The Nigerian government has partnered with the United Nations Children Emergency Fund (UNICEF) to launch an instant messaging platform in order to curb the spread of fake news and misinformation about COVID-19 amid an imminent second wave of the pandemic in Nigeria.
With support from UNICEF, the Nigeria Centre For Disease Control (NCDC) on Wednesday said it had launched an SMS based interactive ’chatbot’ to provide Nigerians with timely and accurate information on COVID-19.
A statement by NCDC said that the new COVID-19 chatbot will serve as a “crucial additional medium to access validated, vetted, and accurate information about COVID-19 and the government’s efforts to control the pandemic.”
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The initiative was made possible through the U-report platform, an innovative mobile social monitoring platform for community participation to address issues that matter to young people.
It is designed to give young people a chance to voice their opinions on issues in their communities, encourage citizen-led development, and create a positive change.
The chatbot can be accessed for free across all networks via SMS by sending the word “coronavirus” to the shortcode 24453.
Also, Facebook Messenger and Whatsapp users can send the word “Coronavirus” to +234 908 7401607 and via the U-Report platform on Facebook, via @ureportnigeria.
“At NCDC, we always leverage opportunities to use technological solutions to enhance the delivery of our mandate. Technology has been critical for strengthening our public health response to COVID-19.
This interactive chatbot is a welcome initiative that will be integrated into existing technology deployed for communication at the NCDC. We are grateful to UNICEF and partners for supporting our efforts to provide Nigerians with prompt and reliable information on the COVID-19 pandemic,” NCDC director, Chikwe Ihekweazu, said.
Also Peter Hawkins, UNICEF Nigeria Representative, said “COVID-19 is not to be taken lightly and needs to be discussed factually and accurately. ”
“We need to guard against misinformation to help save lives. A new chatbot is a useful tool that provides vetted and accurate information and response to the coronavirus pandemic,” he said.