Can a Covid-19 tracing app save Indonesia?

Something has to be done to get this virus under control. Technology may be the best answer.

Can a Covid-19 tracing app save Indonesia? Photo: Unsplash

Contact tracing is part of a comprehensive strategy recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) to break the chain of the novel coronavirus pandemic. The WHO says contact tracing is effective if it is applied systematically and in a timely manner, as an infected person might be asymptomatic. Because manual contact tracing takes time and might contribute to slow responses considering the rapid infection rate of Covid-19, the Indonesian government has promoted a tech-based tracing app as a weapon in the fight. “I want (a more) aggressive tracking measures to be put in place. It should be conducted more aggressively by utilizing telecommunication technology instead of resorting to conventional measures,” President Joko Widodo said during a virtual cabinet meeting a few months ago.

The answer? An Indonesian government-sponsored tracing app, PeduliLindungi.

PeduliLindungi is an android-based mobile application developed by the Indonesian government to mitigate the spread of Covid-19, which this week saw the capital Jakarta re-impose large-scale social restrictions. The application relies on the willingness of the public to share their current health condition and make it available to be tracked using global positioning system (GPS) and Bluetooth technology. In short, the way it works is by giving users notifications every time they are in a “red zone.” This way, the government hopes people are notified and alarmed so they will not engage in unnecessary travel or activities from which they can contract and spread the virus.

However, with the recent increasing level of infection and cases of Covid-19, we see that applications with tracking features alone are not enough. The system must be integrated with health services, both for people with Covid and other diseases, such as what is being done in other countries including Singapore and Israel. Over time, the government releases updates regarding the app and its security. They also released new features that integrated the app with other applications regarding health so that users can get connected with doctors or hospitals for additional treatment as needed. With faster updates on bugs and features, we can see this app used as a standard for mitigating the risk of spreading the virus if appropriately regulated.

To deal with the “new normal” and uncertainty with when the pandemic will end, app features that are able to accommodate the needs of the government and the community are needed. Going forward, the combination of GPS technology, with artificial intelligence analysis, can provide wider use and functionality. Through artificial intelligence analysis of data collected on a user’s travel history, the Indonesian government can predict new cases.

With cases spiking in some region of Indonesia, contact tracing is far more difficult.


With cases spiking in some regions across Indonesia, contact tracing is far more difficult. In some countries, legislation has been passed to allow governments to track the mobile phone data of people with suspected infections. With regulations and cooperation, we can impose the usage of this app. PeduliLindungi is a great opportunity.

Dyah Indrapati, Faidah Mardika, Febriadi Pratama, Rizky Aryan and Yulita Muspitasari are post-graduate students at the School of Government and Public Policy - Indonesia.

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