Jakarta Aman uses social networking to improve neighborhood security

Jakarta Aman aims to become as well known in Indonesia as the 911 emergency number in America © Jakarta Aman

Backed by Jakarta’s provincial government and MDI Ventures, neighborhood security app Jakarta Aman seeks to reignite the “gotong royong” spirit to keep communities safe

Inspired by a shocking failed robbery in which six people held hostage in a suburban home in Jakarta suffocated to death, neighborhood security app Jakarta Aman, or Jakarta Safe, aims to harness social networking to improve community safety. 

In particular, the creators of the app want to revive the Indonesian tradition of “gotong royong,” when members of a community work together to achieve a common goal. Instances of such communal collaboration would include neighbors participating in working bees to clean up the streets, or joining forces to raise money for a local charity. For Jakarta Aman CEO and co-founder Muhammad Fardhan Khan, the fact that neighbors of the victims didn't realize something was amiss until more than a day later was a clear sign of the decline of the gotong royong spirit. 

“The concept of this application is to digitize the gotong royong, or neighborhood watch, spirit, particularly in big cities where people tend to be more individualistic,” Khan told CompassList in an interview. “Jakarta Aman's job is to unite the community so that people are driven to become 'agents of security', not only for their own family but also their surrounding environment.”

Together with Angga Tirta, David, who, like many Indonesians, goes by a single name, and Scorpio Satriyo, Khan established BuddyGuard in August 2017. The company was renamed Jakarta Aman in March 2019 after inking a partnership with the Jakarta Provincial Government and the city's Regional Disaster Management Agency (BPBD). Tirta heads business development while David is Vice-President.

The app is free to use, and the company has no plans yet to include paid ads. Last December, Jakarta Aman won $20,000 in prize money and support from state telco Telkom Indonesia at its startup competition, Telkom Indigo. Khan said Telkom's CVC arm, MDI Ventures, has also invested in the company. He declined to disclose the funding amount.

A complete safety suite

Jakarta Aman has several features designed to help people use social networking to improve public safety within targeted groups. Its main feature is an emergency tab that works like a panic button, which when pressed for three seconds connects the user to the government-operated 112 Jakarta Siaga emergency hotline. Users can also opt for this button to link to an emergency contact of their choice, such as a family member. 

There is also a group chat feature called Komunitas Aman (Safe Community) that is designed to connect neighbors around local safety issues and encourage them to find collective solutions. This feature could be especially useful during events such as a wildfire last year that razed 250 houses in the Jakarta neighborhood of Krukut. Khan said the impact of the fire could have been reduced if communication between residents had been better.  

A third feature enables users to lodge reports or complaints with the Jakata Aman office which forwards them to the appropriate authorities. Reports can be made under three categories: incident reports such as personal problems between neighbors or road maintenance, public service reports such as fire, accidents or crime, and online taxis where people can report disagreements with taxi drivers.   

The company also plans to launch Keluarga Aman (Safe Family) to enable family or household members to keep in touch with each other's current whereabouts. 

Building partnerships

But when the app was renamed Jakarta Aman, it lost many users, and the company resorted to running a series of promotional presentations in government offices and schools. 

“When it was BuddyGuard, the last count was at 18,000 users. Right now, our user count for Jakarta Aman is at 11,998 users,” Khan said. “We also routinely publish promotional materials and share success stories, tips and tricks content, and progress information through our Instagram account as well as public service ads made specifically with the Jakarta Regional Disaster Management Agency team."

Khan said Jakarta Aman hopes to expand to the 33 cities in Indonesia that use the 112 emergency number; most of the country's 34 provinces use different emergency numbers. He hopes that by working with the government, Jakarta Aman will play a key role in creating a safer environment.  

“Our hope is to be in synergy with all the emergency numbers around the country and make Jakarta Aman an all-encompassing national number like 911 is in America," he said. "A feeling of security among citizens is a basic need that must be facilitated by the government, so their system also needs to update itself accordingly with the times. 

“Current security systems should be something that promote connectivity, both between citizens and related security authorities, as well as within residents of the same environment.”

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Edited by Sophie Douez


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