As the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases rises in Africa, some countries are taking steps to prevent infection by closing borders or implementing lockdowns. At GeoPoll we have the ability to help the global response to coronavirus through our mobile capabilities, and one way to do that is through mass information dissemination.

The World Health Organization has stated that fake coronavirus information is spreading quickly. The dissemination of accurate information can help protect vulnerable populations. One-way messaging through SMS text messages, mobile web links, or automated voice calls is an effective way to circulate information remotely during a health crisis. Learn more about how mobile can be used for information dissemination below, and to be notified of GeoPoll’s ongoing coronavirus-related work please click here.

Access to Information about Coronavirus in Africa 

A recent GeoPoll study in Nigeria, South Africa, and Kenya, found that awareness of the coronavirus outbreak is high. Given the media coverage, it is unsurprising that 94% of all respondents are aware of the outbreak. Additionally, 73% believe they know how to prevent coronavirus, with increased hygiene as the top preventative measure.

Despite awareness, there is still a pernicious spread of misinformation. Authorities in Nigeria, South Africa, and Kenya are concerned with misleading messaging about false cures, the number of cases, and more. For 47% of those polled, GeoPoll found that social media is the most common source of information, followed by TV and radio. However, 75% said they had seen information on WhatsApp about the coronavirus and over half (66%) thought it only ‘somewhat truthful.’ 

In a disaster situation, one-way messaging is an effective method for reputable organizations to disseminate information. Facebook has already begun to send one-way messaging through WhatsApp, and other mobile-based modes can reach those without access to the internet or smartphones. SMS text messaging, for example, can reach a large number of people quickly and provide critical health information from a trusted source. 

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Disaster Communication: Best Practices for One-Way Messaging  

SMS text messages and other mobile-based communications can inform people of safety procedures or key health information during a disaster. Below, we focus on some of the best practices for using mobile methods to remotely send messages that can be applied in response to the current pandemic. 

Clearly identify the sender 

Identify a reputable organization as the sender of the message. This will encourage recipients to respect and trust the message contents. 

Understand the audience 

Know who is intended to receive the message and the ideal method for communication. Determine the correct language or dialect for the message. Be mindful of the literacy rates and use simple straightforward language with short sentences. If the literacy rate is very low, consider Interactive Voice Response (IVR) calls. 

Use IVR voice calls for low-literacy areas 

Interactive Voice Response (IVR) is a computer-based technology that is a fast way to send out messages in an area of low literacy. While IVR is standard for customer service menus and market research, it can also be used as a one-way system to disseminate information. Consider the same best practices as SMS messaging: understand the audience, keep the message short, and provide recipients with a method to unsubscribe.   

Do not send redundant messages

Aid organizations are most effective when they collaborate to present a unified message. Avoid overwhelming recipients with multiple SMS texts or voice messages containing the same information. Ensure that the content of the messages themselves are not redundant. Send one message about each relevant piece of information. 

Allow recipients to unsubscribe 

Observe best practices for mass-communication even in a time of disaster. It is possible that not everyone needs to or wishes to receive the alerts. Always provide an opt-out option in communications. 

GeoPoll can send communications through one-way messaging through multiple mobile modes to our database of respondents or a provided list of mobile numbers. GeoPoll will continue to release studies surrounding the coronavirus in the next few weeks. Stay updated on our coronavirus work here