WhatsApp and nonprofit Girl Effect on Wednesday announced the launch of artificial intelligence (AI) based chatbot ‘Bol Behen’ (colloquial Hindi for ‘Speak, Sister’) in India to help adolescent girls and young women with concerns and queries around general health and sexual wellbeing. The Hinglish language chatbot is designed to provide content on topics such as sexuality, relationship, and reproductive health in a self-paced chat experience on the instant messaging app. Users can also ask their own questions on different topics.
The Facebook-owned messaging service said the new chatbot is targeted at adolescent girls and young women in the Hindi belt of India who typically use low-end smartphones with limited Internet bandwidth.
Using WhatsApp’s framework, Bol Behen is aimed to have an improved understanding of sentiment of the messages it receives to respond to users more precisely. It is also projected to reach millions of girls across India to answer their health curiosities and concerns and connect them to vetted services in the future.
In 2020, Girl Effect first launched the Bol Behen chatbot on Facebook Messenger in India. It is claimed to have scaled up to reach over 100,000 conversations, with over 1.6 million messages received. The chatbot is inspired by Girl Effect’s initial chatbot Big Sis that was launched in South Africa to offer non-judgmental advice on topics including sexual health and relationships.
“WhatsApp’s technology offers us the opportunity to forge closer links between girls and the health services they need, providing content that solves her concerns and encourages her to access healthcare, through connection with curated and vetted providers,” said Kanishk Kabiraj, Girl Effect Country Lead for India, in a prepared statement. “This will help us to deliver more seamless, personalised healthcare journeys in the future — for example, leading to girls booking appointments, getting reminders and sharing feedback all within Bol Behen.”
Girl Effect works to reach girls and young women across Africa and Asia with chatbots, chat shows, and TV dramas to give them knowledge about their body and health. It also runs digital brand Chhaa Jaa in India for lower-income, adolescent girls across the Hindi belt. It was launched in 2019 and is reaching over 10 million girls.
Chatbots are growing on WhatsApp to help its users with automated, human-like conversations. In the recent past, the app added chatbots to help users book COVID-19 vaccines, fight pollution, and even book cab rides.
WhatsApp already has over 400 million users in the country that companies, government agencies, and nonprofits can leverage to serve their different purposes and objectives through chatbots.