23 July 2020 by Fiona Kessler
When the COVID-19 pandemic spread to Malaysia, Dr Helmi Zakaria was appointed to lead the Digital Epidemiology and Analytics portfolio of the ‘COVID-19 Selangor Task Force’, a dedicated task force established by the Menteri Besar of Selangor, as the state has the highest population density and runs the risk of large-scale outbreak.
Dr Helmi has launched two platforms: ACURA – a platform that analyses the levels of risk in the population and locations for COVID-19, and SELangkah – a digital tracking platform that utilises simple QR code technology.
As of now, around 6.1 million people in Klang Valley alone have registered for SELangkah, and it has been able to track a total of 227 COVID-19 positive patients.
“We’ve made the decision to make a digital log system that makes it simple to use QR technology. To put it simply, if you display a QR code in your store, when visitors step in, they scan the code and input their mobile phone numbers.
There’s no other sensitive information that is being stored. If it so happened that someone who visited the store got infected later, the health officer is able to use the data and trace visitors based on their time stamp,” said Dr Helmi.
When the people are given a digital option during this pandemic, it allows them to adapt quicker and respond better to the situation. SELangkah is not so much a story of innovation, but community collaboration – the most important component when it comes to nation building. The data crowdsourced from citizens empowers the Selangor Command Centre and the state healthcare arm to coordinate aid distribution and deploy community screening.
QR contact tracing not only helps healthcare workers, it also allows businesses to continue operations safely during the pandemic.
“Therefore, the rulers can decide the foundation of the law, but the “new normal” will be decided by the rakyat and their needs. This means that technology can be the new norm if it involves other norms. If the digital contact tracing can aid the restarting of the economy, opening of shops, and children going back to school – then I am of the opinion that the public can negotiate and take this as an alternative daily normal,” added Dr Helmi.