UNICEF Zimbabwe and Econet launch the Internet of Good Things
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.
The impact of COVID-19 on children and women across Zimbabwe has been unprecedented and far reaching. Worsening the crisis, adolescents and children are also vulnerable to many other secondary effects to the pandemic including malnutrition, child marriages, physical, sexual and gender-based violence, reduced access to health care, early and unintended pregnancy, HIV and AIDS, and more.
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 per cent with 71 per cent 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 per cent 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.
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,” said UNICEF Zimbabwe Representative, Laylee Moshiri at the launch. “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.”
“Communication for Development is a very important and key part of UNICEF and IoGT falls under that portfolio.”
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.
About Internet of Good Things
The 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 to populations in most need in Zimbabwe such as women and children.