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Don’t go home for the holidays (Eid al-Fitr) — Results from a Covid-19 trial in Java, Indonesia

Jabar Digital Service
Jun 5 · 4 min read
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Mudik (homecoming) illustration. Photo: Getty Images

Every year, to celebrate Eid al-Fitr, the end of Ramadan, millions of Indonesians travel to their hometowns, often from high-density cities to small towns and villages, in a tradition known as mudik. Unfortunately, cities are also hotspots for Covid-19 transmission, and this mass migration risks spreading the disease all over Indonesia, including to rural villages so far less affected by and ill-equipped to deal with an outbreak.

Mudik has already been banned by the Government of Indonesia but many still try to leave the cities, some even by hiding in trucks and bus trunks. The Jabar Digital Service (JDS) partnered with the Behavioural Insights Team (BIT) to develop and test posters to encourage people to comply with the mudik ban.

JDS and BIT developed two posters to test against an existing poster currently used by the Jabar Transportation Agency. Both posters included three key facts about the coronavirus: (i) you can be sick even if you do not show symptoms; (ii) you might pass the virus on even if you do not show symptoms, and; (iii) older people are more likely to fall very ill or die from the virus.

  • The first poster (Virtual Eid) offers a substitute behaviour for mudik by suggesting that people should celebrate Eid al-Fitr (typically associated with family reunions and asking for forgiveness from family members) virtually. (Text: “Forgive each other and share love, not the virus. You can celebrate Eid al-Fitr together and forgive virtually.”)
  • The second poster (Virus Carrier) warns people that they may be carrying the virus back to their family if they mudik. (“The virus travels with you. Don’t be a virus carrier for your family.”)
  • We compared these two posters against a poster by the Transportation Agency, which had a large “#JanganMudik” (#Don’tMudik) headline and smaller accompanying text. (“Stay #athomeonly so that everything can improve quickly. Stop spreading the coronavirus!”)
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Left: Virtual Eid; Middle: Virus Carrier; Right: Don’t Mudik.

To find out which was the most effective poster, we ran an online experiment using BIT’s Predictiv platform with 2,804 adults living on the island of Java. Participants were allocated randomly to see one of the three designs (Transport Agency, Virtual Eid, or Virus Carrier). After taking as much time as they wished to look at the poster, they were tested (on the following pages) on:

  1. How well they recalled the main message (“Don’t mudik”);
  2. Their knowledge of the coronavirus and perceptions of how likely it is to spread;
  3. Their intentions to participate in certain behaviours over Eid al-Fitr (including mudik, praying at the mosque, praying at home, and visiting friends or family), and;
  4. Their sentiments about the poster (such as whether they thought the poster was trustworthy, easy to understand or convincing)

We found that each poster performed best on different outcomes.

  • The simple Don’t Mudik poster from the Transport AgencyMinistry was the best poster for getting people to recall the main action, but was weakest on sentiment and knowledge about coronavirus. Having a single, simple action as a large headline pays off, although potentially at the expense of other information.
  • People who saw the Virtual Eid poster were least likely to report intending to do risky activities for Eid al-Fitr such as visiting friends and family or praying at the mosque; however people were also less likely to say that this poster was easy to understand. Interestingly, this poster performed better among people over the age of 40.
  • The Virus Carrier poster was rated as especially trustworthy and easy to understand, and generally did well on all measures. Compared to the Virtual Eid poster, this poster performed better among younger people.

Given the better performance of the Virus Carrier and Virtual Eid posters across a wider range of outcomes, we suggested that these two posters be carried forward after making some refinements based on the simpler Don’t Mudik poster.

JDS published an updated version of the Virus Carrier poster shortly after the results were available, where the call to action (“#TidakMudik”, or #NoMudik) was made more prominent. They also did the same with the Virtual Eid poster, in addition to shortening and simplifying the text to make it easier to understand.

JDS and BIT are now collaborating to apply a behavioural insights approach — consisting of diagnostic work to understand the behavioural barriers, designing interventions and testing their impact on the target behaviour as rigorously as possible — to other Covid-19 related behavioural challenges, such as encouraging village administrations and community unit heads to use JDS’ public service app Sapawarga to verify the data of social assistance beneficiaries.

Jabar Digital Service

Written by

Jabar Digital Service (JDS) is West Java’s digital and innovation team. We are ‘disrupting’ the province’s governance and public service with technology.

Jabar Digital Service

The West Java Government’s digital and innovation team. We ‘disrupt’ the province’s governance and public services with design and technology.

Jabar Digital Service

Written by

Jabar Digital Service (JDS) is West Java’s digital and innovation team. We are ‘disrupting’ the province’s governance and public service with technology.

Jabar Digital Service

The West Java Government’s digital and innovation team. We ‘disrupt’ the province’s governance and public services with design and technology.

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