[Image Source: UNICEF ZW Twitter]
Among the many challenges COVID-19 presents, is the ability to disseminate information while maintaining physical distancing. While Zimbabwe has a high mobile phone penetration of over 90 per cent, access to internet is a challenge for many due to the prohibitive cost of data.
In rural Zimbabwe, according to the Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey of 2019, the ownership of mobile telephones amongst women stands at 85% with 71% regular weekly usage. This makes mobile phones a readily available communication device and an alternative to traditional information dissemination means, but statistics show only 12% of these mobile users have access to mobile data for getting online.
To address the inequality in access to information and bridge the digital divide, UNICEF Zimbabwe in partnership with Econet Wireless launched the Internet of Good Things earlier this month which included a free virtual concert through Facebook Live with a simulcast on a national radio station.
Internet of Good Things (IoGT) is a UNICEF-led initiative currently accessible in 65 countries and territories around the world, helping to bridge the digital divide and build knowledge societies. The IoGT is a set of mobile-ready resources and applications made accessible for free via a network of Mobile Network Operators partners.
The launch aimed at creating awareness and driving traffic to the IoGT through virtual interactions with featured music performances and talks, from popular artists such as Jah Prayzah, Gemma Griffiths, and Tamy Moyo with remarks from Government, UNICEF and Econet.
In Zimbabwe, updated content distributed on IoGT is localized and is evolving to cover all the main languages – English, Shona and Ndebele. Some of the popular sections include, COVID-19 information and advice for students about the disease, as well as career advice content, and the “All In” section – a special section for adolescents.
The platform and much of the content featured was made possible with the support of UNICEF’s donors in Zimbabwe through the Health Development Fund, Child Protection Fund and Education Development Fund.
The mandate of UNICEF is children’s wellbeing and children’s rights. For parents it’s a very important tool, how children should be brought up, the information and skills you need for children to grow up in a healthy way and to live productive lives and reach their full potential.UNICEF Zimbabwe Representative, Laylee Moshiri
Econet’s role in the launch
Over the years, UNICEF and Econet have enjoyed fruitful partnerships in areas of youth participation, communication, education and collaborations in emergency response. To lift the financial burden women and children face to access information and learning material, Econet has given IoGT a zero rating – meaning it is free to access for any Econet user through their mobile phones.
“As a company we do well by doing good, and we are inspired to change the world for the communities in which we live in,” said Econet Executive, Natalie Jabangwe. “This is what motivates us as a business before we even do business – creating solutions for the problems that we find in our communities.”
In addition to zero-rating Econet promoted the platform through bulk SMSs and all their digital channels.
At the launch, the IoGT user base grew to over 130,000 users from 195 users since the Zimbabwean government declared the COVID-19 crisis a “national disaster” in March. And over 116,000 views on Facebook were received.