Contact tracing

Beyond contact tracing: How Singapore’s Open Government Products Team is using communication technology to solve real-world problems


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    Su-Ren Neo
  • Sep 03, 2020
TLDR

Open Government Products (OGP), an experimental product team at GovTech Singapore, knows the value of clear communication better than most: they literally build it. In this post, explore how their contact tracing strategies inform best communication practices.

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The use of contact tracing to stop the spread of a disease has been around for centuries. It’s recently gained traction again with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Perhaps you’ve seen some small efforts of its use in your own neighborhood—a table with a sign up sheet at your local coffee shop where you can voluntarily leave your name and number; an option to sign up for text alerts at the bottom of your grocery receipt. Or in Singapore, where you would scan a QR code to submit an online form to check in and out of the location.

On a broader scale, contact tracing is a method used by public health departments to contain the spread of disease. For COVID-19 specifically, public health workers are using contact tracing to not only find those who have been exposed to the coronavirus, but also disseminate valuable medical information to the greater public and provide recommended next steps to those affected, such as testing and self-quarantining.

Communication has always played a huge part in the success of contact tracing, but with the help of technology, businesses are finding new and inventive ways to use communication tech to help stop the spread of the virus.

Government agencies like GovTech Singapore are at the core of these innovative efforts. The TraceTogether and SafeEntry teams at GovTech Singapore have modernized contact tracing with technology to curb the spread of pandemic with great success. Using digital transformation and communication technology, these teams and others at GovTech Singapore are helping facilitate the way the Singapore government is interacting with its citizens during COVID-19.

Solving real world problems with communication technology

Open Government Products (OGP), an experimental product team at GovTech Singapore, knows the value of clear communication better than most: they literally build it.

As one of the teams responsible for helping to digitize the Singapore government, OGP has released several platform solutions to aid with everything from digitizing forms, distributing masks, to sending mass message notifications.

Their goal is clear: design, implement, and distribute technological solutions to real world problems using data to determine best practices.

For COVID-19, this means building the infrastructure to deliver fast, accurate, trustworthy communication to multiple large communities in Singapore.

Doing so requires small product teams that work quickly to develop simple, well-designed digital solutions that are easy to use by both public officers and the community. Let’s explore how they accomplish these communication goals with the solutions below.

Postman

  • What: Postman is a user-friendly, custom-built tool that allows any agency to send mass ad-hoc SMS or email messages to specific communities.

  • Why: Postman enables the Singapore government to share daily updates to citizens regarding new COVID-19 cases, safe distancing measures, and other important information through their Gov.sg channel (WhatsApp). 1-2 million messages are sent a day to over 650k people. This not only helps inform citizens but also enables transparency and prevents the spread of misinformation with a central authority dispensing COVID-19 news.

Learn more about how to build a contact tracing text messaging strategy in your community.

Homer

  • What: Homer is a compliance reporting tool for COVID-19 Stay Home Notice and Leave of Absence quarantine programs that has monitored more than 300k users to date. Homer submits users' current location to authorities at intervals throughout the day to ensure compliance with COVID-19 measures.

  • Why: Singapore citizens who’ve been exposed to COVID-19 are required by law to report their current location to the appropriate agency. Homer makes this quarantine reporting easy for both parties.

Isomer

  • What: Isomer is a static site builder that reduces the production time from content creation to information dissemination to Singapore citizens.

  • Why: Using this time-saving tool, agencies and government entities were able to quickly launch sites like covid.gobusiness.gov.sg (COVID-19 information for businesses and links to apply for exemptions and additional manpower) and sgunited.gov.sg (information on how to volunteer and donate and other government community efforts) in a matter of days.

AskGov artificial intelligence bot

  • What: An AI bot that quickly answers businesses’ common COVID-19-related questions with better accuracy and provides an improved user experience and analytics.

  • Why: This self-service tool allows the Singapore government to more easily provide citizens with the information they need, enabling a more efficient and successful interaction between the public and the government.

Best practices: Communication as an essential tool in pandemic response

Through OGP’s innovative use of their communication technology channels, they’ve discovered communication tools like SMS can be used to curb the spread of the disease if the following best practices are implemented.

  1. Have a system for rapidly and accurately disseminating information: Shortening the content creation to content consumption cycles is a crucial element to distributing accurate and trustworthy information quickly.

  2. Be precise: When creating your own communication platforms, it is imperative to put an emphasis on clear language, transparency of information, and a defined call to action to cut down on fear and confusion, and give citizens a chance to educate themselves further with trustworthy external resources.

  3. Keep it simple: Consolidating information delivery on a few official channels helps build trust and authenticity.

Through their work, communication technology has proven to be a valuable asset in stopping the spread of COVID-19 and medical misinformation.

Hear directly from Open Government Product leaders and others, including leaders from Deloitte and GPNow, about their approach to contact tracing in this free webinar, available now. Learn more about contact tracing technology and visit our contact tracing page to learn about building similar solutions together.

Contact tracing

Learn more about building an effective contact tracing program.

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Su-Ren Neo

Su-Ren Neo is the Senior Director for Marketing, Asia Pacific and Japan at Twilio, where she and her team are responsible for driving Twilio’s marketing and brand strategy in the region. She brings 20+ years of experience in leading integrated marketing and brand development across technology, financial services, and telecommunications industries in global and regional capacities based in Asia and North America.