Covid-19: Use app to help urban poor get emergency support, suggests Think City

Think City stressed the need to introduce an emergency Covid-19 support programme to target the urban poor that it said is largely concentrated in public housing projects. ― Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri
Think City stressed the need to introduce an emergency Covid-19 support programme to target the urban poor that it said is largely concentrated in public housing projects. ― Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri

KUALA LUMPUR, April 1 — Malaysia can roll out targeted emergency aid to the poor in urban areas by using an app amid the Covid-19 outbreak, urban regeneration outfit Think City has suggested.

Think City noted that vulnerable communities in the country face greater risks from the Covid-19 outbreak, noting that such communities include the elderly who face higher fatality risks, and an estimated 2.8 million B40 or low-income households where many may face greater likelihood of losing their jobs besides also tending to have other situations such as malnutrition, chronic diseases and living in high-density housing.

Think City stressed the need to introduce an emergency Covid-19 support programme to target the urban poor that it said is largely concentrated in public housing projects, while also highlighting that over 1.7 million or 65 per cent of Malaysia’s total public housing population are in Selangor and Kuala Lumpur.

“This population is also most highly vulnerable to the health, social and economic impact of the Covid-19 crisis.

“These public housing communities are already living in stressful conditions — the added strain of the Covid-19 crisis may push people to despair and spark social unrest.

“Therefore we need to urgently implement a targeted program for this important social group. We utilise a social targeting tool through a digital platform to ensure that vulnerable groups get the support that they need,” it suggested in its 32-page guide dated March 27 and titled “Covid-19 crisis: Preserving Lives and Livelihoods — A Guide for Malaysian Policymakers”.

In a visual illustration of how the Malaysian government can provide targeted aid to the urban poor, Think City showed how an app theoretically could be used with online verification using identity card to create a digital identity, and with verification of the categories of aid that an individual is eligible for, as well as securing the app user’s access to emergency support in the form of vouchers, meals, essential items, medicine or cash.

Think City’s illustration of how an app can be used to ensure the urban poor gets targeted emergency support. — Screengrab from Think City’s ‘Covid-19 Crisis: Preserving Lives and Livelihoods — A Guide for Malaysian Policymakers’
Think City’s illustration of how an app can be used to ensure the urban poor gets targeted emergency support. — Screengrab from Think City’s ‘Covid-19 Crisis: Preserving Lives and Livelihoods — A Guide for Malaysian Policymakers’

What the Malaysian government needs to do

Think City suggested a “strong national approach” with a three-pronged management strategy to manage the pandemic; those affected; as well as the economy and the post-crisis impact.

Having said that Malaysia needs a 24-month emergency response plan to soften and manage the Covid-19 crisis besides preparing the nation for a world after the Covid-19 crisis, Think City also outlined these three management strategies.

On the strategy to manage the Covid-19 pandemic, Think City suggested a whole list of measures, such as identifying, testing and treating those infected early, providing trained and well-protected frontline personnel, resources and facilities, besides using the flatten the curve approach by enforcing a strategy to contain infections to prevent the healthcare system from being overwhelmed.

“Develop management plans for the next 12 to 18 months once infection rate is slowed down,” it suggested, while also proposing a single dedicated media and communications taskforce to provide coherent and coordinated information across all channels.

As for managing those affected, Think City recommended that assistance be provided to those who were displaced or were negatively impacted by measures to manage the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as aid in the form of cash transfers, support for loss of job and income including for those self-employed.

Think City also recommended for the continued provision of basic needs, public utilities and social services, as well as providing businesses with increased access to funding and government guarantees of bank loan extensions, and unblocking supply chains and having the government carry out strategic stockpiling of essential goods.

In Think City’s tips on how to manage the economy and the after-effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, it suggested that policymakers anticipate and mitigate the longer-term impact of decisions to manage the pandemic, and to address the expected mid-term and long-term global megatrends in a post-Covid-19 world.

“Manage unemployment. Prioritise generating growth. Improve regional cooperation to address similar crises in the future. Improve transparency and have regular effective communication,” it said.

Think City, which had stressed on the importance of clear communication by policymakers, also included this aspect in proposing six principles for Malaysia to respond to Covid-19.

Think City called these six principles the six ‘Cs’, namely coordinate, collaborate, calibrate, communicate, channel and celebrate.

Think City’s recommendations of the six ‘Cs’ or six key principles to manage Malaysia’s Covid-19 response. — Screengrab from Think City’s ‘Covid-19 Crisis: Preserving Lives and Livelihoods — A Guide for Malaysian Policymakers’
Think City’s recommendations of the six ‘Cs’ or six key principles to manage Malaysia’s Covid-19 response. — Screengrab from Think City’s ‘Covid-19 Crisis: Preserving Lives and Livelihoods — A Guide for Malaysian Policymakers’

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