A digital democracy campaign is calling on Nigerian officials to learn lessons from the UK government’s response to the Coronavirus outbreak and communicate directly and unambiguously with citizens in this – or any other – crisis.
The call – from the makers of the free democracy app Rate Your Leader – comes as Africa’s most populous nation sees its first death from the virus and its number of confirmed COVID-19 cases increases by 88% in just one week.
In Britain – where the global Coronavirus outbreak has now claimed almost 500 lives – Prime Minister Boris Johnson this week declared a three week nationwide lockdown with people only allowed to leave their homes when “absolutely necessary”, if their jobs “cannot be done from home” and with the only businesses allowed to open being shops selling “essential” goods.
But confusion over what jobs cannot be done from home – such as construction – what goods are essential and what an “absolutely necessary” reason to go out constitutes saw many people act as nothing had changed.
There was earlier confusion when the Prime Minister asked Britons to avoid public places like restaurants and bars but did not close them, leading to many people – including his own father – socialising as normal.
Joel Popoola, Nigerian tech entrepreneur and founder of the Digital Democracy project, believes the British experience can teach profound lessons to Nigeria as the nation prepares to deal with the outbreak.
The project’s Rate Your Leader app helps politicians engage directly with people who elected them, helping them understand what matters most to the people who elect them and build relationships of trust with the electorate, as well as transmitting vital information in a crisis.
The app also allows votes to identify and contact their representatives at the touch of a button, direct from their phones or tablets – allowing them to rapidly receive important advice and information.
“Nigeria has plenty of experience and infrastructure when it comes to dealing with outbreaks of infectious disease, and as such is as well prepared for COVID19 as any country on Earth.
“But the likelihood is that there is no part of our society that this outbreak will not touch – we have already seen the President’s Chief of Staff test positive for this virus and the Vice President left in isolation.
“The lesson we can learn from Britain and other countries is that people will rise to the national challenge of COVID19 and do whatever they have to do – but they must be left in no doubt whatsoever about what that is.
“Technology has a part to play, with apps like Rate Your Leader able to get potentially life-saving information to Nigerians via the devices they are in all probability holding in their hand at this very moment. And we stand ready to do out bit.”
Rate Your Leader, is a free app which allows voters to communicate directly with elected representatives in a way that makes abuse impossible, as well as rating them for responsiveness.
The app was developed by the Digital Democracy Project, which aims to use digital technology to reconnect electors and the elected.
has a five star rating on the Google market, with one reviewer writing “This is the new level of politics…better communication of leaders with the electorates and accountability”.