Ethiopia: Govt Partners Facebook

Community health workers at a handwashing station at a healthcare center in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, April 1, 2020.

Facebook is teaming up with the Government of Ethiopia to help inform millions of Ethiopians with what it says will be "valid and up to date information on COVID-19." To that end, there is to be a WhatsApp Business API that will be used as a hotline with an online "chatbot".

In addition, the new partnership is to have a number of components, including supporting health practitioners for access to information, supporting fundraisers, removing harmful information that it deems is wrong.

"Facebook is enabling educational pop-ups on search results around the virus on all its platforms, the company is also providing the Ministry of Health with free ad credits to enable them run coronavirus education campaigns on its platforms," Facebook said in a statement sent to The Reporter.

"In collaboration with the Ministry of Health, Facebook has launched WhatsApp Business API, a dedicated Coronavirus hotline - 0962228565. The Coronavirus hotline is an automated 'chatbot' service which will enable Ethiopians to get answers to the most common questions about Coronavirus from the Ministry of Health, 24 hours a day," the statement continued.

According to Ministry, the new Hotline will start its services in Amharic language with plans to expand to other local language in near future.

Facebook remains the most popular social media tool used by millions of Ethiopians. It is credited with some of the social and political changes and reforms that are being embraced in recent years within Ethiopia.

"COVID-19 has presented immense challenges that require concerted efforts from governments, technology companies, and civil society," said Facebook's Head of Public Policy for East Africa, Mercy Ndegwa. "We are committed to working with all relevant bodies, both locally and globally to respond to this ever evolving situation. As always, we encourage all users to check the facts via official public health agencies before sharing messages that have been forwarded to them, and to engage directly with trusted and official sources for important information."

The Ethiopian government that has begun to embrace a digitalized world has welcomed the new partnership.

"As a government, we are deploying both traditional and digital communications tools to disseminate trusted information about this virus. We welcome Facebook's partnership in helping to reach and interact with a wider segment of the population, so we can share the facts and provide accurate advice," said Ethiopian State Minister of ICT & Digital Transformation Sector at the Ministry of Innovation and Technology in Ethiopia, Ahmedin Mohammed (PhD).

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