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,
Spatial Information & Mapping Centre,
SIM-Centre, BRR NAD Nias,
Jl. Muhammad Thaher no.20,
Lueng Bata, Banda Aceh 23247,
NGIS, 47 Burswood Rd,
Burswood, WA 6100,
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:
2. Recovery – Bureau of Reconstruction & Rehabilitation (BRR)
- 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.
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
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
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
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:
- Provide access to spatial data easily and quickly
- Promote the utilization and integration of spatial data to support decision
- 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
Some of the activities supported by the Consortium include:
3.5 GIS Centres at Kabupatan
- 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.
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.