To combat misinformation about Covid-19, Selangor Information Department’s ‘Info on Wheels’ initiative has been blasting messages via its mobile units in various languages and dialects.
Its director, Ali Suhaili, said apart from Bahasa Melayu, English, Mandarin and Tamil, the department has recorded messages in Indonesian, Burmese and Bengali.
“We have also recorded messages in other dialects and the languages of the Orang Asli like Mah Meri and Temuan,” said Ali, who hails from Sibu.
“Besides that, we have recorded messages in Javanese and the Banjar languages. It depends on where the unit is.
“We found that speaking to the residents in a language they understand, and are comfortable with, helps to get the message across.
“From the feedback we gathered, the people appreciated hearing the messages in their mother tongue. They better understood the instructions and restrictions.”
Ali said his officers “scouted” for talent near the department’s office in Bangi.
Once they found Indonesian, Myanmar and Bangladeshi workers who could understand and were fluent in Bahasa Melayu, officers from the department would speak to their employers to get permission to record their voices.
The foreign workers were given training before recording the messages. The information relayed were on the do’s and don’ts regarding Covid-19, and information on vaccination.
Ali said JPS also used dangdut to get the messages across.
“We’ve had a request from those in the Enhanced Movement Control Order areas to play some entertaining songs.
“It was not just for the frontliners on duty there, but also the people who were stuck and had nowhere to go,” he said.
“The response was good. That was when we decided to change the lyrics to help spread the message.
“It can be monotonous, hearing the same thing, over and over again. So, we decided on a catchy way of informing and educating the public about the dangers of Covid-19.”
Ali said in the past 18 months, the department had changed how it worked while many department staff had volunteered at vaccination centres, besides sharing information on where residents could get free swab tests
It also cut down on sending out traditional pamphlets, and has relied more on its mobile units, social media, and new technologies to disseminate information.
“In the early days of Covid-19, we still went to the ground to organise events,” said Ali.
“But with the safety of the staff and residents our priority, it is best to use technology, which is a great enabler. We will wait until everyone is fully vaccinated before going ahead with other programmes.”