Nigeria has become the first country to reach one million responders on the SMS-based U-Report platform, designed to strengthen community-led development and citizen engagement, UNICEF recently announced.
UNICEF’s Global Innovations team has launched U-Report in 17 countries, mostly in Africa, as a way for community members to share their opinions and drive positive change. It is a user-centred social monitoring tool based on simple Short Message Service (SMS) messages, polling opinions on issues that affect communities and sharing useful information. It relies on volunteer community members, mostly young people, serving as U-Reporters to provide information on issues that affect their communities.
With the support in Nigeria of telecommunications service providers Airtel, Etisalat, Glo and MTN, engaging with U-Report is completely free and it has grown into a vibrant tool to empower communities. The platform, which was launched officially in Nigeria on 29 April, 2015, quickly had 400,000 registered users, making Nigeria the leading U-Report platform globally, among 16 other countries that are running the same application. At 1 million users presently, Nigeria still maintains that lead.
Jean Gough, UNICEF Representative in Nigeria, said “UNICEF is committed to providing innovative solutions towards better delivery of services and social change. This partnership with telcos has the potential to empower millions of Nigerians through access to information and with opportunities to help them transform their societies.”
About 15 million text messages were sent and received through the U-Report platform while the country battled Ebola in 2014, ahead of the official U-Report launch this year. 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 combat rumors about mythical remedies such as bathing with hot water and salt and taking bitter kola to cure the disease. U-Report participants were informed about how to identify the disease, and how to keep safe.
The first poll question from the U-Report Nigeria platform was sent out in April 2014 and since then, nearly 70 polls on topics such as health, education, safety and security, Internally Displaced Persons, water and sanitation, violence against children and trafficking in persons have been discussed on the platform, with results disseminated to Government and other relevant agencies.
U-Report Nigeria has sent out more than 70 polls and 25 million messages over the past year on topics as such as prevention of HIV/AIDS, unemployment, maternal and child health, safety and security in schools, child protection, electricity, water and sanitation and hygiene.
“Nigeria hitting the one million mark on the U-Report platform is a huge step in stakeholder engagement, connecting leaders with their communities to improve their standard of living,” said Jean Gough, UNICEF Nigeria Country Representative, “U-Report can significantly contribute to transparency, accountability and social justice in Nigeria”
To become a U-Reporter in Nigeria, text the word ‘JOIN’ to 24453 and voice your opinion. It is free.
To access U-Report information, see http://www.nigeria.ureport.in.
The website shows U-Reporter responses across Nigeria to nearly 70 polls. Questions on a wide range of topics continue to be asked to U-Reporters every week, providing a deep source of real-time information on the views and opinions of Nigerians.
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere. For more information about UNICEF and its work visit: www.unicef.org