The role of technology and partnerships in Malaysia’s COVID response
The early days of the COVID-19 pandemic seem so distant right now as business activity and the economy start the long journey back to pre-pandemic levels.
During those days, consumers experienced a shortage of everything from bread, to toilet paper, to web cams, and other video conferencing tools. At some point even hand sanitisers and protective masks were in short supply. And yet, our brave first responders and medical healthcare workers were able to continue doing their jobs with required personal protective equipment (PPE).
This is thanks to bustling activity behind the scenes as the different relevant parties scrambled to identify resources and reallocate them to where they were required. These were to hospitals and clinics where doctors and nurses worked tirelessly to treat and save COVID patients.
But, essential industries also needed PPE to continue activities that kept grocery shelves stocked, vehicles in running order, and critical national infrastructure securely operating.
You may have heard of Malaysia’s vaccination management system (VMS) which was created to be able to track vaccines that were procured by the government. An oft-overlooked fact about it is that this system was built based on blockchain technology by MIMOS.
Another oft-overlooked fact is the close private-public partnerships that ensured vaccines and crucial protective gear were distributed to where they were needed.
Malaysia’s vaccine management app – from vial to arm to certification
MIMOS’ principal researcher Ng Ka Siong, explained, “The Ministry of Health (MOH) wants to have a way to track the utilisation of vaccines, so as to prevent its wastage and also prevent a vaccine black market.
“So, we proposed the use of blockchain to track the entire supply of vaccines from the time they are shipped into Malaysia. The system will generate a unique serial number printed into barcode form for each box of vaccine,” Ka Siong said.
Not only that, the supply and delivery of vaccines had to align with the appointments that the mobile app, MySejahtera, was receiving from the public as well as logging and managing these appointments.
The MySejahtera mobile app also contains vaccine certificates of vaccinated individuals, which can be presented as a QR code for entry into a premise or country.
The Ministry of Health (MOH) wants to have a way to track the utilisation of vaccines, so as to prevent its wastage and also prevent a vaccine black market.
This QR code is digitally signed by the Government of Malaysia and contains a private key with which there is a public key that is distributed to other countries for mutual recognition when the certificate bearer travels to these countries.
Ka Siong said, “You can bring our vaccine cert to many countries and you can be verified on the spot with that digitally signed QR code.”
There are two parts to the whole mechanism that enables all of this to happen. First Is the vaccine management system which manages the supply chain of the vaccine. “MySejahtera is front-facing the people and managing their appointments with the role of getting them to vaccination centres.”
The blockchain only holds personal data (for future reference) that is de-anonymised and could not be tied back to any one person’s identity.
Public-private partnerships and community spirit
In early August, during an ASEAN level Business Advisory Council webinar, Malaysian Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin described in his keynote, “One of the things that I stressed on when I came into the Ministry of Health is that the health ministries in all countries have a have duty not just to public health in the sense of hospitals and caring for people, but also the overall health of the country which includes economic activity, and people being able to freely go about their daily lives and contribute towards productivity.”
In this sense, a strong supportive community of agencies and private sector also took it upon themselves to ensure that lives and livelihoods were balanced by funnelling the essential resources and best practices to where they could deliver this impact.
Platforms to extend help
During a recent event when Motorola Solutions Malaysia celebrated its 50th anniversary in Malaysia, the organisation’s tireless COVID response efforts was also highlighted.
“Because of this CSR platform that existed even before COVID came, we had a better sense of what to do during a nationwide crisis. Responding to the COVID pandemic was natural and happened easily
Siobhan Das, CEO of the American Malaysian Chamber of Commerce (AMCHAM) commended how the Corporate Citizenship Committee (CCC) which Motorola-an, Solomon Lorthu was chairman of, really helped the AMCHAM platform along the lines of how to be better corporate citizens and execute better CSR.
“Because of this CSR platform that existed even before COVID came, we had a better sense of what to do during a nationswide crisis. Responding to the COVID pandemic was natural and happened easily,” said Siobhan.
Since the pandemic began, a total of RM7.2 million worth of PPE and in-kind resources were reallocated and mobilised to communities that could immediately use them.
Head of Motorola Solutions operations in Penang, Solomon Lorthu said, “AMCHAM is a nationwide organisation and (what’s involved) is not only American companies but the ecosystem that supports American companies — they were all involved in mobilising these resources.
Motorola Solutions Malaysia also worked with MITI (Ministry of International Trade and Industry) to set up PIKAS which is the government immunisation programme for employees in the manufacturing sector.
Companies in critical manufacturing sub-sectors including electrical and electronics, food processing, iron and steel, medical devices, personal protective equipment (PPE), oil and gas and rubber products were prioritised for vaccination, which is the programme’s objective.