University of Wollongong researchers who are mapping monsoon season flooding in densely populated Jakarta have been granted rare access to a smorgasbord of data held by the microblogging behemoth Twitter.
The UOW bid was one of six chosen worldwide from a field of 1300 proposals under Twitter's #DataGrant program.
Selection allows the UOW team to mine two years' worth of Jakartan tweets for references to "banjir" - the Indonesian word for flood.
The results will be compiled to create a comprehensive flood map, to be replicated over the years using real-time monitoring of Twitter, to potentially drive the city's response to flood events.
Dr Tomas Holderness, a Geomatics Research Fellow at UOW's SMART Infrastructure Facility and one half of the main investigative team behind the research project, called PetaJakarta, said the grant amounted to a two-year head start.
"In megacities in South-East Asia, which are facing intense rainfall and rising sea levels from climate change, there simply isn't enough data at the moment to help us properly model and understand flooding in those urban environments," Dr Holderness said.
"There aren't enough rain gauges and there aren't enough river gauges ... and that's where we think social media can help."
The UOW team will use software developed in-house, called CogniCity, to trawl the data and extract references to flooding.