LGUs Expand COVID-19 Info Dissemination With Smart Infocast
This week, the people of Dumanjug, a third-class municipality in Cebu, received this message on their Smart mobile phones:
“As of April 28, 2020, sixty four (64) Persons Under Monitoring (PUM) with history of travel from Cebu City, Mandaue Ctiy and Lapu-Lapu City. All are undergoing 14-day quarantine. #STAYATHOME #KOOPERASYON #PARTISIPASYON #PAGPAKABANA #ILOVEDUMANJUG. This is a free message.”
The message came from the municipal government of this town of around 51,000 people. To enhance their town’s COVID-19 response, the local government has been using a web-based SMS platform to send out updates via text broadcasts to keep their residents informed about the pandemic situation. To further boost the town’s efforts at curbing the spread of the virus, Dumanjug is now using the same platform to collect COVID-19-related feedback and reports from their residents as well.
Called Smart Infocast, the web-based service powered by PLDT wireless arm Smart Communications, Inc. (Smart) is a text message broadcast solution can send out several short message service (SMS) alerts to a specific group of people as defined by designated users. It has been initially used by inter-agency task force groups and local government units (LGUs) to broadcast text updates to officials and employees, health workers, and barangay and police authorities.
“Smart Infocast has been helpful in broadcasting our COVID-19 efforts, particularly for the LGU’s COVID-19 surveillance, where we inform our people about our PUMs and their status,” said Lolito J. Bontigao Jr. of Dumanjug’s Public Information Office.
Because the system can deliver immediate messages to a large number of predetermined recipients, LGUs responding to the COVID-19 emergency are now also able to send out news broadcasts, official announcements, and other critical information about COVID-19 to their residents through the service, enhancing the LGU’s information dissemination capabilities.
Smart Infocast also allows registered subscribers to send reports or feedback to the system administrator. In Dumanjug, the local government is asking its residents to report via Infocast persons coming from outside Dumanjug, particularly from areas with existing COVID-19 cases, as part of their municipality’s efforts at curbing the spread of the disease.
“We also have a feedback system called ‘I-report ang Bag-ong Naabot’ (Report New Arrivals), where they could provide through Infocast information about persons arriving from outside their barangays, so that they can be immediately assisted by their Barangay Health Emergency Response Teams,” added Bontigao, who is also Infocast administrator for Dumanjug.
Hand-in-hand with social media
Outside of Dumanjug, in the towns of Madridejos in Cebu and Ubay in Bohol, the local government has likewise been actively encouraging residents on Facebook to register their numbers in order to receive regular COVID-19 developments via text message.
In the University of Cebu-Banilad Campus, the university’s student affairs unit has been using Infocast to help its students amid the COVID-19 emergency. “In line with the initiative to help our stranded students, the office would like to know whether you are living with your relatives in CC or in your rented rooms,” the broadcast reads.
Meanwhile, in Mati City, the LGU has been using Infocast to remind residents to use social media responsibly. “Iwasan nato ang magpost sa social media ug unverified cases sama sa mga fake news kay kini magkaresulta ug panic sa katawhan (Please refrain from posting unverified information and fake news on social media, because this would cause panic among people),” one broadcast reads.
In Baguio City, the local Public Information Office has been using Smart Infocast to broadcast programs, health advisories and efforts of the city against COVID-19, particularly to Baguio City’s barangay captains.
“The Smart Infocast system is of great help to the city in its relentless information and education campaign against the COVID-19 menace. Together, we will heal as one,” said Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong.
Smart Infocast is also available in the cities and towns of Cagayan De Oro in Misamis Oriental, Digos, and Zamboanga, in Mindanao; Batuan, Pitogo and Carlos P. Garcia in Bohol, Danao, Bantayan, Sta Fe, Lapu-Lapu and Brgy Tisa in Cebu in the Visayas; as well as in the Northern Mindanao provinces, and the provinces of Batangas, Albay, Sorsogon, Catanduanes, Surigao del Norte and Basilan, among others.