Would Facebook Safety Check Feature Work In Nigeria?

In the thickness of insecurity, disasters and terrorism issues all over the world. Technologists have taken a bold stop in proffering solutions to some of these challenges using mobile software and applications.

Why The Feature

In 2011, during the pathetic Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami. Facebook’s engineers in Japan developed the feature motivated by people’s use of social media. Originally, the feature wss named the Disaster Message Board, it was renamed to Safety Check prior to release. It was introduced on October 15, 2014. Its first major deployment was on Saturday, April 25, 2015 in the wake of the April 2015 Nepal earthquake.

The feature played an amazing role in the Nepal earthquake, with an estimated loss of a few thousand lives. Within a few hours of the earthquake hitting, Facebook had activated Safety Check in the region. It detected users as possibly being in the affected area by their current city as listed on their profile, as well as the place from which they had most recently accessed Facebook. The desktop version of Safety Check also provided a summary of the happening and emergency contact numbers.

The tool was deployed again in the wake of the May 2015 Nepal earthquake, and received attention when some people outside the affected area were reported by Facebook as marked safe.

The Activity in Nigeria

After the creation of the French National Flag Filter by Facebook to support France on the recent terrorism attack in Paris. Enormous criticisms from Facebook users all over the world accusing Facebook Inc of being selective.

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Facebook is known to usually activate the feature, which allows users to mark themselves as safe, after natural disasters, but not bombings or attacks.

The French Flag Filter feature drew criticism from some users because the feature was not activated for suicide bombings in Beirut a day earlier.

Facebook has since been active in using Safety Check for more tragic events. On the 17 November, 2015, the Safety Check feature was activated after deadly blast in Nigeria. This is an enthralling social media feature that can play an active role as events unfold in the terrorism affected places in Nigeria. But the question of the Nigerian factors has begun to play a major challenge.

The Nigerian Factors

According to the Social Media Week in 2014, Internet penetration in Africa has seen a 5% growth in the past year and increases from 13% to 18%. This is in comparison to a global internet penetration of 35% making up 2.5 billion people. It should be noted that internet data from Africa is limited and hence the growth in internet penetration in Africa may be greater. Africa has the lowest Mobile Penetration by Region of 67% in the world.

However, Nigeria leads the way with the highest number of internet users , facebook users and active mobile subscriptions despite south Africa having higher internet, facebook and mobile penetration.

There are at least 11 Million Facebook Users in Nigeria, the possibility of the working of Facebook Safety Check would depend on the awareness of Nigerians in the Northern part (where they have received more terrorism attacks) about facebook itself. Nigeria has 32% of Internet Penetration, compared to South Africa’s 41%. The Safety Check feature uses internet for its functionality. And this should be the center of concentration for an efficient functionality of the feature.

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Limitations

The problem of internet and appropriate data subscriptions have posted a threat to the functionality of social media features overtime.

Prior to this time, there was a similar safety feature like the Facebook Safety Check called Google Person Finder. However, commentators noted that due to low penetration of mobile devices and poor network connectivity, many of the people in the target audience of the tool would not be able to use Facebook Safety feature. This was likened to similar problems faced by Google Person Finder in 2010.

Solutions

There is need for proper education of Nigerians, especially those residing in the areas that have been attacked by terrorists on the use of social media for security. The level of technological exposure in France for them to explore the social media benefit to combat terrorism is quite different to our exposure in Nigerian.

I believe this feature would have its exhilarating impact. But we need to create a welcoming technological ambiance for it.

By Yusuf Jimoh Aweda, a Lagos based
Microsoft Certified IT Professional and
also the Director, Center For Human Rectitude.

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