The COVID-19 pandemic is accompanied by an Infodemic, a spread of disinformation and misinformation making it difficult for people to find accurate information. To contribute to tackling this issue, UNESCO, in partnership with the Innovation for Policy Foundation (i4Policy), is launching an online campaign to crowdsource local openly licensed content to inform communities across Africa about COVID-19.
“This crisis tells us the importance of the flow of quality, reliable information at a time when misinformation and rumors are flourishing,” said UNESCO Director General Audrey Azoulay.
The campaign will address the urgent need to ensure access to culturally relevant and openly licensed information in local African languages in order to facilitate awareness-raising about how to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 on the Continent.
For the launch of the campaign, Ugandan musician and member of parliament, Bobi Wine, announced that he is openly licensing his latest hit song “Corona Virus Alert,” encouraging other artists to do the same, and inviting fellow artists and creatives all over the world to join the #DontGoViral campaign. More than 40 artists have requested to translate, remix, and adapt the song to ensure maximum dissemination.
The COVID-19 pandemic is heightening solidarity across Africa. Entrepreneurs and innovation communities from Ethiopia to Rwanda to Senegal have been directly supporting national authorities to develop critical health-related information technology. UNESCO’s partner in this campaign, i4Policy, has initiated a movement with more than 170 innovation community hubs across 45 countries. The Africa Innovation Policy Task Force, a 21-member community, drafted an open letter to governments emphasizing that “the values of an open society are more important than ever” and have called on governments to activate their local innovators and creators to stop the spread of COVID-19.
The voice and influence of innovators and artists and the role of the cultural and creative industries in information and awareness-raising cannot be over-estimated. Artists can share and amplify crucial information among fans and followers, reaching an immense audience by using their talent and diverse forms of cultural expressions to engage with people in response to the crisis.
UNESCO’s 2005 Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions recognizes the important role that artists working in the digital sphere play in ensuring inclusive social transformations. The #DontGoViral campaign harnesses the vibrant cultural diversity of the African Continent and its innovators and content creators to ensure locally pertinent responses to fight disinformation and COVID-19. i4Policy’s Art Director, Marius Kamugisha, underlined that “crises like this show the importance of culture.” The first video produced as part of this campaign, #SeparateAndTogether, was translated into more than a dozen languages in the first 48 hours after it was released.
The #DontGoViral campaign is designed to activate artists and cultural entrepreneurs across Africa. Participants of the campaign will be requested to ensure that all themes and guidelines expressed conform with their official health agency and recommendations from the World Health Organization (WHO). UNESCO is supporting the development of openly licensed content, crowdsourcing of translations into local African languages, and dissemination through all mediums, including radio and TV, across the Continent to reach communities offline and most at risk.
Through UNESCO’s Offices in the African continent and the i4Policy community across Africa, this campaign will reach community spaces in at least 45 African countries to virtually host, mobilize, and develop information campaigns to support national and global health agencies to reach the most at-risk communities and to combat the spread of disinformation. Furthermore, this campaign is mobilizing collectives from around the world, including record labels like RM Societe, building on their experience such as “We are the World 25 to Haiti” and joint venture with Sony ATV to give major African producers and writers an opportunity to spread the sounds and voices of the continent globally.
UNESCO is actively engaged in supporting Information Sharing and Countering Disinformation, including through access to information in local languages, to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. The Organization is dedicated to ensuring open access to scientific information, harnessing the power of the diversity of creative content and creators on the Continent, and combatting disinformation around the pandemic through collective innovation and continental partnerships.
This statement was originally published on UNESCO website on 1st April 2020.