In our community, young persons are much more comfortable of having “the talk” with their aunts (from the dad’s side). It used to be a common taboo for youth to flock to their aunts for advice but even this norm is dying. Young persons have nowhere today to go for the right Sexual and Reproductive Health information. Even the Service Delivery Points setup by the government have less youths walk-ins as there is stigma around going there and those that visit these centers walk away unsatisfied by the poor service provider attitudes. It is no wonder the problem of teenage pregnancy in Tanzania is a huge problem. Almost 2 out of 5 teenagers deliver a baby everyday according to our government statistics of 2016.
Our Team was challenged into looking into this issue and as software developers; we thought to create an electronic aunt, who works on the Facebook Messenger platform. We know the trends, we know where young persons are spending most their time so it is only fair to create a solution where most of the youths attention is. We created a solution yes, for youths to be educated on our platform but we are also connecting experts (call them adopted aunts) from all corners of the country who are ready to help these youths get the right Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH) information. The A.I ChatBot capability of our product provides for a way a youth can get initial information on SRH and if a youth wants more than just the information, there is always an adopted aunt they can talk to. Our product is called eShangazi, short name for electronic shangazi where shangazi actually means aunt in Swahili language.
Knowing that many youths have access to Facebook and Tanzanian Internet Service Providers offer free access to various social networks, Facebook amongst, we believe we will have a massive impact to these youths and the Facebook Messenger Bot seem to be just the right and perfect platform / channel to inform, educate and advice these youths about Sexual and Reproductive Health and to connect experts with the youths and their surrounding community.
What it does
eShangazi Connects youth to the nearest SRH service delivery points for you Connects youth to the SRH expert online Informs and educates on effects of teenage pregnancies Gives education on Rights of Sexual Reproductive Health She gives you information on Family Planning
How I built it
eShangazi is built under BotMan, the PHP messaging and Chatbot library. BotMan itself is built on top of Laravel Framework that utilizes the Model View Controller design pattern. Therefore, the entire application is designed and developed under Model View Controller design pattern. To make the interaction more engaging and interactive, eShangazi is integrated with Dialog Flow, a conversational platform that incorporate the use of Machine Learning to understand what users are saying. eShangazi is currently hosted on Heroku, a cloud platform and the database used is Postgres Database Management System. Images used on eShangazi are hosted at Amazon S3 servers that provide eShangazi with buckets to store easily the object files.
Challenges I ran into
Chatbots are new in our community many of those who use our chatbot believe their chatting with a real person and not a programmed bot which makes it a bit hard to design all use cases and all UX for these users. Moreover, our users were not completely aware on how to go about the predefined menu that is in our application. It took them a little more time to adopt and eventually navigate comfortably. (The location feature particularly was the hardest for them)
Accomplishments that I'm proud of
We managed to get a seed fund of $6000 to build a business around our product thought it wasn’t that much but it was essential to get the ball rolling. Due to our idea becoming known to our community, Code for Africa showed interest with ChatBots and approached us for a partnership were they needed us to build a framework for other social impact bots like this and we created the eShangazi Framework on Github for developers who wish to replicate what we have done. We worked to test this by creating a replica of three social good bots for Code for Africa. Different experts across the country themselves show interest to volunteer working with eShangazi. These SRH experts shall educate and advise youths across the country via eShangazi platform.
Recently, we did an initial social impact survey and we learnt the following:
Knowledge Increase 48% of users have increased their knowledge on SRH issues through eShangazi.
Meaningfulness of Impact 48% of our users “Strongly Agree” that eShangazi have had a positive impact on their lives
Net promoter Score eShangazi scored a net 33 net promoter score
What I learned
More data /content on an AI ChatBot is essential to successful SRH advocacy We need to increase User engagement to keep up with users and to reduce our users churn rate Facebook Ads are key in increasing page views and ChatBot statistics
What's next for eShangazi ChatBot
More features to be developed especially those that have come out of needs from our users’ examples include: Menstrual calendar User stories for users to share their SRH stories that can help other youths/users who are currently going through the same stage. We plan to make eShangazi your “Go To” Swahili speaking SRH and community building platform for both youths and youths influencers. We plan to do engagement campaigns in schools and do users trainings. We want to be able to provide Kio–Kits to low income earners who have no access to internet or electricity to help them still get this SRH information like any other youths who have such privileges.