A new report has recently been published by, among others, CDAC member Fondation Hirondelle looking at the way in which information reinforces and distorts messaging around the Ebola response in North Kivu in the DRC.
Understanding the sources and dynamics of information among communities is a significant challenge for humanitarian actors. And this is especially the case in the Ebola response in the Eastern DRC, where the population is highly sensitive to rumour and misinformation.
The information ecosystem in DRC is fragmented and fragile. It is characterised by a high number of media outlets, and yet a low level of professionalism, with the vulnerability to partisan influence being considerable. This fragility is replicated in the online space. The Congolese population rely heavily on informal sources of information such as word of mouth and interpersonal communication with family and friends. The scarcity of reliable information allows rumours and misinformation to spread rapidly and without restraint.
To better understand the main sources and dynamics of information flows both offline and online, and through media and non-media channels, a consortium composed of Fondation Hirondelle (FH), Demos, Harvard Humanitarian Initiative (HHI) and the Institut Congolais de Recherche en Développement et Etudes Stratégiques (ICREDES) was created.
With a focus on North Kivu, the consortium looked at:
- The sources and levels of information among the local populations
- The sources of information among local journalists within a sample of community radios
- A network and content analysis of digital and social media
The analysis was conducted through three case studies: the first two of which covered the highly political presidential election process, the third around the Ebola epidemic.
The results of the study are based on nearly 14,000 interviews conducted in the field by HHI teams, 50 in-depths online interviews of 18 local radio stations representatives across North Kivu done by FH, and on more than 650,000 tweets and 80,000 messages on WhatsApp analysed by Demos. ICREDES contributed to better contextualizing the findings.