionally become an interesting and supportive tool if international interventions need to be adapted to certain governments becoming more restrictive in the future. Here, ICTs that could be sent to disaster hit places or implemented beforehand, in the form of easily accessible and implementable apps or programs, might become feasible tools, especially for creating disability inclusive interventions. Although it seems as if this kind of possible future developments closes down many options for international intervention, it also provides new opportunities for the cooperation among international and local partners guided by the latter and the impact ICTs could have in transferring knowledge, but also in exchanging data from the disaster-site to international donor organisations as it can be done through the KoBo Toolbox and other tools.

 If you are interested in obtaining more information about the KoBo-Toolbox, there are several examples of its implementation on the KoBo Toolbox webpage

written by JW


One Reply to “Humanitarian Intervention and ICTs in Indonesia”

  1. Hi JW, thanks for this excellent blog series! Having also written recently about how international aid organisations are working with local organisations in the Philippines, I was excited to read your take on this issue in a neighbouring country, and from the angle of disability rights.

    I appreciated your take on the struggle international aid organisations faced in entering Indonesia to carry out humanitarian interventions, and how the view of the government – that they would essentially get in the way – clashes with the established view that western aid would be a necessarily positive thing in the wake of a natural disaster.

    We have both written about the A’s of ICT4D – availability, accessibility and affordability – I think we can clearly see that in this instance, the 4th ‘A’: awareness is of utmost importance for ensuring the rights and inclusion of disabled people are protected. A lack of reliable data on the specialised need of disabled people in

    This is a really eye-opening piece, and I am heartened to see that tools such as the KoBo Toolbox are being developed to tackle the many issues you have raised here.

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