Benin goes on digital offensive against COVID-19

3058524421 0ecc6afa5e wBenin has set up a range of digital platforms to help combat both the spread of the disease and what the World Health Organization (WHO) has called “infodemic” of misinformation around it

Spearheaded by Wilfried Léandre Houngbédji, a former journalist, supported by well-known Beninese social media expert, Stévy Wallace, a state-appointed team of around 15 people is using WHO guidelines to disseminate information on prevention and highlight the actions being taken by health authorities to deal with the unfolding crisis.

In addition to a centralised official government platform that is freely accessible to all mobile phone users in Benin and provides frequent updates, the digital strategy team has put out several radio inserts in around 15 local languages and a range of awareness videos and press releases across different social networks.

An interactive WhatsApp messaging system has also been set up and helps the new team to communicate directly with citizens both in Benin and the diaspora.

“The official information is being very well relayed on social networks,” said Wallace. “Internet users are interacting expansively with the channels through questions, comments, contributions and criticism.” On the official pandemic website, the most visited portal, up to 16,000 hits are being registered per day. The website also has a COVID-19 ‘flash news’ function for near instantaneous response to fake news.

“The big challenge for us is that we cannot reach certain sections of the population who do not have Internet access or who are illiterate,” Wallace added. “So we need each internet user to pass on the correct information in their homes, their neighbourhood, their community. The cause must be a common one.”

With the help of WHO’s guidelines, Houngbédji and Wallace’s team has rapidly grown the state’s online presence since the start of the outbreak, and the Beninese public has taken note. “They react very quickly to questions,” said Emmanuel Ganse, who runs a local startup. “It makes us feel closer,” said Nafissate Hounkpatin, a midwife. “We feel that we are really being listened to.”

twn Are you sure that you want to switch to desktop version?