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, 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. What can we learn from Nigeria? And how can these strategies be utilized in public health challenges in Africa and beyond?
Social media and technologies, when used well, can have a hugely positive impact on the world. We should be sharing more of these types of stories…and problem sets…with our students. Any guesses as to what solutions to future crises they will have to create?