SOS Children’s Villages – the world’s largest non-governmental organisation focussed on supporting children and young people without parental care, or at risk of losing it – is on a mission to ensure that each child grows up with the bonds they need.
The organisation is aware of the challenges posed by the “digital divide,” which is especially apparent for many of the organisation’s villages in remote regions of Africa. In many cases, caregivers – which the organisation calls “mamas” – in isolated communities need to travel long distances to make a phone call or connect to the internet at an internet café. To reach these mamas with important information and resources, SOS Children’s Villages partnered with Avanade to build a personalised chatbot.
SOS Children’s Villages and Avanade began work on a Digital Care Assistant chatbot that would become affectionately known as “Rafiki,” (friend). Built using Avanade’s CuriousBot chatbot accelerator – based on the Microsoft bot framework and Microsoft Cognitive Services, including the QnA maker – Rafiki is designed to be easy to use and available 24/7 with important information and resources about topics such as child protection, mental health, self-care, education and business skills.
Because so many of the caregivers rely solely on mobile devices and have limited power and connectivity, information is presented on an intuitive interface with text only – no media – to run well in low-bandwidth settings.
“We are committed to bringing technology to the more remote areas of Africa to help address the digital divide. We can create the best tools, but if we don’t have the right technology, power or connectivity, we have nothing. These mamas are doing incredible work for their children and we want to give them all the support they need. In that regard, our work is never done.”
After being tested among internal users and a small number of caregivers in Malawi, Nigeria and Rwanda, the response to Rafiki has been positive, and the solution is now being rolled out widely. The chatbot, available in English, will soon be offered in French as well.
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