COVID-19 How to fight fake news?

For 20 days Première Urgence Internationale attended Equalithon, organized by Essteem, a platform that brings together female engineers in the US and Europe, and that gives them the chance to put their skills together for the benefit of solidarity organizations.

An Equalithon is an event gathering groups of developers to work over programming projects in a collaborative way, for the benefit of the solidarity organizations.

The goal of this Equalithon : Find solutions to the COVID19 crises

For Première Urgence Internationale the challenge is particularly to create a mobile app to identify and fight false information during the period of COVID19 pandemic, one that could assist the Première Urgence Internationale community healthcare agents in their efforts to increase community awareness and also in their healthcare prevention campaigns.

The development of this app is part of the ELONGO program promoted by Première Urgence International, aiming to strengthen the African Sahelian region’s ability to respond to epidemics.

«We too often see false information emerge in time of epidemics, which come to maim all the efforts made on prevention and control of the disease, as well as put the people adopting bad practices in danger», says Chantal Autotte Bouchard, healthcare adviser for Première Urgence Internationale. «For instance during the Ebola crises that touched several regions of DRC, it was difficult to reinstate confidence in the public healthcare services after the emergence of conspiracy theories.»

The COVID-19 crisis comes as well with its package of false information. So the idea spread that new vaccines destined to the propagation of the virus would be distributed in Africa.

A pilot project to launch this app will be developed in the Democratic Republic of Congo, touched by the epidemic, where Première Urgence Internationale deploys its healthcare actions. The project will be thereafter retaliated in other countries and areas.

Tara Williams lors de l'équalithon COVID-19 lutter contre les fausses informations

Tara Williams

Tara Williams, a young project manager based in New York, explains to us her experience with the solidary Equalithon :

Why did you join the Equalithon, what was your goal?

I had met some members of the Essteem network during one of my volunteer activities at OWASP (Open Web Application Security Project) in New York. For several years I took part in events in New York in support of projects developed by associations of the likes of Women Who Code.

The Equalithon organised by Essteem in response to the COVID19 crisis was for me a nice opportunity to put my skills to the benefit of associations working against the crisis.

Tell us about the challenge proposed by Première Urgence Internationale… 

This Equalithon has been a very instructive experience for me. Being mobilized and working with the community of developers to create a solution in favor of vulnerable people is very motivating.

I know that for many healthcare centers in the US the COVID19 pandemics represents a big challenge. I can imagine that in countries where the health system is weaker, like the Democratic Republic of Congo, this challenge is even more serious for the healthcare services and the most vulnerable people. Being aware of this gave me the motivation to commit next to Première Urgence Internationale.

One of the biggest challenges for me was identifying the varied and complementary profiles to help developing this mobile app. The organizer of the Essteem platform supported me in the recruiting of female developers, as well as other experts in this Equalithon, like Salochina, expert in the management of scientific data, or Gyan, software engineer in charge of developing a chatbot for the app. The app should be able to share trusted information on COVID19, identify false information spreading through the Web and social media and correct them.

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