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Daily Talk: Civic Education and News Distribution to Check Ebola

The Daily Talk is an accessible, simple, and low-cost tool that provides citizens with a key media resource and serves as a crucial medium to facilitate access to information in a society where newspapers are a luxury and internet penetration is extremely minimal. Providing local news for over a decade, the Daily Talk in central Monrovia has been providing crucial information on Ebola for several months. Expansion of this conflict can help combat Ebola and empower citizens with the knowledge to help avert future crises.

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In a society where newspapers are expensive and internet penetration is low, chalkboard news outlets can convey critical information to citizens via images and simple English.
The current Ebola crisis in Liberia has exposed the deep legacy of distrust between civil society and government.
The ‘Ebola Daily Talk’ effectively facilitates the dissemination of critical Ebola information through chalk billboards at a busy intersections in Monrovia. The information is relayed in simple Liberian English and in conjunction with pictures and photos, provides a comprehensive focal point of easily accessible information and knowledge for all.  The ‘Ebola Daily Talk’ offers a platform from which individuals can share knowledge and obtain information such as where Ebola Treatment Units are located and who to call for medical help.
Accountability Lab has been operational in Liberia for over two years, and acts as a sounding board, listening to, analyzing, and reflecting upon accountability concerns.  Delivering simple, bottom-up projects retains a degree of flexibility, and ensures that projects can easily be scaled up or adapted to maximize effectiveness within a crisis situation.

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The ‘Daily Talk’ has been running as a news and civic education outlet on Tubman Boulevard, in the Sinkor neighbourhood of Monrovia, in close proximity to Liberia’s main public hospital for over a decade. As less than 3% of the country is online and a newspaper is beyond the budget of most, the ‘Daily Talk’ is the primary media source for many Liberians. In association with Accountability Lab and health care professionals, the ‘Ebola Daily Talk’ has produced information on hygienic best practices as well as the means to detect and treat Ebola within communities. Several news outlets, including CNN and the BBC have covered the success of the chalkboard, most notably the ‘Ebola football scorecard system’. This technique publicly holds the government to account, unifying public perceptions about what is being done and what could be improved upon.

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The Accountability Lab has recently secured funding from the Open Society Initiative for West Africa to expand the Daily Talk on a limited basis within Monrovia and a handful of cities outside the capital. Although the Monrovia sites are fantastic information hubs, we must strive to reach all areas of the country; the need for information exists beyond the capital. This will require additional funding and civil society support. There will be an installation of question boxes at the existing ‘Ebola Daily Talk’ site where citizens can pose queries to an operator and receive oral info from a prerecorded menu. This enables the ‘Ebola Daily Talk’ to be truly responsive to the needs of citizens. Moreover, as variation exists within communities, information can be catered to the needs of the group. The goal is to build effective, citizen-centered health systems which are a reflection of a partnership with sustainable government structures.


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