Bali uses the cloud to fight COVID-19 misinformation and save lives
The Indonesian island of Bali is best known as a spiritual haven replete with beaches, iconic temples, and terraced rice paddies. However, with 57 percent of Balinese workers relying on tourism for their livelihood, the island has been particularly hard hit during the COVID-19 pandemic as travel to the island froze and the beach resorts dotting the coast fell silent. The Bali State Government’s Bali One Data app, powered by the cloud, became a critical resource for the Balinese people to stay informed, connected, and safe during this difficult period.
In 2019, Bali State Government’s Communication, Information, and Statistics Agency of Bali (Diskominfos) worked with Amazon Web Services (AWS) to develop Bali One Data – a hub for the preparation of quality, accessible, integrated, and shareable data between government agencies at the provincial, regency, and city levels across the entire island of Bali. Diskominfos’s mission is to transform Bali into a smart island and to consolidate public services and data resources into a single aggregated management system, to help citizens maintain their livelihood, keep government workers and students productive as they work and learn remotely, and provide access to health information and services. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Bali One Data app has become a critical resource to help the government manage unforeseen circumstances and save lives.
Overcoming misinformation and saving lives with critical knowledge
The immediate priority for the Bali Provincial Government when the COVID-19 pandemic began was to fight misinformation and hoaxes about the pandemic that plagued Bali’s social media, villages, and schools. The government needed a way to provide citizens with credible and accurate health information to counter misinformation and help nurture the people’s trust in accessing accurate information around public services. To achieve this, Diskominfos set out to connect all of Bali’s villages with an app to provide public health services and accurate information.
“Citizen trust determines the success of government programs, especially during a pandemic, when hoaxes proliferate. Without trust, no government program will be effective, no matter how good it is. Educating the public to wisely filter misinformation helps us to effectively convey information, including information about government programs,” said Ngurah Udiyana, IT head of the Informatics Application, Communication, Informatics and Statistics Department in the Bali Provincial Government.
The pandemic rapidly stretched the island’s medical resources, and oxygen supply dwindled as COVID-19 cases peaked. Credible knowledge that could save lives became more valuable than ever. For example, the agency’s app approximates information like the demand for oxygen and when supplies will run low based on stock levels, the number of patients and oxygen demand, hospital bed availability, and oxygen storage capacity at each hospital. This helped the government allocate limited oxygen supplies to the hospitals that needed them most. The system was deployed on AWS in less than five days when COVID-19 cases peaked, which helped medical workers save lives.
“A few days after we got the application running, I received a direct message on my phone from a doctor, telling me our app does save lives, by getting the best information like availability of hospital beds or oxygen supply to patients who need urgent care,” said Ngurah.
Diskominfos also developed a queue system for public health services, which allows the Balinese people to choose an appropriate clinic and book an appointment online before leaving home, for greatest efficiency and safety. Built on AWS, the queue system saw a 50-fold daily increase in users of the app during the pandemic, including government workers, administrative villages, other government agencies, health facilities, and the public.
Going remote on the cloud
Remote working also presented a challenge — one the cloud helped to solve. As schools and offices were forced to close during the pandemic, remote learning and working became the island’s only safe option. Diskominfos used AWS machine learning (ML) technology to create a seamless digital identity verification through its online attendance application, allowing employees to remotely log their attendance at the beginning and the end of a work day. This removes the need for employees to spend time logging their locations and avoid overwhelming the agency’s attendance system with multiple employee logins at once.
All users are verified and receive communication through a notification system that enables developers to send mail from within any application. Initially, close to 11,000 employees from 247 offices and learning institutions used the new attendance system. That number scaled to almost 20,000 full-time and contract employees in August 2021. This new system also helps the state government calculate employee benefits and makes it easier for workers to request leave.
In rural Bali, Diskominfos is training village leaders in basic app usage to better manage their finances, which is crucial during a pandemic recession. Periodically, government authorities distribute funds to villages, and to help make village finances transparent and more efficient, Diskominfos developed an easy-to-use app called Sistem Keuangan Desa Adat (SIKUAT), or Cultural Villages’ Finance System. The SIKUAT app is currently used by 1,493 cultural villages around Bali, and allows village leaders to track and report spending and income, with a feature to easily upload receipts using a mobile device to make reporting easier. “The engaging and intuitive apps run smoothly on a resilient infrastructure with secure data protection,” said Ngurah.
Bali is renowned for its Zen approach to life, and the motivation behind the Smart Island Initiative is simple. “We must ensure that harmony between the three elements of nature, humankind, and culture is kept in balance,” said Ngurah. Using the cloud to achieve this not only makes Bali a smarter island, it helps the famously warm and hospitable Balinese people keep innovating and remain connected until the beach umbrellas open again.
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