Following the outbreak of coronavirus (COVID 19) in Wuhan China, confirmed cases of the virus have continued to escalate in many parts of the world and Africa, so also has a secondary issue of global concern that the World Health Organization has termed an ‘infodemic’ “an overabundance of information – some accurate and some not – that makes it hard for people to find trustworthy sources and reliable guidance when they need it.”
Two young Nigerian media expert, Solomon Adetokunbo a Public Relations entrepreneur and Samuel Ejiwunmi a lecturer of media & communication studies at the University of Lagos have risen to the task of combating the challenge of COVID-19 infodemic in Nigeria and Africa at large by developing an information & data driven fact checking portal named Coronavirus Fact Check – www.coronavirusfactcheck.ng
Pandemics like Ebola, Coronavirus amongst others, has led to misinformation, rumours and fake news. During the Ebola outbreak in Nigeria in 2014, a WhatsApp broadcast made the rounds: “Please ensure that you and your family and all your neighbours bathe with hot water and salt before daybreak today because of Ebola virus which is spreading through the air. “Although the government officially debunked it, at least two people died and several others were hospitalized over excessive salt consumption. Similar situations are being repeated with people peddling fake coronavirus cures online and other conspiracy theories that have led to irreparable damage and loss of lives.
The Coronavirus Fact Check platform pools together different resources to solve infodemic. This includes fact-checked news story garnered from trusted media outlets, real-time visual representation of the spread of COVID-19 in 54 African countries featuring an array of real-time data, statistical indicators, dashboards, and other types of data that enable visitors to explore the data and better understand the Coronavirus pandemic from a local, national and continental context. Information and data on the portal are generated from datasets shared and reported by local and international health organizations, news outlets, and other trusted sources, notable partners include Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), World Health Organization (WHO), Google’s Fact Check Explorer, Poynter’s International Fact Checking Network (IFCN).
The “Resources Page” a very interesting and fact filled one provides tips for staying safe at home and a self-explanatory screening tool to ascertain your health status. Aside this, a fact check guide is embedded in the page to tutor users on how to identify fake news and cross check with fact-based websites. The portal which is now live can be accessed from any part of the world.
Echoing the comments of the United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres; who described the coronavirus infodemic as a common enemy, Solomon Adetokunbo remarked that flattening the infodemic curve will only be possible through a joint effort by multi-stakeholders from across globe, “as such we considered it necessary to rise to the occasion and be the voice from Africa providing an information/data narrative that meets the yearning of our people, thus ending the COVID-19 data dearth for Nigeria and Africa.”
Even so, the battle against fake news is likely to last as long as the virus. It is everyone’s duty to be calm, measured and take a more thorough investigation into what may be or not be, to help flatten this curve of dangerous information.
“We can all play a role in beating the virus by making sure that we are sharing validated information and using trusted sources to inform our decision-making” said Samuel Ejiwunmi who further urged government at various levels and relevant stakeholders to be proactive in fighting COVID-19 as well as ongoing issue of misinformation online revolving around the coronavirus disease.