We’re fighting the pandemic. Now it’s time to eradicate the infodemic

rumors

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Cheri-Leigh Erasmus, Learning Director, Accountability Lab


• The pandemic has led to a flood of inaccurate reporting and misinformation.

• Lack of digital literacy and poor internet access has exacerbated the problem.

• Accurate information lays the groundwork for accountability and better governance.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to unfold, we also find ourselves in the midst of what has been called an infodemic. For the last three months, we have faced a daily avalanche of information on the virus, potential cures and government mitigation strategies, along with endless punditry and politicization of the crisis, speculation on what our new normal would look like as lockdowns ease, and much more. This can often feel overwhelming, and it can be hard to make sense of what’s important and will keep us safe, versus what may make an already very challenging situation even worse.

The problem is that access to the internet does not equate to access to reliable information, of course. Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, there’s been a flood of fake news, misinformation and irresponsible reporting that can be hard to validate amid other contributing factors, such as a lack of digital literacy. At the same time, many communities – particularly in the global South – are finding it more difficult to get online. Household income is dropping globally as a result of rising unemployment due to lockdowns, and limitations on informal labour and vendors. This is likely to deepen the existing divide as pay-as-you-go internet, used by many in developing countries, can become an unaffordable expense when shelter and food security are at risk. So the world faces a combination of many not being connected enough to access the right information; and others who are connected being bombarded with the wrong information.

 

This challenge led the Accountability Lab to create what we call the Coronavirus CivActs Campaign, which gathers rumours and misinformation and dispels them through creative bulletins with validated information in accessible formats and using local languages. These bulletins are disseminated through the Lab’s existing grassroots networks via WhatsApp, email and social media, and sent to community radio stations to communities with less connectivity and/or low literacy rates.

Over the last 10 weeks, we’ve created more than 130 unique bulletins in 11 languages in Nepal, Pakistan, Liberia, Nigeria, Mali, Niger and South Africa. Our teams have covered a broad spectrum of themes, including important information on service delivery, emergency resources, government commitments and spending, and support services citizens can access when human rights are violated during lockdowns. The bulletins deliver facts, but these facts resonate because the approach is creative and relatable. In Nepal, we have used storytelling to humanize issues affecting thousands of migrant labourers who have lost their livelihoods. And in Liberia, our network of HipCo musicians are raising awareness through songs linked to the campaign and challenging young people to create their own cover versions.

The process creates active feedback loops, which are essential in fighting the pandemic: our teams gather rumours from the ground through our community networks and social media; conduct research, check facts and close the loop by packaging accurate information and disseminating it broadly while working with citizens and officials to solve problems.

Combating misinformation is a shared responsibility
Combating misinformation is a shared responsibility

First, access to information is a crucial component of a community’s ability to push for accountability. Large sums of money are being allocated for coronavirus mitigation strategies the world over, and it is important that citizens understand what they are being promised and what services they should be able to access.

Second, we’ve built trust with the communities where we have worked over the last eight years, and at a time when individuals turn to sources they trust for guidance, we find ourselves in a position to support a better understanding of the pandemic. As we know, proactive communication can strengthen trust between communities and government.

And third, this work builds a platform for more responsive governance that can bolster the social contract between people and governments, and ensure we are prepared for pandemics in the future. In Nepal, for example, we are now working with 18 local and city governments to build this feedback process into their decision-making; while in Pakistan our bulletins are being used to inform the work of a number of large NGOs and government programs. As these organizations become more responsive to people’s needs, they become more effective.

coronavirus, health, COVID19, pandemic

What is the World Economic Forum doing to manage emerging risks from COVID-19?

The first global pandemic in more than 100 years, COVID-19 has spread throughout the world at an unprecedented speed. At the time of writing, 4.5 million cases have been confirmed and more than 300,000 people have died due to the virus.

As countries seek to recover, some of the more long-term economic, business, environmental, societal and technological challenges and opportunities are just beginning to become visible.

To help all stakeholders – communities, governments, businesses and individuals understand the emerging risks and follow-on effects generated by the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, the World Economic Forum, in collaboration with Marsh and McLennan and Zurich Insurance Group, has launched its COVID-19 Risks Outlook: A Preliminary Mapping and its Implications – a companion for decision-makers, building on the Forum’s annual Global Risks Report.

The report reveals that the economic impact of COVID-19 is dominating companies’ risks perceptions.

Companies are invited to join the Forum’s work to help manage the identified emerging risks of COVID-19 across industries to shape a better future. Read the full COVID-19 Risks Outlook: A Preliminary Mapping and its Implications report here, and our impact story with further information.

At a time when misinformation and misunderstanding are extremely dangerous, we all have to take responsibility for combating the infodemic. Countering misinformation can be likened to wearing a mask: It’s a small act that protects others, and it can literally save lives. We can each do our bit by reporting misinformation on social media platforms and disseminating accurate information in our own social circles when we see fake news being shared. This pandemic will eventually be beaten; infodemics are far harder to eradicate.

the sting Milestone

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

The India–U.S. trade dispute and India’s evolving geopolitical role

Want more climate action? Let’s show how good a planet-friendly life can be

Bayer-Monsanto merger: the story of the rise of the “endless company”

Millennials aren’t voting – but these young leaders have a plan to change that

Bringing justice to the people: how the UN is helping communities deal with disputes in remote and dangerous areas

Free trade agreement between EU and India?

4 ways blockchain will transform the mining and metals industry

Air quality: Commission takes action to protect citizens from air pollution

Donor countries set international standard for preventing sexual exploitation, abuse, and harassment in development sector

End discrimination against women and children affected by leprosy

Let us keep ‘their spirit of service alive’: Guterres leads tributes to UN workers who died in Ethiopia crash

5 things to know about how coronavirus has hit global energy

UN aid teams scramble to reach ‘most remote places’ cut off by Cyclone Kenneth in Mozambique

These patients are sharing their data to improve healthcare standards

GSMA Announces New Speakers for Mobile 360 Series – Middle East and North Africa

Is it impossible to place the banks under control?

Tourism and transport: Commission’s guidance on how to safely resume travel and reboot Europe’s tourism in 2020 and beyond

Parliaments broadly agree on next steps for economic, monetary union

Intel, Almunia and 1 billion euros for unfair potatoes

A Wholesome Health Care for Transgenders: Sex Reassignment Surgery

FROM THE FIELD: Niger supporting the most vulnerable, as crises mount

Mergers: Commission clears E.ON’s acquisition of Innogy, subject to conditions

Will Europe be able to deal with the migration crisis alone if Turkey quits the pact?

Where does our food come from? Here’s why we need to know

New rules for audiovisual media services approved by Parliament

‘Everyone needs to do more’ to help suffering Venezuelans, says UN Emergency Relief Coordinator

The EU can afford to invest trillions in support of employment

Malaria could make a comeback thanks to COVID-19

ACP-EU : Agreement on climate change, migration and post-Cotonou

At G20 Summit OECD’s Gurría says collective action vital to tackle global challenges

The world is getting angrier, according to a new poll

Greece bailout ends but with no substantial effect on citizens’ life

UN underlines need for dialogue to resolve Israel-Palestine conflict

UN chief lauds Fijians as ‘natural global leaders’ on climate, environment, hails ‘symbiotic relationship’ with land and sea

Sponsored content: when QUALITY meets OPEX in manufacturing

Banks launch green charter to help shipping reduce its carbon footprint

Is the world living up to its climate commitments?

North Korea: ‘Time to talk human rights’, says UN expert

Earth has more trees than it did 35 years ago – but there’s a huge catch

European Youth cries out: Sustainable Development Goals ambitious, but lack focus on youth

Empty stadiums and online streaming: how coronavirus is affecting the media industry

EU-US to miss 2015 deadline and even lose Germany’s support in TTIP’s darkest week yet

Brexit kick-off: a historic day for the EU anticlockwise

Germany caught with selfish double standards in euro area policy

Syrian crisis: EU mobilises an overall pledge of €6.9 billion for 2020 and beyond

Attempt to defy international law over Golan Heights sovereignty ‘doomed to failure’ Security Council hears

Reflections on the the biggest refugee crisis since World War II

EU Commission and ECB rebuff Germany on the Banking Union

‘We won’t get to zero cases of Ebola without a big scale-up in funding,’ UN relief chief warns

Structuring Your Perception: The Key to a Good Mental Health during COVID-19

Climate change: Another year of record gas emissions, warns UN meteorological agency

UN chief expresses solidarity with Indonesian authorities after flash floods kill dozens in Papua

What have the banks done to the markets making them unable to bear cheap oil?

To Fight the Pandemic, Put Trust and Cooperation Before Politics

Here are 6 big ideas to help the environment

Europe and UN form bulwark against ‘might makes right’ worldview, EU foreign affairs chief tells Security Council

Beyond trust: Why we need a paradigm shift in data-sharing

IMF’s Lagarde indirectly cautioned Eurozone on deflation

Mergers: Commission opens in-depth investigation into proposed acquisition of DSME by HHIH

This solar-powered car lets you drive for free

More Stings?

Advertising

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s