On September 26 and 27, 2023, the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) successfully conducted its Promoting Resilience and Inclusion in Media Education (PRIME) training curriculum in Honiara, Solomon Islands. This comprehensive programme, hosted to equip civil society organisations (CSOs) and social media influencers, witnessed the active participation of 22 individuals, including 10 women and 12 men. Notable attendees included social media influencers, journalists, leaders from civil society organisations representing disabled persons, women, and youth networks.
The event commenced with opening remarks from the USAID Acting Chargé d'Affaires, Mr Henry Hand. His remarks set the tone for an engaging and informative training session that tackled critical issues related to misinformation and disinformation online. The primary objective of the PRIME training was to enhance participants' critical thinking skills, enabling them to effectively identify and respond to mis/disinformation while ensuring their safety in the online sphere. This initiative aims to prepare the participants for the upcoming elections in Solomon Islands next year.
IFES, with a history of successful PRIME curriculum deliveries in Papua New Guinea and Fiji ahead of their respective elections in 2022, facilitated the training. Participants delved into various aspects of critical thinking, including questioning the motives behind information, recognising conscious and unconscious biases, distinguishing fact from opinion, and emphasising responsible information sharing.
During the training, participants were presented with real-world examples of disinformation, misinformation, mal-information, and hate speech, underscoring the detrimental impact such content can have on public perception and democratic processes. Attendees enhanced their ability to locate reliable sources of electoral information, thereby emphasising the importance of accurate and informed choices for voters.
The session also delved into the risks associated with digital engagement, providing valuable guidance on strategies to ensure online safety, not only for the participants themselves but also for their families.
According to Ms Alice Hou, President of Guadalcanal Council of Women the training was helpful to ensure fact-checking of awareness activities before elections.
“I really enjoyed the training. It helped me personally to have a critical mind, fact-checking sources and safety tips online… I will use this knowledge alongside our next election awareness activities,” Ms Hou said.
As the training ended, participants collectively devised a comprehensive strategy for the six months leading up to the elections. This strategy entails coordinated efforts across various online and offline platforms, involving diverse target groups in their respective communities, all geared towards promoting critical thinking. The plan includes the compilation of trusted sources for electoral information, tips for online safety, and efforts to raise awareness about critical thinking in the context of mis- and dis-information. Participants also discussed creating short video clips, slogans, and hashtags to further raise awareness on these crucial issues.
To ensure the effective implementation of this strategy, a follow-up meeting with the participants is in the works. This meeting will be aimed at tracking progress and ensuring the successful promotion of information integrity in the lead-up to the election.
IFES remains committed to empowering individuals and organisations to navigate the challenges of the digital age, ensuring that access to accurate information and responsible online engagement are safeguarded in the lead-up to democratic processes.
The event was supported USAID through its PROJECT Governance programme with SPC as the lead implementer in collaboration with its sub-grantee partner IFES.