New Zealand news source RNZ featured Kiwi tech entrepreneur Alan Chew, whose best-known work is the NZ COVID Tracer app—which is basically the New Zealand version of MySejahtera.
In the feature, we also found out that Chew is Malaysian born, as pointed out by Senior Consultant Paediatrician Dr Amar Singh HSS.
The RNZ profile on Chew is extremely detailed, touching on how his father immigrated from Guangdong, China to Kuala Lumpur—where he met his mother. Chew remarked that growing up in his Malaysian village was “the happiest time of his life”, when thought he was “raised in abject poverty and deprivation”.
The article also touched on him leaving Malaysia to study in New Zealand. In 1979, he graduated from Waikato University with a Bachelor of Management Studies with Honours, majoring in accounting.
“My education was free and more than that, [I value] the free love that I get from people here. Malaysia was a dog-eat-dog society, probably because of its dense population. There are racial conflicts between one race and another. Compared to people in New Zealand, [this country] was a completely new world to me. It totally bowled me over when I came here and I always felt that I needed to thank New Zealand for that,” said Chew.
As businesses in New Zealand were affected by COVID-19, Chew’s company Houston Productivity Solutions created a simple contact tracing system, similar to what we have in Malaysia. He started working with his team in March 2020, just before the pandemic hit, and he helped devise the prototype for the tracing technology.
“We wanted contact tracing to be adopted rapidly. With the QR code, all you need is a piece of paper and all you need is a mobile phone,” said Chew.
Their first prototype of the app failed. However, Chew said he has “benefitted so much from New Zealand society and wanted to give back”.
Chew’s NZ COVID Tracer is a New Zealand’s Ministry of Health app. Apart from being able to scan QR codes at places New Zealanders visit, the app lets them use a ”digital diary”, which lets you add certain locations in case you forget to check in. There is also Bluetooth tracing, which allows users to create an anonymised record of the people they’ve been near.