Although often associated with customer service, conversational AI also has the potential to transform not-for-profit initiatives and improve public sector efficiency. From suicide prevention to contraception advice and trafficking decoys to virtual therapists, chatbots have the potential to tackle both global and local challenges head on. With discussions around the challenges of AI ever present, we’re taking a look at some of the ways chatbots are positively transforming society:
Providing Unbiased Sexual Health Advice
Ask Roo is planned parenthood’s very own bespoke chatbot. It allows young people to anonymously ask questions that they might be too embarrassed to say out loud. It offers information on healthy relationships, puberty and contraception. Roo even chats to teenagers about how to cope with their first crush. The most popular questions posed to Roo include ‘How to tell someone I like them?’ and ‘How do I come out?’. With parents able to withdraw their children from Sex and Relationship Education (SRE) in schools in the UK, chatbots like Ask Roo are increasingly vital to ensuring that teenagers get the information and support that they need.
Putting an End to Human Trafficking
In Seattle, the police are using chatbots to catch human trafficking before it begins. Originally developed by volunteer led ‘Seattle Against Slavery’, Freedom Signal is an initiative being used across the US to locate victims and unsettle buyers of trafficked sex. Decoy chatbots are used to locate buyers and gather data to aid law enforcement in finding common trends. The decoy chatbot interaction also confuses buyers which delays and prevents a purchase from taking place. Similarly STOP THE TRAFFIK, a global initiative to end human trafficking, has partnered with IBM to create a Traffick Analysis Hub which uses machine learning to find trafficking hotspots.
Chatbot Ally is revolutionising public sector efficiency by targeting homelessness and poverty. It helps housing associations, councils and charities provide 24 hour support to all of their residents instantly. By taking this burden off of human capital, it allows them to focus on more complex problems, which in turn maximises efficiency in public housing sector: ensuring the fair and speedy allocation of housing. Similarly, in Toronto a chatbot called ‘Chalmers’ is helping the homeless to find free meals, shelter and other resources. The chatbot was pioneered by Ample Labs, a Toronto based startup which aims to provide vital information to the cities increasingly technologically connected homeless: 94% of homeless people in Toronto now own a phone.
Providing Mental Health Advice and Suicide Prevention
In the face of a global mental health epidemic and rising suicide rates, chatbots can act as virtual therapists and provide suicide prevention support. Australian not-for-profit Lifeline has launched a chatbot in partnership with Twitter DM. It ensures that information on local mental health support services can be sourced quickly and discreetly. Tess is a mental health chatbot built by clinical psychologists. It acts as a personal therapist, coaching clients through text message conversations which build resilience and deliver emotional wellness coping strategies. If you’re eager to hear more about how chatbots are revolutionising the clinical psychology space, listen to our podcast with Alison Darcy, CEO of the pioneering chatbot for mental health WoeBot.