UNICEF’s social media platform set up to engage communities on developments has hit two million Nigerian responders.
According to UNICEF, the social platform which uses short message service (SMS) has about four million users globally, “More than half global U-Report responders are in Nigeria”.
Launched in 2011, the platform known as U-Report, uses simple Short Message Service (SMS) messages and social media to reach communities around the country and provides an opportunity for community members to share their opinions and drive positive change.
U-Report relies on volunteer community members, mostly young people, serving as U-Reporters to provide information through conducting polls on issues that affect their communities.
It is also an important tool for sharing information through message alerts.
According to a statement by UNICEF, “The first U-Report poll in Nigeria was sent out in April 2014 and since then, 169 polls have been run and more than 150 alerts issued on the Nigerian U-Report platform in Hausa, Yoruba, Igbo, Pidgin and English.
“The topics include health, education, safety and security, Internally Displaced Persons, water and sanitation and violence against children, with results disseminated to Government and other relevant agencies”.
UNICEF Nigeria Representative, Mohammed Fall noted, “Reaching 2 million U-Reporters in Nigeria is a huge step in community engagement for improved service delivery.
“It provides an even greater opportunity for information sharing, increased stakeholder engagement and transparency as a direct channel of communication between leaders and the people they serve,” Fall added.
The most recent initiative is a partnership concluded October 13 with the National Emergency Management Agency which will be using the platform to share life-saving information with communities in case of emergencies such as floods and disease outbreaks.
Since its inception in Nigeria, UNICEF’s main partner on U-Report has been National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) which has been a key player in the recruitment of responders.
All states in Nigeria are represented on the platform, with the highest number of U-Reporters registered in Jigawa state.
The Office of the Vice President, Nigerian Senators and members of the House of Representatives are using U-Report to connect with their communities on important issues to find out what needs to be improved or where the focus needs to be in service delivery in their states.
Director of UNICEF’s Office of Innovation, Cynthia McCaffrey, also noted, “To see this level of adoption of U-Report in Nigeria is extremely encouraging. It enables UNICEF to realise what is possible if we allow ourselves to think big and strive to reach as many young people as we can.
She pointed out, “As Nigeria makes U-Report increasingly accessible, it also becomes increasingly relevant, as evidenced by the live chat last month on menstrual hygiene.”