How Tech is helping Nigeria with the fight against the Ebola virus
Category : Technology
The Ebola virus, one scary phrase that has put a lot of people on the edge lately. The spread of the virus in neighboring African countries including our very own Nigeria cast so much doubtful shadows, introduced quite a number of misconceptions, and should I say some crazy rumors about its cure.
When this menace started, I kept saying to myself, “what are government health and disease control institutions doing to raise awareness and further stop the growing ignorance and rumors.
And the only way they could so this successfully and proactively, would be to use the power of technology to reach a large mass of people. This is not just to provide the right information but to do so in a way that it’s easily accessible and can be easily understood. therefore here is how Tech is helping Nigeria with the fight against the Ebola virus.
Technology in this case cuts across the Internet, mobile, and peer to peer message sharing via SMS, webchat/instant messaging.
The Federal Government of Nigeria declared the spread of the Ebola virus as an emergency and like every other emergencies we know, access to the right, and adequate information is key.
Not to mention that this is a country where ignorance has a tendency of running amok with no one checkmating it or questioning it.
Little wonder at the viral speed of the message that propagated the use of salty bath and drink as a measure to cure or prevent the Ebola virus.
How has technology helped so far with the fight against the Ebola virus?
A telecom company sent text messages to their users highlighting the symptoms of Ebola, and how the virus can be contracted. The text message shares a link to the health.gov.ng email address and a phone number. Unfortunately, this number cannot be reached.
Instant messaging via black berry messenger and WhatsApp the two most popular social messaging platforms were used extensively to broadcast facts about Ebola. Conversely, also it was used to spread the ignorant rumors as well.
Social media wasn’t left behind. Interactive twitter chat events organized by doctors with a goal to provide answers to questions on everything Ebola.
Status updates were shared and re-shared from authority pages. That which intrigued me most was the twitter chat organized by a team of doctors under the auspices of ebolaalert.org which brings me to the two most prominent websites that was setup to provide the right information as well as lead to an outlet where people could reach me out and call if they had
further queries. These websites are Ebolafacts.com and ebolaalert.org.
These sites captured not only beautiful design but unique layering of the information and providing links to other channels of communication. They provided multiple phone numbers which interested individuals could reach for further questions or concerns. This time these numbers worked… Yes I did check.
What more can be done with technology?
Going forward, I would like a more intensified approach.
We have four major telecom companies in Nigeria, instead of the message been spread by just one of them, I would like to see all four take active participation. Share the facts, share preventive measures, most importantly debunk rumors as fast as they spread.
I would love to have seen a proactive counter action, taken via SMS messaging to debunk the viral rumor that propagated the use of salty water as a preventive or curative measure. The Ministry of Health didn’t need to wait till the next day to issue a press release or hold a press conference. Ordinarily, with the click of a button millions of Nigerians can receive SMS messaging as quickly as the rumors had spread.
Another tech platform that hasn’t been used and I wonder why it hasn’t been used yet is the use of robo call technology. Have your phone rang and when you picked up, you heard an automated message, well my friend, that is a robo call in action.
Telecom companies bombard us with salesy robo calls, I haven’t yet seen a robo call composed to provide education, facts and genuine reports about the virus. These Robo calls can be setup to using the four major Nigeria languages; Igbo, Yoruba, Hausa, Pidgin.
Telecom companies should get off their selfish horses and make use of their database for something good outside their products and services. The clause here is you don’t want to send a robo call in Hausa language to a user who doesn’t
understand the language. We do know that this mistakes are already been made with the telecom companies.
Still with the telecom companies, I would also love to see available toll free lines specially setup and dedicated for answering calls about and around the Ebola virus.
I would also like to see Web sites chatting services that work for example in the case of the ebolaalert.org site, they incorporate a website chat software, but no one mans the chatting service. When you get on this site to chat an automated message response is what you get instead. This is not too good, if you took the time to install a chat software, then get someone to man it.
Furthermore, If there was any need to host a Google Hangout on Air, this is the time for such.
Not just one, but as many as possible that can help with the education and awareness process of this virus. Likewise, an integrated approach of online interactive platforms would suffice at this point. This is where a live Hangout is mixed with
twitter chat, live blogging etc.
Now does it have to be all online? No it doesn’t.
We should get out and get talking. Use the mass media platform, radio, television is key at this point. At the point of writing this am yet to see content either as a live interactive program, or a documentary or some form of content in that regard syndicated across these two mass media platforms.
Take it to the rural cities… People live there too
Who says awareness program should start and stop in urbanized cities…. I do believe its time for some rural education. No doubt the virus has only been reported in urban cities but we do know that there is quite a steady migration between the urban and rural centres. The quicker people within the rural centres are informed the better it would be, ‘cos at this rate if someone gets infected who lives in the rural areas, the more catastrophic it would be because of the state of our health care services in rural centres.
Finally, we must provide education in our schools.
Currently primary and secondary schools are shut but should they at anytime resume, awareness and educational programs that highlight the Ebola virus should be taught. Knowledge is way better than ignorance, and any way the citizenry can be
provided with the right knowledge instead of allowing rumors and ignorance run on rampage then I think those platforms and channels should be exploited and utilized. If you know any channel that hasn’t been used yet, or I didn’t mention do share it in the comments below.