Updated – Since the beginning of the year, Nigerians can use a simple tool on a major news site to find out if their doctors are licensed practitioners or con artists preying on the sick.
ICFJ Knight Fellows Justin Arenstein and Temi Adeoye have partnered with one of the country’s most popular news sites to make the tool available to millions of Nigerian citizens. Sahara Reporters boasts 2 million Facebook followers and nearly 900,000 Twitter followers, who routinely weigh in on topics such as corrupt politicians and business fraud.
Now, with the Dodgy Doctors tool, they are checking the credentials of people who practice medicine. Members of the public are also identifying fraudsters, those with no medical training who routinely treat patients, often with disastrous results including death.
The Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCN) told Arenstein and Adeoye that the problem is widespread in the country, Africa’s most populous with more than 180 million people. The quack doctors are “very elusive and difficult to catch,” according to Dr. Henry Okwuokenye of MDCN.
That’s changing thanks to Dodgy Doctors. In the first three weeks since it was launched, Dodgy Doctors had more than 30,000 views. Citizens visit the site and check on their doctor by simply typing in the doctor’s name, which is immediately cross-checked against the master registry of MDCN, the regulatory body that issues licenses.
One early result was the discovery that some legitimate doctors were not included in the MDCN’s database. The doctors themselves complained after patients challenged their credentials when their names didn’t appear in the registry. The council has pledged to take immediate steps to update its list.
The Dodgy Doctors tool is modeled after a similar digital tool built for The Star newspaper in Kenya by technologists working for Code for Kenya, a civic technology and data journalism lab created as one of Arenstein’s Knight Fellowship projects through the International Center for Journalists.
The Nigerian counterpart was built for Sahara Reporters by Adeoye and Code for Nigeria. Both labs fall under the umbrella of Arenstein’s Code for Africa movement, which promotes and aids the production of data journalism.
Sahara Reporters editor Declan Galvin said data gleaned from the Dodgy Doctors tool will be also used in the news site’s investigative reporting. “These tools, alongside investigative reporting, will help Nigerians expose imposters placing the public in danger,” he told Arenstein.