The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and partners on Tuesday, launched the U-Report, an innovative SMS-based platform that empowers Nigerians by enabling them to participate and engage in policy-making and governance and access real time information on key social issues.
U-Report enables those who voluntarily register – known as U-reporters – to speak-out on what is happening in their communities, provides a forum to amplify their voices through local and national media, sends alerts to key stakeholders about the issues their constituents are facing, and feeds back useful information to the U-Reporters, so they are empowered to work for positive change and improvements in their localities. The platform provides decision makers a forum to listen to millions of voices through simple messaging.
In the last one year with support from Airtel, MTN, GLO and Etisalat the number of U-reporters has rapidly grown to about 200,000 with thousands joining every month from all parts of the country. It is expected to top a million by the end of 2015. It has also attracted strategic partnerships with civil society organizations, UN agencies and Government Ministries, who contribute by selecting poll questions and promoting the platform to Nigerian citizens, as a tool for civic engagement and community empowerment. “Today more than ever before community journalism through communication technology can help engender good governance, accountability, social change and improve health standards,’ said Jean Gough, UNICEF Representative in Nigeria. ‘U-Report platform provides a thrilling opportunity to contribute to positive social change in the Nigeria,’ she noted.
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 Nigeria has sent out more than 50 polls and 26 million messages over the past one year on Prevention of HIV/AIDS, unemployment, maternal and child health, safety and security in schools; child protection and security in general, electricity, water and sanitation hygiene, among others.
UNICEF Nigeria is working closely with its partners; the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), National Orientation Agency (NOA) the Scouts Association of Nigeria, Boys Brigade and Girl Guides, Religious and Traditional leaders, the Media and Telecommunication service providers to scale up registration and increase impact. UNICEF strongly believes that through U-report communities can constructively contribute to the betterment of their standard of living and significantly contribute to transparency and accountability in the management of public funds, which is key to development.
The support provided by AIRTEL, MTN, GLO, and Etisalat this past one year made u-report to grow to what it is today and we look forward to a continued collaboration with these companies as we strive to achieve our target of million u-reporters by the end of this year. To become a U-reporter in Nigeria text the word ‘JOIN’ to 24453. It is free.
This story was published in Newswatch Times on May 2, 2015.