About the launch and operation of coronavirus2020.kz website in Kazakhstan
16 September 2020

About the launch and operation of coronavirus2020.kz website in Kazakhstan

Nur-Sultan, September 16 (KAZINFORM) – In light of the spread of coronavirus in the Republic of Kazakhstan coronavirus2020.kz website was created. We managed to talk with the chief coordinator of the above-mentioned website, Deputy CEO of "Kazinform" International News Agency Makazhan Shaiken. — In Kazakhstan such project as coronavirus2020.kz website has been launched by "Kazinform" International News Agency and is successfully operating. You were directly involved in it as a coordinator. Please tell us about the launch of the project, when and how was it? Who was the initiator of the project? — The initiator of the project was the Ministry of Information and Social Development of the Republic of Kazakhstan. Moreover, this initiative was supported at the highest level. The Head of State Kassym-Jomart Tokayev several times in his speeches to the citizens of the country spoke about the need to provide prompt and reliable information through specially created coronavirus2020.kz website. On his behalf, the Communication Center was formed in our country, which included representatives of a number of subordinate structures of the Ministry of Information and Social Development of the Republic of Kazakhstan and communication services of the Health Ministry of the Republic of Kazakhstan. As part of one of work areas of this center, coronavirus2020.kz website was launched, created literally for 10 hours by the technical and human resources of “Kazinform” International News Agency. In the future, the agency took upon itself all the work on the content filling. It was mid-March. Later, on the basis of the website, the service on citizen appeals regarding pandemic issues was created. We are also coordinating this work by interacting with government agencies, preparing and publishing answers to citizens' questions. — What is the structure of the website, which sections were loaded mostly and why? — We relied, of course, on international experience and the information needs of our citizens. Thus, we started publishing information including recommendations on treatment, information on statistics, block of hard news, and refuting fake news. At the initial stage of the spread of coronavirus infection, citizens did not even know about this disease (even about the main symptoms). In this regard, the emphasis in the work was made on explanatory and informational content. Various tools for its promotion were involved — videos, infographics, visuals. Later, we analyzed the main issues that interest citizens (also on the basis of monitoring social networks), formed important ones, and, together with the Health Ministry of the Republic of Kazakhstan, prepared the corresponding answers, which were published on the website as well. Subsequently, those questions and answers were updated in course of development of the situation. During the state of emergency declared in the country, as well as periodic lockdowns, the website became the main source of official information from government agencies. The rules of conduct in an emergency mode, measures of state support for socially unprotected segments of the population, persons who have temporarily lost their income, small and medium-sized businesses, decisions of the Chief State Sanitary Doctor and much more — could be found on our website in the "Official News" block. Also, the website has become the main platform for obtaining statistical information. New cases, recovery and deaths are updated on a regular basis. In this case, the data is provided in the context of regions. Any crisis situation, as you know, gives rise to the spread of rumors and false information. In order to prevent the spread, the news block based on the news feed of “Kazinform” agency and a fact-checking section were formed. All rubrics were equally involved. It is worth mentioning additionally that the website provides a live broadcast of all key briefings of government officials on coronavirus issues. — How was the analysis of the main issues concerning citizens carried out? — We didn't reinvent the wheel. Our experts analyzed the existing experience of creating and maintaining special websites on coronavirus in other countries, looked at what they focus on there. At the same time, social networks were monitored (here we were supported by colleagues from the Communication Center), the information needs of our citizens were studied, on the basis of which the content policy of the website was already formed. — Regarding multimedia materials, were they created for “Kazinform” agency or specifically for the coronavirus website? The question arose due to the fact that coronavirus2020.kz is still a “Kazinform” project. — "Kazinform" International News Agency is currently positioned as a holding that accumulates the work of 9 Internet projects that closely cooperate with each other. The resources of all projects were involved in the work on coronavirus2020.kz website. And we didn't really divide information materials between them. You must admit, that during a pandemic there is no time for internal competition. Meanwhile, for promoting coronavirus2020.kz website and creating its own original image the efforts were made to develop unique content under a single brand (logo). It was made directly by the professional resources of the entire agency. There were cases when the same memo on coronavirus was designed in three or four types for coronavirus2020.kz website and for other projects of the company. It is worth noting that support in the formation of the content was provided by the World Health Organization, the Ministry of Information and Social Development of the Republic of Kazakhstan (information materials of other subordinate structures) and the Health Ministry of the Republic of Kazakhstan. — Coronavirus2020.kz website acted as a reliable source of information on coronavirus in Kazakhstan, which was especially important during lockdown. How did the people of Kazakhstan become aware of the reliability of this website? Has the website been promoted, and if so, through what channels? — As I noted above, the top leadership of the country acted as the main locomotive of promotion, when the President of Kazakhstan announced that this website is the official source where all relevant and reliable information is published. Besides, the website was mentioned by the Minister of Information and Social Development, the Health Minister, which also served positively for the formation of its image among the public. We focus specifically on the accuracy of information, all information coming to the website is information from government agencies and recognized experts. If we talk about the technical side of promotion, then all the relevant tools for this work were involved. — "Kazinform" International News Agency is the state information agency of Kazakhstan, therefore, it is subordinate to the Ministry of Information and Social Development of the Republic of Kazakhstan. What is the role of the given ministry in maintaining and operating the website? — The Ministry supports us comprehensively. Firstly, additional funding was allocated for the technical and content support of the website. Secondly, support with content is provided through other subordinate structures, especially with regard to video materials. And thirdly, the Ministry supports us in matters of interaction with government agencies in terms of obtaining information — both with central government agencies and akimats, also when coordinating work with the service for citizen appeals. Thus, support has always been provided and is being provided. — The project was launched in two languages — Kazakh and Russian. Surely, this is due to the specifics of presenting news and information in Kazakhstan in two above-mentioned languages. Why was there no coverage in English? — Initially, it was the need to provide information for the citizens of Kazakhstan about the situation in the country. Therefore, it was decided to run the website in two languages. At the same time, foreign citizens in our country and abroad could receive information from the English-language version of “Kazinform” agency. I would like to note that the service for citizen appeals received questions in English, and the answers to them were posted in the language of the appeal. — How did you recruit the staff? Were there any problems with human resources? — The staff was practically not recruited — the website does not have a separate editorial staff. All personnel involved are “Kazinform” staff members, who have received an additional burden. We hired only three designers who are working specifically on the production of visual content. — What difficulties did you have in the work on coronavirus2020.kz website? — At the beginning, there were not enough hands, each employee involved had and has his own responsibilities. It was very difficult to hire someone else and load with overtime work, so it was necessary to find a way out and solutions in order to motivate employees somehow, because the work was around the clock. For example, information about new cases of the disease was received in the morning, during the day and at night, not to mention weekends. At the same time, all this work was coordinated at a distance, which was probably the biggest difficulty. But, in general, we overcame those difficulties. Each employee involved has an understanding that this is an important matter for the country, for the situation in the fight against the pandemic. This understanding helped to reach a comfortable pace of work for us, comfortable interactions within the team, which we still use today. — Work on the website in connection with the continuing turbulent situation in the country, although with a significant shift for the better (the number of reported cases and deaths has decreased, according to the current statistics) continues, despite the fact that the staff members started working from the office. How? — At a distance, we have developed clear algorithms for interaction within our team, as well as with representatives of authorized government agencies. Communication was maintained through mobile devices and messengers. Now, having returned to work in the office and having huge background behind us, it is even easier to build communications. Everyone is responsible for their own area of work and continues to do it successfully. — And, finally, who would you like to thank? What conclusions have been drawn? — First of all, I would like to express my gratitude to our main curator in the person of the Ministry of Information and Social Development of the Republic of Kazakhstan for the comprehensive support, colleagues from the Health Ministry and the Communication Center. Well, and secondly, although it is not inferior in importance to the first one, thanks to the entire “Kazinform” team, both the creative block and the technical one, that deal with the website, the telegram channel (the largest one in Kazakhstan) for their commitment to this work and responsibility. — Thank you very much for the interview! Interviewed by Malika Mursalimova