A chatbot (also known as a talkbot, chatterbot, Bot, IM bot, interactive agent, or Artificial Conversational Entity) is a computer program which conducts a conversation via auditory or textual methods. Such programs are often designed to convincingly simulate how a human would behave as a conversational partner, thereby passing the Turing test. Chatbots are typically used in dialog systems for various practical purposes including customer service or information acquisition. Some chatterbots use sophisticated natural language processing systems, but many simpler systems scan for keywords within the input, then pull a reply with the most matching keywords, or the most similar wording pattern, from a database.
The field of chatbots for good is still emerging, but nonprofit and government organizations have begun to develop use cases.
The chatbot technology has the potential to be an innovative tool for development and humanitarian organizations to better communicate with their beneficiaries. The ability to deploy a scaled outreach campaign while not heavily burdening staff with regards to time and training has the potential to be one invaluable use of chatbots to development organizations with and without an ICT focus.
Chatbots smartly guide beneficiaries and other end users through surveys, making the surveys easier to understand and complete correctly. There are options for additional functionality using artificial intelligence and machine learning in the interpretation of messages and sending of information.
Smartphones and chatbots have made services from banking to transportation more accessible across Africa. Now, aid agencies are hoping they can do the same with food.
The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) routinely carries out food security analysis in order to assess and track the need for food assistance in its areas of operation. WFP maintains a network of 1.5o food security analysts who work with governments to implement surveys of household food security and markets. WFP commonly implements comprehensive and emergency food security assessments as well as market assessments and facilitates or maintains food security monitoring systems in many of its countries of presence.
In the last year WFP has also experimented with chatbot-based survey.
Chatbots will not be the solution to all problems, but simply another ICT tool that has the potential to deliver value with a thoughtful approach and proper design and development.