Airtel, UNICEF Partner to Empower Nigerian Communities

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Airtel is partnering with United Nations Children Fund to encourage Nigerians to participate in policy-making and governance and to access real time information on key social issues

THE United Nations Children Fund, UNICEF, and Airtel, a leading telecommunications services provider with operations in 20 countries across Asia and Africa, have entered a partnership agreement to expand their collaboration across all 36 states and FCT in Nigeria. The partnership will increase access to social change related information and provide opportunities for participation whilst pushing forward U-Report, an innovative project supported by UNICEF.

The agreement allows UNICEF to tap into Airtel’s mobile services to make health, education, child protection and community-focused content available to Airtel customers across the country. Through improved connectivity, more Nigerians will have free access to mobile applications and services developed by UNICEF, such as U-Report.

U-Report, an innovative SMS-based platform, empowers Nigerians to participate and engage in policy-making and governance and to access real time information on key social issues. The platform, which was launched officially in Nigeria on 29 April, 2015, has over 400,000 registered users, making Nigeria the leading U-Report platform globally, among 16 other countries that are running the same application.

Commenting on the initiative, Segun Ogunsanya, chief executive officer and managing director of Airtel Nigeria, said the company is committed to empowering Nigerians and is keen on supporting programmes that will enrich the lives of its various stakeholders. “At Airtel Nigeria, we constantly look for opportunities to excite, delight and empower our customers. This innovative partnership with UNICEF offers Nigerians a golden opportunity to transform the country and we are glad to be part of the U-Report project,” he said.

Jean Gough, UNICEF Representative in Nigeria, said “UNICEF is committed to providing innovative solutions towards better delivery of services and social change. This partnership with Airtel has the potential to empower millions of Nigerians through access to information and with opportunities to help them transform their societies.”

About 15 million text messages were sent and received through the U-Report platform while the country battled Ebola in 2014, ahead of the official U-Report launch this year. The awareness messages and real time responses via SMS and on the U-Report Social Media platforms sent out during the Ebola outbreak were able to combat rumours about mythical remedies such as bathing with hot water and salt and taking bitter kola to cure the disease. U-Report participants were informed about how to identify the disease, and how to keep safe.

U-Report Nigeria has sent out more than 70 polls and 25 million messages over the past year on topics as such as prevention of HIV/AIDS, unemployment, maternal and child health, safety and security in schools, child protection, electricity, water and sanitation and hygiene.

UNICEF strongly believes that through U-Report, communities can improve their standard of living and significantly contribute to transparency and accountability in the management of public affairs, which is key to the development of Nigeria.

The support provided by Airtel has enabled U-Report to grow into a vibrant tool to empower Nigerians.  UNICEF looks forward to continued collaboration and expansion, striving to achieve its target of 1 million U-Reporters by the end of this year.

— Jul 13, 2015 @ 01:00 GMT

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