The Pacific Covid-19 Infodemic
The Covid-19 pandemic has revealed dangerous vulnerabilities in the Pacific’s digital information ecosystems, as well as great opportunities to use the internet to deliver access to information. Despite noteworthy initiatives by the region’s governments and civil societies to communicate with citizens through the internet and social media, a spate of false and harmful information online has led to public confusion around how the virus spreads, who has been infected, and what is being done to maintain public safety. Moving forward, local, regional, and international stakeholders can learn from the experience of the Covid-19 information crisis in the Pacific to build resilience into the Pacific’s online information ecosystems in order to protect them during the current “infodemic” and against future online threats.
This report is the result of independent research carried out by The Asia Foundation’s regional Technology Programs team and a group of advisors and consultants from several Pacific Island countries. It draws on qualitative analysis of social media discourse and news reporting in the Pacific as well as interviews with dozens of stakeholders from health, journalism, and technology communities across the region. Based on these findings, this paper seeks to describe the present state of online “information ecosystems” in Pacific Island countries and territories; the risks and harms these ecosystems have faced during the Covid-19 pandemic; and the actions by government, the private sector, and civil society to respond to these risks.