Using Digital Media to Fight Ebola in Nigeria

Ebola landed in Nigeria on July 20th, 2014.

The danger of rapid and massive spread was intense.  Nigeria is Africa’s most populous country and an outbreak in densely-populated Lagos (population 21 million) would have been catastrophic.

But a catastrophe did not occur.

According to Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society,

Within three months, the World Health Organization declared Nigeria Ebola-free, deeming the nation’s efforts to contain the disease a “spectacular success story.”

Nigerians are highly-connected via mobile phone and social media, and these platforms were critical in spreading accurate information about the identification and monitoring of Ebola cases.

In a country with 130 million mobile-phone users and active social networks, social media and mobile technology played a central role in Nigeria’s Ebola containment.

SMS platforms were used to share information on the signs and symptoms of the virus. Ebola Alert (see homepage screenshot above), a technology organization formed by group of volunteer doctors, used Facebook and Twitter to increase awareness through 24/7 updates and online Ebola chats. Social media campaigns deployed Nollywood stars to sensitize audiences, manage fear and myths, and reduce stigma.

Contract tracers were equipped GPS technology on mobile devices to ensure accountability and accuracy during interviews and monitoring. Health workers were provided with mobile phones and an Android app that allowed for immediate and critical information sharing.

Each of these strategies led to fast communication, better self-reporting and identification of Ebola contacts, successful tracking and monitoring – all essential components of an outbreak response that Nigeria got right in record time.

Aimee Corrigan, Co-Director of Lagos filmmaking hub Nollywood Workshops, will give a talk on the topic next Tuesday at the Berkman Center.