Indonesian capital tweets to beat traffic chaos

Indonesian capital tweets to beat traffic chaos

JAKARTA - Fed up with spending hours stuck in the gridlocked Indonesian capital Jakarta, hundreds of thousands of social media-savvy commuters are tweeting to beat the traffic.

The threadbare public transport system in the capital of Southeast Asia's biggest economy, combined with growing spending power, has spawned vast numbers of motorists who are increasingly turning to Twitter to conquer jams.

Road users in Jakarta, the world's most active city in terms of posted tweets, are using the microblogging service to warn fellow travellers of traffic-choked roads or arrange car pooling.

Resorting to the web is an act of desperation for drivers in the megacity of 10 million, branded the world's most unpleasant place to commute in a 2011 survey by consultancy Frost and Sullivan.

Hendry Soelistyo was an early pioneer of online tools to tackle traffic in Jakarta, where commuters often spend up to five hours a day in a slow-moving sea of cars and motorbikes to get to work.

Four years ago the IT entrepreneur set up lewatmana.com, a website and associated Twitter account through which commuters can share real-time information about traffic conditions.

"Indonesians update their status on Facebook and Twitter all the time, so we thought, why not share information about traffic jams?" Soelistyo told AFP.

Lewatmana, which means "via where" in Indonesian, mainly provides information about jams, but also flags up flooded roads or areas affected by the city's frequent demonstrations.

The platform relies on its users as well as 100 CCTV cameras installed in office windows across the city to monitor traffic and send out pictures via Twitter.

The service, which fires out more than 14,000 tweets a month, has proved a hit and now has around 200,000 followers.

Another attempt to solve Jakarta's traffic woes through Twitter is a car-pooling community called Nebengers, which translates as "hitchhikers" and aims to reduce the number of vehicles in the city centre.

"Nebengers is like a virtual car terminal, where we can hitch a ride to go to school or the office," said founder Andreas Aditya Swasti, 27.

It is rare to give lifts to strangers in Indonesia but Nebengers has still drawn around 4,000 Twitter followers, with more than 400 people using the service every day to either get or give a lift.

People wishing to offer a seat in their car to others who share the same route put a message out two hours before the trip.

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