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Sending SMS messages for the general public for COVID-19 response


​WHO, ITU and UNICEF are collaborating to facilitate sending short messages SMS to inform the general public about COVID-19. These messages can be localized and sent to mobile-cellular subscribers, free of charge, by willing mobile network operators based on good will and on voluntary basis​.

As part of the World Health Organization’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the agency is working to make available accurate and relevant information about the disease to as many people as possible through a variety of digital communication channels. Leveraging on existing partnerships and experience in mobile health (mHealth) for health promotion and behavior change communication, WHO has launched automated messaging services in a number of languages that are delivered through WhatsApp, Viber, Facebook Messenger and other channels. The intended audience for these messaging services are individuals around the world and the objective is to help users understand how to protect themselves and others from contracting the disease, how to prevent its spread, what to do if you experience symptoms and which common myths should be discounted.

WHO, ITU and UNICEF collaboration to deliver COVID Information via SMS - Moving forward, WHO along with ITU and UNICEF would like to make the same information available through SMS to those without access to the Internet or a smartphone. Nearly half the world’s population - 46.4%, according to ITU - is still not connected to the Internet, yet 97% of the world’s population lives within reach of a mobile cellular signal and there are 108 mobile-cellular subscriptions per 100 people worldwide. SMS messaging can therefore be employed to reach as wide a segment of each country’s population as possible to combat a disease from which no segment of the population is safe.

Operationalizing SMS Messages for COVID-19 - WHO has prepared a global SMS message library in English​ which is available for translation and localization at the national level. Ministries of Health are encouraged to work with ICT authorities and mobile network operators to deliver these SMS messages, free of charge, to mobile-cellular subscribers throughout the country. The three agencies - WHO, ITU and UNICEF are prepared to support the collaboration between mobile network operators and governments to deploy information on COVID-19 as widely as possible.

See ITU-WHO joint statement about the above.


​​​​​"Digital tools and strategies in COVID-19 infodemic response: Case studies and discussion" looks at experiences of different countries and stakeholders in dealing with COVID-19 misinformation using digital technology. ​The report brings to light some of the important aspects of dealing with health misinformation in the digital age. Digital communication channels and online platforms can serve as a highly cost-effective means of delivery and promotion for public health guidance; but they can also act as a breeding ground for rumours, conspiracy theories and misbeliefs about a novel health threat. It should therefore be the objective of policy-makers and infodemic managers to leverage Information and communication technology (ICT) in a way that empowers people so that they can access reliable and useful content, while identifying and avoiding misinformation and disinformation. The report discusses available solutions, and identifies some of the key enablers for effective digital policy implementation.