To curb disinformation and propaganda, the US State Department’s Global Engagement Centre invited African innovators to present their technological solutions during a competition. Sea Monster’s Lighthouse, Congo Check and Alfluence, were announced winners at the East Africa Com 2021, a conference for digital communications.
The US-Africa Tech Challenge aims to advance the development of technologies across Africa. The three teams will share the cash prize of US$250, 000, to further the plans for their respective platforms.
Three African innovators win the US-Africa tech challenge to curb disinformation: The winners are:
Sea Monster’s Lighthouse
Sea Monster’s Lighthouse, a South African digital engagement platform for low-income users that uses animation, games and quizzes to disseminate factual information about Covid-19. The platform also educates communities on the Covid-19 vaccine. Business Development Director for Sea Monster, Soraiya Verjee, said that the two user groups they are targeting are community health care workers, who need to be well-informed about the vaccine and the youth as they are often influenced by content they consume on social media.
“We want to see our platform integrated into larger public health programmes and to tie into traditional engagement channels such as TV, radio and print,” said Verjee.
AIfluence is based in Kenya and is Africa’s first AI-powered influencer communication platform that uses advanced algorithms to research target audiences and identify community leaders to conduct behavioural change campaigns that counter disinformation and propaganda. Nelson Aseka, CEO of AIfluence, said that the platform contacts community leaders who become ambassadors that drive these behavioural campaigns. The award will allow the organisation to target two countries, Gambia and Cote d’Ivoire.
Congo Check is a free SMS fact-checking tool that sends summaries of fact-checks on Ebola and Covid-19 to registered users and also allows people to send in questions or inquiries. Rodriguez Katsuva, co-founder and Editor of Congo Check, said that “fake news literally kills people”. In 2019, 300 health care workers were attacked for treating Ebola patients, as some Congolese did not believe that the disease was real. During the current pandemic, Katsuva says people are reluctant to take the Covid-19 vaccine as they think it will kill them. Katsuva said they would use the award money to send 1.5 million SMSs to 10,000 people, and the organisation will write 60 fact-checking reports, which can “save lives” as it will inform the public about Covid-19 facts.