A few days back, the world received news of 600 people who had died, and 3,000 left in hospital in Iran after they drank neat alcohol in the false belief that it cures the coronavirus. While this may not be the only case of people doing the extraordinary to manage or deal with the infection, it is certainly evidence that there is an information gap around truths surrounding cure and management of the virus.
Santos Okottah, a Kenyan tech-entrepreneur (pictured top) , has developed an easy to use artificial intelligence-based branding and communication solution called THE BRAND to reduce the risk of both individuals and organizations sharing false information.
“THE BRAND’s most useful and unique feature is an information management tool that can programmatically sieve out credible information and minimize misinformation. The ‘infodemic’ that currently exists about COVID-19 is a key driver in the creation of fear and panic. This is what stirred me and my team of developers to design a tool that can quickly isolate news and information from credible sources on social media including Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and serve it to social media users. This will reduce the probability of hitting the share button every time a user comes across information by flagging suspicious data and untrusted sources,” says Okottah.
THE BRAND once customized will easily connect to social media and create personalized, branded, engaging and informative content that is relevant to a specific search in no more than three simple steps. The specific tool that has this capability is called ‘Mix and Match.’ Mix and match can programmatically pull information from credible sources such as WHO, Ministry of Health Kenya and key government spokespersons and intelligently combine user generated content with content from these set sources to create a stream of shareable reliable information. Mix and Match was initially developed to specifically tackle misinformation about COVID-19 but has since proven useful even for organizations wishing to communicate about the pandemic or any other topic.
The platform uses content, photos and design via a simple interface that only requires basic computer knowledge. It is easily scalable, fast, automated and largely personalized. Mix and Match is be particularly useful for individuals, especially influencers and SMEs who cannot afford to pay a graphic designer to brand all their online content THE BRAND solves this problem. “It can do in 3 seconds what a designer would do in 15 minutes. Besides making it easy for content sharing, the branding feature helps companies and individuals stand out online by increasing engagement on their posts by at least 30%,” adds Santos Okottah, founder of THE BRAND.
With the rise in large amounts of information available online about COVID-19, false or partially true information spreads quickly especially via social media. All social media sites have already put in place measures to reduce exposure of misleading and harmful posts but there remains the common problem of people using credible sources and spokespeople to create memes, video cuts, transitions, remixes or adaptions and sharing that content with friends.
Branded content will reduce the probability of it being using it for an inappropriate cause. Santos says online misinformation is a technology issue that requires a technological solution. The internet is available to everyone therefore brands and individuals will have to find more innovative ways to stand out online by ensuring their content is always factual, engaging and attractive and easily help users weed out fake news.
“The realization that we are living in an online world fueled by 4G and lower barriers to acquisition of smartphones means that content is shared without oversight or intervention and the outcomes can have grave consequences on users and recipients. Innovation and artificial intelligence have never been more important to help deal with the problem of misinformation. The tech sector must step up and help both individuals and organizations properly manage information and build a trust worthy online ecosystem. That is what THE BRAND has tried to do using its platform,” says Okottah.
THE BRAND is not only able to filter information but also contributes to reducing risk of false news and trends through its other unique properties. Users can design marketing material such as letterheads and business cards that can be used off and online, instantly brand social media posts or ads for sharing and printing, broadcast social media posts and communicate with other users online. This is a one-stop solution for businesses and especially small and medium sized enterprises to get noticed, tell powerful visual stores in the form of engaging posts, presentations, infographics and other visual content. Individual users can access the platform online for free, while SMEs will need to pay Kshs 1,000 per month and larger organizations Kshs 10,000 per month.
Okottah is a full-stack engineer with over 10 years’ experience in cloud, programming and testing software across a variety of platforms. He has worked on numerous projects from concept to completion. He is also the founder of Eziki, an online video streaming service.