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Facebook launches COVID-19 information centers in Botswana and other African countries

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Facebook Coronavirus information center

Facebook has expanded its Coronavirus Information Centre to 24 more countries in sub-Saharan Africa, this time including Botswana, two weeks after announcing presence in 17 more. 

The information centres are part of the tech firm’s effort in the global fight against COVID-19 by empowering people around the world with the latest news and information from trusted health authorities.

The feature also provides active users with resources and tips to stay healthy and support their community.

The Coronavirus Information Centre appears at the top of the Facebook app’s news feed that provides a central place for people to keep informed about the virus.

It includes real-time updates from national health authorities and global organizations such as the Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization.

Users of the social media app can opt to follow the centre to get notifications and see updates in their News Feed from official government health authorities.

Now, the centre has already been rolled out in Rwanda.

Other new countries where Facebook is launching the Coronavirus Information Center are Burundi, Central African Republic, Comoros, Congo, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Eswatini, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Sao Tome and Principe, Sierra Leone, South Sudan, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

“Facebook is supporting the public health community’s work across the world to keep all communities informed during the coronavirus pandemic”

Facebook’s Director of Public Policy in Africa, Kojo Boakye, said.

“We are happy to provide nearly every country in Sub-Saharan Africa with its own Information Center so people across the continent have a central place to find authoritative information around COVID-19.”

The Coronavirus Information Center previously expanded to  Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Gabon, Guinea, Kenya, Mali, Mauritania, Mauritius, Nigeria, Senegal, Seychelles, South Africa, The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Togo.

Unlike many other social media and messaging services that need internet data to operate, Facebook has an option to be used data-free in Rwanda and other African countries, on both smartphones and feature phones.

Hence, the initiative is arguably the best fitting for sub-Saharan Africa where internet and smartphone penetration amount below average.

In Rwanda, for instance, despite a massive internet coverage, smartphone penetration is estimated below 20 percent as opposed to more than 75 percent in feature phones. The statistics entail that the majority of Rwandans can’t access other COVID-19 information initiatives such as the WhatsApp chatbot.

Data provided by the American company show that more than 95 million people across Sub-Saharan Africa access Facebook each month, with 97% on mobile.

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