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Sexasaurus: a multilingual sexual and reproductive health chatbot for CALD communities

Overcoming stigma to give people from all walks of life access to conversational sexual & reproductive health info that changes lives.

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Explain your project idea (2,000 characters)

Family planning lies at the heart of peace, prosperity and planet. People able to choose if an when they have children are better educated and can give the children they do have a better life.

We are Australia's largest family planning organisation and each year our support centre takes over 150,000 calls from people who come from all walks of life. New migrants, young people, tourists, international students, mums, dads, people who live in the bush, and those in towns; we gets calls from everyone.

Unplanned pregnancies, contraception, vasectomy, sexual health checks and treatments; like it or not, we are all sexual beings and our health 'down there' is just as important as any other part of our bodies. Likewise, our sexual and reproductive health choices today can shape the rest of our lives in big and important ways.

But for many people, particularly young people and those from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, stigma around sex and reproduction still holds a lot of sway and can silence us at a critical time in our lives when we should be expanding our sexual knowledge.

It's this stigma, more than anything else that prevents people from seeking and getting reliable information. It is this stigma which makes us turn to our friends, rather than our parents; to unqualified websites over our doctor; that makes us reactive rather than proactive about our sexual health choices.

This is particularly problematic for those who live in communities where the fear of ostracism for sexual activity still looms large, or where silence, rather than an encouragement of sexual knowledge, is the cultural norm.

We know what questions you ask because you ask them of us every day, but we also know some of you would prefer the freedom of anonymity - to be able to ask in your own way, on your own terms, in your own language. We'd like to be able to give that to you.

Who are the beneficiaries? (1,000 characters)

Sexual and reproductive health matters to us all, and involves a cross-section of the community. Powered by IBM Watson, this sexasaurus is for people of reproductive age who are curious about or looking for reliable and honest information about sex and reproduction in the security of anonymity, in terms they understand.

How is your idea unique? (1,000 characters)

We won't shy away from tackling controversial sex and reproduction topics. We will be true to our mission about empowering women and men to make informed and positive choices about their sexual and reproductive health, in language they understand.

Idea Proposal Stage (choose one)

  • Initial Design: I am exploring the idea, gathering the inspiration and information I need to test it with real users.

Tell us more about your organization/company (1 sentence and website URL)

Marie Stopes Australia is the only national, independently accredited safe abortion, vasectomy and contraception provider helping Australian women and men take full control of their reproductive lives.

Over 20 years, 600,000 Australians have trusted us with their sexual and reproductive health needs.

We are non-profit and part of the Marie Stopes International partnership, which provides life-changing family planning services to over 25 million people a year.

Expertise in sector

  • 7+ years

Organization Filing Status

  • Yes, we are a registered non-profit.

In 3-4 sentences, tell us the inspiration or story that encouraged you to start this project.

We do a fair bit of outreach on University campuses and get to talk to a lot of young people and international students. A common response we get from students about whether they would like some information to take with them is: "what would I need that for?" Shame, denial, the optimism bias "it won't happen to me," continue to challenge health promotion in this area. The challenge is not to produce simply information for young people, but to get it to them in a way they want to engage with.

Please explain how your selected topic areas are influenced, in the local context of your project (1,000 characters).

From the outside, Australian society can seem extremely peaceful, prosperous and environmentally sustainable. But for those of us who live here, we know there are stubborn pockets of disadvantage and asymmetrical access to education and support that leads to very unequal outcomes for certain communities. Language, culture, religion, sexual orientation, gender, and where people live - their distance from services - all affect sexual and reproductive health outcomes.

Who will work alongside your organization in the project idea? (1,000 characters)

Multicultural women's health advocacy groups, our own state based consumer advisory committees, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community health organisations, website users, refugee health networks, state government multicultural commissions, universities and sex education providers.

Please share some of the top strengths identified in the community which your project will serve (500 characters)

Our community has passionate, capable and engaged health promotion professionals and advocates who want to lead the way in engaging with their various communities to address their own sex education needs.

Geographic Focus

Australia: young people and people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.

How many months are required for the project idea? (500 characters)

The project requires iteration and with enough resourcing could go through one iteration per 12 months, after an initial 3 month scoping and prototyping period. We believe for the project to be reliable, particularly from a risk management point of view, that 24 months would produce a good baseline chatbot after which more and more languages can be added.

Did you submit this idea to our 2017 BridgeBuilder Challenge? (Y/N)

  • No

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