UNDP Acceleration Laboratory in Uruguay carries out initiatives to address the challenges of disinformation and the infodemic. Photo: Pexels.

Infodemic is a word that combines information and pandemic and has gained popularity due to the dynamism and abundance of information about COVID-19 and its rapid spread. What about COVID-19 vaccines? Although this question generates many answers, they do not always come from reliable or evidence-based sources.

In this context of rapid and massive dissemination of information, inaccurate publications also arise, which generates greater confusion in the population that could affect people's decision to get vaccinated. For example, UNDP's fourth Citizen Perception Report highlighted that 42% would not be willing to vaccinate when the survey was conducted. The vaccine that was generating the most mistrust was one of those that finally reached Uruguay.

Therefore, from UNDP Uruguay Accelerator Lab, we asked ourselves: what could help people make informed decisions regarding COVID-19 vaccines?

Sense & solutions mapping

To answer this, we begin with the mapping stage. The three AccLab members put on the solution mapper glasses to identify stakeholders and local initiatives from the civil society, the government, the academia, and international organizations facing the challenges of misinformation. Then, we spoke with older adults, residents of mental health institutions, health personnel, and journalists. Besides, we walked through traditional fruit and vegetable open markets and parks to dialogue with people (complying with the recommended protection and prevention measures). Thanks to this, we were able to collect different views, opinions and identify behaviors to gain insights about what elements people take into consideration when deciding whether to get vaccinated or not.

Exploring technologies, games, tools  

Together we reached the exploration stage. We switched the glasses for the exploration binoculars to look beyond our limits, to discover different tools and technologies that could help us with the infodemic challenge. For example, video games with pandemic-related themes, artificial intelligence technologies for social media listening, chatbots, behavioral experiments, collaborative platforms.  

Let's try it!

With all these elements we designed and executeed together, our first portfolio of experiments regarding the Infodemic:

  1. COVID-19 Vaccine Acceptance Monitor

The Monitor uses social media listening tools to identify Twitter conversations advocating for or against the COVID-19 vaccine in Uruguay. Daily reports are published, centralizing and analyzing the conversations that had the greatest impact (promoting vaccination or generating doubts), with a daily net acceptance score. 

At the exploration stage, we found this tool developed in the United Kingdom, so we adapted it to apply it in Uruguay.

2. Vax! game: vaccine and herd immunity  

Under the premise that by playing we learn is that we found Vax!, an epidemic prevention game developed by Ellsworth Campbell, a Ph.D. student at the University of Pennsylvania. The game aims to familiarize people with the dynamics of an epidemic, understand herd immunity, and the collective and individual responsibility that we face in a pandemic. 

In the exploration stage, we found this open-source game, created in 2014 to explain the epidemic dynamics of measles and flu, where vaccination plays a key role. We adjusted the video game, translated it into Spanish, and obtained feedback from young people and adults who were encouraged to play it for the first time.


3- Q & A with doctors and scientists

If there are so many doubts, why don't we bridge the gap between citizens and specialists? Health personnel, journalists, and citizens asked and voted the most concerned questions on a digital platform to be answered live by local doctors and scientists in less than 3 minutes. 

This process aimed to make the concerns of journalists, doctors, and citizens more transparent and addressed by qualified voices to help mitigate the effects of misinformation. This was developed in conjunction with the National Resource Fund, wherein the mapping stage, we mapped that there was a space for articulation between doctors and journalists; an example that solutions are not always in the form of a product, but also as a process or forms of articulation or organization.

Taking experiments to other dimensions 

We are currently in the last stage of the Learning Cycle, scaling. That is, moving from testing to learning and projecting this process into public policies or contributing to the greater appropriation of methodology, process, results, or learning. We have conversations with government actors, educational institutions, and the private sector to scale these initiatives. 

If you want to know more about these initiatives or want to implement them in your organization or country, we are happy to share with you our learnings in the face of the challenges of the infodemic. Do not hesitate to contact us (lab.uruguay@undp.org). 

Finally, we also support the outreach efforts of UNDP Uruguay, promoting access for journalists, media, and communicators in the free and massive online course on journalistic coverage of the COVID-19 vaccine; in collaboration between UNESCO, UNDP, WHO, and the Knight Centre for Journalism in the Americas at the University of Texas at Austin, and co-financed by the European Union. The course will also be available to participate autonomously at the participant's own pace.

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