Indonesian Youth Creates Technology to Predict the Spread of Forest Fires

The massive wildfires that have engulfed many countries, including Australia, recently have prompted students and young professionals from all over the world to seek solutions.

One of them is Tjia Johan Setiawan, 24, who works as a System Analyst in a manufacturing company in Jakarta.

Tjia Johan Setiawan was announced in July as the winner of the Predicting Fire Distribution competition held by global company EY.  (Courtesy: EY)

Tjia Johan Setiawan was announced in July as the winner of the Predicting Fire Distribution competition held by global company EY. (Courtesy: EY)

He studied NASA satellite data and images from the infrared Australian bushfires to predict the spread of the fire. A graduate of the Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB) majoring in Mechanical Engineering, he offers technology with a fuel phenology approach.

To Mouab, the man who is familiarly called Johan explained.

“Besides using fire data in the field, I can see how many trees or bushes were burned as fuel for the fire? So I can predict what the distribution will look like,” he said.

Two young Indonesians became the top 12 finalists for the 'Better Working World Data Challenge' competition, which was attended by 8,700 participants.  (Courtesy: EY.)

Two young Indonesians became the top 12 finalists for the ‘Better Working World Data Challenge’ competition, which was attended by 8,700 participants. (Courtesy: EY.)

Thanks to his innovative solution, Johan became the first winner of the ‘2021 Better Working World Data Challenge’ competition held by global company EY in March-June. The international contest was attended by more than 8,700 participants from 115 countries and 1,100 universities, said EY in a press release.

Johan beat the finalists from Singapore, Hungary, America, Ghana and Indonesia in the category ‘Predicting the Spread of Fire.’ He admitted his victory was very surprising.

“Because I didn’t think I was just learning, the background is also… yes, maybe there is a little background that can help me, but I’m not purely from IT and data science, so I didn’t expect to win at first,” said this former member of the ITB robotics team.

Johan refused to reveal the prize he received, but EY has announced that the winner of this competition is entitled to $10,000 or more than Rp140 million.

Will be Tried in Australia

The Deputy Chief of the Fire Authority in Victoria, Australia, Alen Slijepsevic, praised Johan’s idea.

Deputy Chief Fire Authority in Victoria, Australia, Alen Slijepsevic, speaks during the announcement of the winners of the 'Better Working World Data Challenge' competition in July.  (Courtesy: EY)

Deputy Chief Fire Authority in Victoria, Australia, Alen Slijepsevic, speaks during the announcement of the winners of the ‘Better Working World Data Challenge’ competition in July. (Courtesy: EY)

“This can make a big difference and we can quickly predict fires, adjust strategies and advise people to be safer,” he said at a virtual winner announcement event held in July.

In Australia, devastating bushfires killed at least 34 people, scorched 186,000 square kilometers of land and destroyed more than 3,000 homes during 2019-2020.

The official report on the tragedy warned that wildfires could be “more complicated, more unpredictable and more difficult to contain.”

Participants were challenged to develop a model that could help firefighters respond more effectively to forest fires, thereby saving lives and the environment.

EY said the solution selected from its contest would be trialled by the Australian fire authorities. And its intellectual property will be given away free of charge to fire authorities and other non-profit organizations around the world.

A fire near Bodalla, Australia, Sunday, January 12, 2020. (Photo: AP)

A fire near Bodalla, Australia, Sunday, January 12, 2020. (Photo: AP)

Taufiq Daryanto, Finalist from ITB

Another Indonesian youth who became a finalist was an ITB student majoring in Informatics Engineering, Taufiq Daryanto. He became one of six finalists in the same category as Johan, namely ‘Predicting the Spread of Fire.’

To FLY, this 21-year-old student explained the solution he offered.

ITB student Taufiq Husada Daryanto was one of the finalists of the 'Better Working World Data Challenge' competition.  (Courtesy: Taufiq Daryanto)

ITB student Taufiq Husada Daryanto was one of the finalists of the ‘Better Working World Data Challenge’ competition. (Courtesy: Taufiq Daryanto)

“By calculating the change in the radius of the burned area over time and then using that data to predict the area burned in the future.”

To be a finalist from thousands of participants in this international competition, Taufiq never imagined. Moreover, the field of data science is self-taught.

Final year student who is doing an internship at a start-up company (startup) shares tips for other students who want to study data science.

Resource to learn a lot of data science, from YouTube, online course, articles. Make the most of it. In addition to learning, hands-on practice, for example by participating in competitions,” said the man who is an apprentice at a technology company.

The two young Indonesians hoped that their contribution could help control forest fires, and save more lives and the environment in the future. Not only in Australia, but also abroad. [vm/em]

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