UNICEF, U-Report & SMS give a voice to the people of Nigeria

Topic: Uses of SMS

Unicef logoThe official launch of U-Report in Nigeria took place at the Federal Palace Hotel in Lagos last week. U-report, an SMS-based platform, could change the lives of the Nigerian public, allowing them to actively participate in the free-flow of information, as well as policy-making and governance. It will also allow them to access information regarding key social issues, and provide the opportunity to publish information as it unfolds in their community.One of the key aims of the platform, implemented by UNICEF, is to move information from the communities to those in power to act. U-Report amplifies the voices of ordinary people through local and national media. It also sends alerts to key stakeholders about the issues being faced by the public, and feeds back useful information to the U-Reporters (people texting into U-Report). As the messaging is through SMS, it is more easily accessible to all members of the public, than if it were an internet-based app for example.Also lending to the accessibility of the platform is the simple sign-up process, and the fact that messages to U-Report are completely free of charge. Users in Nigeria can text JOIN to 24453, in order to sign up. All they need is access to a mobile phone.The service, although relatively new, has already proved extremely useful in a crisis. According to URHOBO Today, “About 15 million text messages were sent out through the U-Report platform while the Country battled Ebola. The awareness messages and real time responses via SMS and on the U-Report social media platforms sent out during the Ebola outbreak were able to address mythical cures like bathing with hot water and salt , taking bitter kola to cure the disease. U-Reporters were informed on how to identify the disease, and how to keep safe.”U-Report Project Manager, Caroline Barebwoha, said that the platform is targeting one million users by December 2015.The U-Report service is a big step in engaging Nigerians to take a pro-active role in addressing social issues and contributing to the flow of information. It’s easy accessibility could show it to have infinite potential in the future to create some real changes, and help communities cope with real issues!

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Felicity Cullen