Blog Post

Digital Tech to Help Fight COVID-19 Misinformation (webinar recording)

By: Marco Campana
November 2, 2021

During this May 4, 2020 Nethope webinar, part of the virtual edition of the ICT4D Conference and ongoing ICT4D webinar series, three different initiatives using digital technologies to help fight misinformation were explored. Speakers shared how their applications relate to COVID-19 preparedness and response.

Misinformation, disinformation, and false rumors are thriving during the global COVID-19 crisis. It creates an extremely harmful situation by degrading trust in health workers and humanitarian responders, and complicating effective decision making by individuals about critical matters during the health emergency. Access to accurate, accessible, and timely information is of paramount importance for the success of COVID-19 preparedness and response, especially in conflict-affected countries and among displaced populations.

Lessons learned from initiatives:

1) Using Mobile Phones to Counter Harmful Misinformation in South Sudan and Uganda

The ongoing crisis in South Sudan has driven a third of the country’s population from their homes, with 1,830,000 internally displaced and 2,290,000 living as refugees in neighboring countries as of April 2019. Hagiga Wahid is an ICT-based initiative that assists South Sudanese refugees to deal with incendiary rumors spreading within the camps, back at home, and those spread online by the diaspora.

2) Providing Life-Saving Information to Empower Refugees and Migrants in Crisis

Too often in humanitarian contexts, needed information is unavailable, inaccessible, or inaccurate and untrustworthy. This places people at higher risk of violence and exploitation. The design and implementation of information services in crisis contexts have traditionally been driven by those delivering aid and not by those affected. Signpost is a joint initiative between the IRC and other partners that was launched in Greece in 2015 to address arriving migrants’ and asylum seekers’ needs for reliable information in Europe. Since then, Signpost has expanded to eight countries, reaching nearly 1.5 million individuals, providing connectivity and user-focused information in the languages of target populations through context-appropriate channels including Facebook pages and groups, a blog, mobile app, and a website with an interactive service map. In partnership, the IRC and Google Jigsaw are addressing the critical need for Signpost as it is both responsive to people’s needs and changing contexts, providing accessible, user-friendly channels that people affected by crisis and disaster can use with confidence.

3) Digital Tools Used Against Covid-19 Related Disinformation in Taiwan

In early 2020, the National Democratic Institute traveled to Taiwan to film a short documentary showcasing its civic tech partners, g0v, who developed some of the digital tech tools that led the fight against the spread of foreign disinformation in Taiwan's general election. In the few short months since the election, Taiwanese civic technologists continue using these tactics in their defense against COVID-19 related disinformation. As many countries are now sharing the burden of foreign produced disinformation around COVID-19, scaling these tools and the lessons learned to other civic technologists is incredibly important.

Speakers:

  • John Green Otunga, East Africa Program Manager of Hagiga Wahid, The Sentinel Project
  • Andre Heller, Director of Signpost, International Rescue Committee
  • Victoria Welborn, Program Manager, National Democratic Institute

Moderator:

  • Sonja Ruetzel, ICT4D Partnerships and Conference Manager, Catholic Relief Services

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