Kaduna, the only Nigerian state that endorsed a zero fee Right of Way for broadband cables, has found the most effective way to communicate its COVID-19 message to its 3.9 million citizens.
The state is leveraging a mobile application developed by Decagon Institute, a Nigerian-based software engineering firm. The firm was founded by Chika Nwobi to provide software training and digital product engineering for organisations.
Kaduna State recorded its first COVID-19 case in April and the first death in May. Perhaps the most defining moment for the state was when their governor was confirmed positive. Since then the state took a more-forward looking trajectory by embracing digital technology in the fight against the virus.
The Decagon app serves as a communication dissemination tool to the government or institutions that are authorised to transmit to citizens and the general public.
“Beyond COVID-19, we have seen that there is a need for an inclusive digital communication plan that will blur the dividing lines between the digitally excluded in our society,” said Nwobi in a statement.
A voice message can be recorded onto the app and disseminated via an SMS blast to the target recipients. The targets will get an SMS notification, upon opening it and following a prompt to dial in a short code, say 642, they can listen to the voice message.
Using the app, the Kaduna state government is able to record and disseminate multiple updates regarding COVID-19 such as the spread of the virus; testing; curfew; symptoms, and self-help measures, in a language (Hausa) everyone in the state understands. The platform has also become a lifesaver for the government is pushing out guidelines for easing of the lockdown.
Remarkably, the Kaduna state Governor had directly voiced the first message the citizens received from the app soon after launching it in April 2020.
Decagon collaborated with US-based voice infrastructure providers, Kirusa, Airtel Nigeria, and NCC to make the service available.
Users of the app don’t necessarily have to own a smartphone. Feature phone holders can also benefit from the app, in that way the app is also addressing barriers around digital inclusion.
Decagon is also working with Kirusa to develop another app to help the healthcare sector build up data on COVID-19 patients for collaborative research in the medical community, spanning the US, Nigeria, and India.