SELANGKAH, MySejahtera and the Covid-19 pandemic

20 October 2020 by Dzulkefly Ahmad

Access to scientific journals today is virtually free where scientists are seen sharing their knowledge on the Covid-19 pandemic with anyone and everyone willing to read about it.

In contrast, political leaders are seemingly bent on hoarding potential vaccines for parochial national interests, unlike data scientists, who are opening up and sharing data and insights for the universal benefit of mankind.

How can Malaysia emulate this altruistic gesture in our national data management?

The amount of knowledge we have about the pandemic is equivalent to the data on Covid-19 cases collected every day. It would be unfortunate if this data, collected through public funding and resources, is not made available to other state agencies.

Inter-agency data sharing in Selangor and data on the cases in particular was vital in curbing the second wave of the virus. It was also thanks to the close cooperation and data sharing among the health ministry, National Security Council and operation centres of the Selangor government.

And now that we are facing the third wave of the pandemic, data sharing between federal and state agencies should resume. Otherwise, the state governments, Selangor in particular, will be navigating the crisis in the dark.

Another data lake that Selangor independently pioneered and created is the data lake of “healthy people” and their movements known as SELANGKAH, implemented on May 5.

It was created as a safety net that we can fall back on, should a case be detected (so that retrospective contact tracing can be carried out). As a crowdsourced data lake, SELANGKAH is a community-driven digital tracing platform of epic proportions.

People think that the platform was solely built by the state government. It is in fact built by every bit of data shared by citizens. It works and remains to be the key strength of Selangor in keeping Covid-19 infections in check. People are kept informed, businesses are notified and customer confidence is virtually restored.

The health ministry followed through with our QR-based recipe and introduced MySejahtera check-in a month later on June 2. Putrajaya further mandated the use of the MySejahtera application for all businesses nationwide. Two months down the road and a number of local transmissions later, a cursory look into social media platforms sees citizens casting their doubts on how the application benefits the citizens.

People are losing trust in crowdsourcing their data and this is an unfortunate development. The public campaign and movement we started in Selangor to educate people on the importance of leaving their contact details through QR scanning has dissipated along with public confidence.

As no one person or party has the complete knowledge on how to properly utilise the accumulated data to combat the effects of the pandemic, it is all the more reason to have various interested parties and expertise collaborating with one another in the spirit of #DemiNegara.