Civics by Cell Phone coming to Nigeria

Category : 3-2-1 On Demand Messaging

HNI and Action Aid gathered 11 civil society organizations working across Nigeria to talk about how to talk about good governance.

When our 3-2-1 Service launches in Nigeria, it will include information on the rights, duties, and mechanics of participating in a democratic Nigeria. These messages will be available free on any kind of mobile phone via audio recordings in five Nigerian languages.

Good Governance Content Workshop - Nigeria

Participants in the Good Governance Content Workshop, convened by HNI and Action Aid for the 3-2-1 Service in Nigeria

“Good Governance” projects and goals in International Development cover a lot of ground: reforming administrative and civil services, legislative and judicial institutions. The 3-2-1 Service will contribute to educating everyday Nigerians as to how they can and should participate in good governance.

This is commonly known as “civic education” (or simply “civics”) in the United States, or as “citizenship education” in the United Kingdom. The aim is to educate citizens for their role in the operation and oversight of their government.

Background: Good Governance vs. Nigeria

Nigeria is an incredibly diverse country of approximately 180 million people, more than 250 different ethnic groups, and with Christian and Muslim populations roughly equal in size.

After 56 years of political independence, Nigeria continues to grapple with the challenges of democratic transformation and good governance.  Corruption, vote rigging, political division, tribalism and religion all play a part along with the North South divide.  There have been two military juntas, one ruling from 1966 to 1979, and another from 1983-1998.

The economic and social imbalance between the North and the South makes political power sharing a sensitive issue. The South is much richer with extensive oil reserves and boasts far better socioeconomic indicators than the North.

Outgoing British Prime Minister, David Cameron recently branded Nigeria “fantastically corrupt” on the international stage — a gaffe only in that he said out loud how many people already perceive the country.

Nigeria has ranked poorly on Transparency International’s corruption perception index for as long as the index has been published — often dead last, currently 136th out of 168.

The Contentious Content Committee

So how to address this complexity and develop appropriate messaging — ideally messaging that will be trusted by the public?

When HNI creates content for our 3-2-1 Service — on any topic — we convene “content committees” of national and international experts to draft, curate, and structure the messages specifically for the local context. (The messages are then translated and sent to be professionally recorded by voice talent; native speakers of the respective languages.)

Good Governance Content Workshop - Nigeria

Pamela Osakwe from Voices 4 Change facilitates the development of Good Governance content

The workshop was co-led by our partner Action Aid. We had support and participation at the workshop from Youth Initiative for Advocacy Growth and Advancement, Voices 4 Change, Plan, the British Council, Community Action for Popular Participation, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre, YouthWASH, Enough is Enough, Women’s Rights Advancement Protection Alternative, Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre, and BBC Media Action.

Normally these committees include government representatives for the relevant ministry. However, in this case, the Nigerian government’s hands were kept off of the process. The Nigeria Independent National Electoral Commission will validate the final content for accuracy.

We spent a very lively two days debating and developing the messaging for the Interactive Voice Response, SMS and USSD channels.  The discussions were occasionally heated as we strove to package up these complex issues in a way that would be understandable and actionable for the everyday Nigerian.

Good Governance Sub-Topics Nigeria

Draft Good Governance Sub-Topics and Messages for the 3-2-1 Service in Nigeria

The Good Governance topic will include six sub-topics: Human Rights, You and Governance, Elections, Legislature, Public Finance (The Budget), and General Governance Information.

This is a sample message on Security and Law Enforcement (under the sub-topic “General Governance Information”):

Every security personnel and law enforcement officer is meant to protect you, not to harass or intimidate you. Speak out against any form of harassment or violence!

As a citizen, you can exercise your rights at any time.  Police cannot keep you for more than 24 hours without charging you with an offense.  You have the right to a lawyer and bail is free.

Report any suspicious activity to the police or your community leaders. Do not keep quiet. Your silence may prove dangerous.

To report any cases of violence or suspicious activity, call your local police station or local security agency.

The Good Governance content on the 3-2-1 Service is part of Strengthening Citizen’s Engagement in the Electoral Process, a program of the UK Department for International Development (DFID). The 3-2-1 Service in Nigeria is a partnership with Airtel Nigeria, who will provide free access to the service for Airtel subscribers.

The 3-2-1 Service in Nigeria will launch in 2016. To be notified when the launch date is announced, follow HNI on Social Media:

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