A digital learning course on mis and disinformation delivered via the messaging platform WhatsApp has gone viral in Sudan.
The first seven days after publication has seen a surge in uptake, with over eight thousand people signed up and participants who have completed the course are proudly displaying their certificates on social media.
The course, delivered in partnership with the British Council and funded by UKAid, aims to show the damaging impact of disinformation and fake news and to offer practical solutions to help spot and counter false information. The self-paced free course is being aimed at both the media and civil society, and is designed to be easily accessible with no expensive data downloads.
The course has been written by Derek Ivens, a Thomson Foundation trainer with nine years’ experience training in Sudan. He worked with Sudanese colleagues to make sure the course, which is available in Arabic and English, is relevant to the audience.
"There are lots of training courses in how to spot when a social media account is fake, or whether a picture has been manipulated,” he says. “But the advice is often rather technical, and may involve software not easily available in Sudan. Our emphasis is to show that anyone who asks the right questions, and uses their judgement, can start to make a difference - and to stand up for the truth."
“Disinformation affects almost every person in Sudan - so it makes sense to use a platform which is accessible to as many people as possible," he adds. “Sudan has been targeted by people or organisations who want to destabilise the country. Despite some efforts by internet and social media companies, false information does get through - so it's important that journalists and society at large know the truth about what's happening."
Disinformation affects almost every person in Sudan
The course has spread across Sudan with participants coming from Darfur, Port Sudan and North and West Kordofan amongst many others.
“We are delighted that this course is being used across the country by people who are often hard to reach and have little access to media training. We are seeing enrolments in the Internally Displaced Persons camps in El Fasher for example,” says Helen Scott, Director of the foundation’s Sudan courses. “We first developed delivering training via WhatsApp during the Covid-19 pandemic when we were asked by the British Embassy in Khartoum to provide a fast response learning tool for journalists. We worked with the team in Sudan on content and Hosam El Nagar, the foundation’s Director of Innovation and Learning pioneered the tech side.”
Thomson Foundation has been working in Sudan continuously since 2012.
The course is available in Arabic and English
To register for the Arabic language course follow these instructions:
1) Open the WhatsApp app and send the word “Sudan” in a message to the number +1 903-459-6893.
2) Or click on the following link from your phone https://wa.me/+19034596893/?text=SUDAN and send the word “Sudan” in the conversation that appears.
To register for the English language version follow these instructions:
1) Open the WhatsApp app and send the word "MISINF" to the number +1 903-459-6893 via WhatsApp.
2) Or click on the following link from your phone https://wa.me/+19034596893/?text=MISINF and send the word "MISINF" in the conversation that appears.
Top illustration: Michelle Thompson
About: Helen is an experienced trainer, consultant and project manager with a background in programme making and management. She is the Director of Thomson Foundation’s Sudan programme.