Emergency Comms | ICT4SDG
May 22, 2020

ITU-WHO-UNICEF initiative delivers vital information on COVID-19

By Sameer Sharma, Senior Advisor to ITU’s Asia-Pacific Regional Office

People’s awareness and compliance with preventive measures is crucial to defeating COVID-19.

While over 3.6 billion people are still not connected to the Internet, mobile networks reach nearly 97 per cent of the global population. They represent the communication channel with the widest reach – and a crucial means for relaying critical, life-saving information regarding COVID-19.

Many countries made efforts to inform their populations about the COVID-19 threat by sending out messages to mobile phone users or replacing common ringtones with pre-recorded audios with COVID-related advice.

Last month, ITU stepped in to support and scale up these efforts, to ensure that vital information on COVID reaches everyone, everywhere, including the most vulnerable and marginalized communities.

In collaboration with WHO and UNICEF, ITU reached out to ICT authorities and partner mobile network operators in the Asia-Pacific region to encourage the dissemination of preventive advice on COVID-19 using WHO-approved messages.

The messages are available to be delivered by Government institutions and telecom operators, free of charge, to mobile-cellular subscribers in a form of SMSs, voice messages, or other traditional ways that can help reach illiterate communities.

In Myanmar, for example, the messages have been disseminated to citizens. They have also been translated into local languages to reach out to remote areas of the country.

Efforts are underway to launch similar initiatives in other regions, including Africa, the Arab States, and the Caribbean.

In many of these regions, the pandemic has not escalated to the extent that is observed in Europe and North America, and the timely, continuous communication of warning messages and preventive advice may play its role in reducing the impact of COVID-19.

The ongoing pandemic once again highlighted the importance of timely access to information as a fundamental human right.

COVID-19 has demonstrated the critical importance of connectivity.

The digital divide and the lack of connectivity remain the issues that need to be resolved to make humanity more resilient in the face of crises like COVID-19.

ITU remains committed to its mission of connecting the world and putting ICTs at the service of sustainable development.

Learn more about the Be He@lthy Be Mobile initiative and its objectives.

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ITU is the United Nations' specialized agency for information and communication technology. Any opinions expressed and statistics presented by third parties do not necessarily reflect the views of ITU.

ITU-WHO-UNICEF initiative delivers vital information on COVID-19

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