With an increase in daily cases of nearly 5,000 people, COVID-19 is a significant threat to the health and prosperity of every individual in Indonesia. Government and business players need to reflect on what they have learned from their efforts to survive the pandemic.
Through this article, I am writing on how information management and strategy can support government and businesses in reducing the pandemic spread. Pana and Zhang (2020) said that the identification of information and the development of an information ecosystem are imperative measures to tackle inaccurate information related to the pandemic, known as infodemics. The Ministry of Communication and Informatics (Kominfo) recorded 1,028 COVID-19 infodemics circulating in public until last August.
World Health Organization declares that infodemics support inappropriate health practices, mental health disorders, anxiety, and outbreak in society. The effects of infodemics are more concerning than the pandemic itself, as the issues are designed and spread with purposes (man-made pandemic). I believe that the infodemic agent is categorized into three main groups, those who benefit from creating inaccurate information, those who enjoy the presence of alternative opinion, and those who do not verify information due to certain limitation.
The first group is the creators who present alternative opinion (key opinion leaders). The alternative opinion is an enlightenment for the second group, the followers, who are tired of listening to mainstream information from the government. When the opinion is presented, the followers enjoy, trust, and spread the infodemic voluntarily. Until it finally reaches the third group who are the recipients, the people who may be affected by the pandemic because of the incorrect information they believe. If it is unsettling, the legal authorities will take action against the creators and followers of the infodemics. We certainly remember how musicians Anji and Jerinx had to deal with legal authorities, because of their role in creating infodemics.
Do legal authorities really need to do that? I don’t think so. Lawsuit should be avoided if the government understands the best method to manage information. Pana and Zhang considered that the government should be more determined in identifying infodemics. Assisted by experts, the government can conduct studies on the three subjects, the creators, followers, and recipients. The researchers must also study on how the Ministry of Health (Kemenkes), the COVID-19 Task Force, Kominfo, and related institutions manage and respond to the infodemics. In addition to the findings, study results should include recommendations of communication strategy and activities to be taken into account in reducing infodemics.
In a global pandemic, data is generated instantly from an unlimited source, so that all parties are equally responsible to perform an orchestration. In Indonesia, the term orchestration was introduced by Rhenald Kasali (2019) when he addressed the new business management model. Orchestration marks by a shift in the approach taken by companies in managing their resources and production chains. Orchestration no longer supports complete control over every aspects of the business but encourages companies to build an ecosystem to achieve their business targets. If orchestration is applied to overcome infodemics, the government should develop an ecosystem to disseminate accurate information with supports from various entities, including business players.
News about the COVID-19 that spread within 90 office buildings in Jakarta in early August is intriguing for many people. This case earned its title as an office cluster. Most companies probably managed to keep their name hidden from media coverage. However, this effort is not sufficient to maintain a good reputation and support a sustainable business goal. Ongoing discussions on social media revealed that many office building management and companies are not disclosing and reporting the number of employees diagnosed positive for COVID-19. This policy, of course, threatens a wider population.
Doorley and Garcia (2015) said that reputation is a result of performance that is well communicated by a company. Therefore, businesses need to be the creator of positive opinions and position their employees as followers. If a company can support the health and safety of employees as part of its ongoing sustainability commitment, employees will voluntarily become escalators for the company’s key messages. For instance, when the company has implemented health protocols in their workplace or supported employees to work from home, employees can share the safety measure taken by the company to its network. If only 100 companies with 30 employees each have this commitment, then at least 3,000 people would have a lower risk of being exposed to the pandemic.
With information management and implementation of sustainable principles, the company will be more confident in promoting its achievements to the stakeholders, such as the government, investors, partners, clients, and consumers. Sooner or later, the trust from stakeholders can improve its reputation. The company will also benefit from the reputation it has, as a sustainable business player, even in an economic downturn that attract potential investors. As an entity that has a very significant contribution to the economy, companies should manifest their commitment in reducing the unfavorable outcomes of the pandemic. I believe that if infodemic creators can use their network to influence public opinion, then government and business players would have the same opportunity.
Yoshi Dessiani, Consultant at Kiroyan Partners.
Source: Bisnis Indonesia, November 28, 2020, page 2.
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