Jakarta may have to learn from Bangalore, India, in using IT to empower scavengers to help ease the city's mounting garbage.
Prashant Mehra, the project manager of I Got Garbage at Mindtree IT services company, has developed a cloud-based mobile application that connects scavengers who offer their trash-picking services with households that need waste disposal and management services.
"A group of rag-pickers can register their group on our application. We then will provide them with one-day training on the dos and don'ts on doing their jobs, how to keep themselves safe [from dangerous substances in the garbage] and how to act politely with their clients," he told The Jakarta Post during the recent New Cities Summit. Each scavenger would be equipped with a uniform and an Android phone.
He added that residents who wished to use scavengers' services could connect with the closest workers after submitting their details and geolocation on the app.
"After that, they will enter into a service contract, which requires each house to pay around US$2 per month for the service. Each rag-picker can serve up to 200 houses."
Currently, in Bangalore where the application was first developed in 2013, around 6,500 scavengers have joined I Got Garbage and serve around 100,000 houses, lending a hand in managing the city's 6,000 tons of waste per day.
They had doubled their income from around $80 to $200 per month, said Mehra.
Besides providing waste disposal services, each scavenger would also teach the house's maid or family members how to separate their trash and organic kitchen waste during their first few visits. Meanwhile, non-organic waste would be taken to recycling centers where it would be sorted into 35 categories.
"By having the waste sorted, the value will be doubled," Mehra said, adding that from 50 recycling centers, the trash pickers could collectively offer around 50 tons of sorted garbage per day to big recycling companies.
Meanwhile, the Jakarta administration still has little idea on how to empower scavengers to help manage some 6,000 tons of garbage daily.
Last year, Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama said during his tenure as a deputy governor that manusia gerobak (pushcart people) were only pretending to be poor and dramatized their lives to get easy money.
Urban Poor Consortium head Wardah Hafidz said the city should involve manusia gerobak, who usually worked as scavengers, in waste management programs. "Many jobs related to waste management can be created in Jakarta, including trash collection, recycling and composting," she said.
Nowadays, some communities in residential areas use a bank sampah (waste bank system) where residents give their separated garbage to the waste bank in exchange for money. However, there are challenges in collecting a large amount of sorted recyclable garbage. The Maju Bersama waste bank in Penjaringan, North Jakarta, for example, can only collect 25 kilograms of plastic bottles per month.