In fighting the global Covid-19 pandemic, information is key.
Educating the public on Covid-19 as well as disseminating critical information about policy and latest trends is a critical cog in public health.
To effectively communicate, officials must ensure that information is timeously disseminated, the right channels are used, and that the information is accurate.
As we reported yesterday, the Civil Protection Unit (CPU) has started sensitising the public about Covid-19 through text messages.
This is a strategic move as the wide reach of mobile phones means every household in the country will get the message.
The Ministry of Health and Child Care was already providing Covid-19 daily statistics, through its social media account on Twitter.
While not everyone is on Twitter, social media still provides a wide reach as it has become part of everyday life.
Digital citizens — those who use the internet regularly and effectively — are the fastest growing population in the world.
There is, however, need for officials to use other platforms such as Facebook and Instagram in order to capture the attention of as many millennials as possible.
For those born after 1997, popularly know as Generation Z, Instagram, Snapchat, and YouTube are the platforms of choice, according to Business Insider.
This does not take anything away from SMS or text messages but the truth is that it has become a channel associated with junk mail — notifications from banks, mobile money platforms and credit facilities.
So, while almost every Zimbabwean that can read has a cellphone, they might ignore text messages. More people seem to gravitate towards WhatsApp.
After reaching out to as many people as possible through use of various channels, the information itself must be relevant in order to catch the attention of the audience.
Daily Covid-19 statistics, inclusive of new infections, deaths, recoveries and the total number of people to have contracted the virus in the country are important but must be fresh.
On Monday, as we reported, the Covid-19 statistics sent by the CPU were for Sunday when 978 new cases and 24 deaths were reported.
Officials must realise that by the time they send stale information, other people have provided the latest stats. No one will open a text message that is always behind.
CPU director Mr Nathan Nkomo was right that text messages will reach many citizens but more still needs to be done.
“The assumption is that almost everyone, be it rural or urban area, has a gadget that we call a cellphone.
“I’m confident we are covering a bigger area than before given that mobile networks are covering almost every corner of the country,” said Mr Nkomo.
Mobile network providers should also play their part in ensuring that more channels are used while also reviewing the cost of data.
With a national lockdown in place, incomes are eroded while critical information still needs to be shared.
This is not the time for profiteering, but playing a part in defeating the Covid-19 pandemic.
We urge stakeholders to work together and come up with an effective communication strategy.