Citizen Data Initiative Shows Much Higher Indonesia COVID-19 Toll

A citizen-led data science campaign in Indonesia has uncovered almost three times more deaths from the coronavirus than the government tally, according to a report on The Telegraph.

The world’s fourth most populous nation in the world, Indonesia currently has the highest COVID-19 fatality rate in Asia. While the figures could be skewed by limited testing, many experts also think that the real number is likely to be much higher than the official 155,412 cases and 6,759 deaths.

A citizen initiative

Called LaporCOVID-19 or “Report COVID-19”, the citizen initiative is helmed by scientists and health experts. It uses a crowdsourcing approach to more accurately determinate the spread of the pandemic.

People can report suspected COVID-19 deaths via messaging platforms WhatsApp and Telegram, where the data is collected by software bots.

According to LaporCOVID-19, the number of COVID-related death to be at least 16,000 as of mid-August– as opposed to the 6,021 tabulated by the official tally.

“[From] the start, we believe this underreporting should be uncovered because that is what actually shows the magnitude of the pandemic. The data reflects the actual situation in the field. No data is hidden, and no data is manipulated,” said Dr Irma Hidayana.

Hidayana is a public health consultant and co-founder of the project, who accused the government of failing to be transparent.

There are various possible reasons for the stark discrepancy. For a start, the government-set target of 30,000 daily tests has not been met, while more than half of the tests were conducted in the capital of Jakarta – despite it containing a fraction of the country’s population.

Elsewhere, poor laboratory testing capacity, including a shortage of materials and staff also adds up, according to Atik Choirul Hidajah, head of the epidemiology department at Universitas Airlangga.

On its part, the project soured data from across the entire country. Data collected by the bot can be viewed here.

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