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A bot and human chat service that supports the population that works informally at protecting their health as they return to work

Photo of Sebastian Chaskel
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Where are you located (country)?

Colombia, USA (there are 3 of us)

Where are you located (city or town)?

Bogota, Washington DC

You are submitting as:

  • An individual

If part of an organization or group, what is the name?

Bio$eguro (we are 3 individuals proposing Bio$eguro)

What is your organization or group’s website? (If applicable)

How does your proposed solution support emerging middle-class families in urban areas in the Global South to adapt and thrive during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Colombia and Peru are likely to have multiple waves of lockdowns and other restrictions related to the pandemic. While employers are setting guidelines to mitigate COVID19 transmission risk at formal places of business, informal workers must develop their own practices to both reduce risk and meet legal requirements. Bio$seguro uses both human and bot interactions on Whatsapp, SMS, and Facebook to answer informal workers’ questions about how to stay safe while returning to work following lockdowns. In its current early form, Bio$seguro asks individuals about their daily activities and offers straight-forward advice through referrals on how to stay safe. It can be developed to provide additional information depending on the needs of respondents, such as information on appropriate quarantine practices, testing, when to seek medical help, as well as government subsidies, school closures, and emerging policies.

What stage of development is your Idea in?

  • Prototype: I have done some small tests or experiments with prospective users to continue developing the idea.

What tier are you applying to?

  • LatAm Mid- to Advanced-Stage Prize Tier: Open to submissions focused on the Latam region, and particularly in Peru, that are prototyping, piloting, or scaling their idea. If not based in Peru, must be willing to partner with a local player in Peru to implement their project.

Do you intend to implement your idea in Peru?

  • Yes

In what countries do you expect to implement your idea initially (in the first 2 years)?

Colombia, Peru

Feasibility: where are you with understanding the feasibility of your idea? Describe what you’ve accomplished to date, what barriers to implementation might exist, and what next steps you plan to take.

Based on our understanding of the target informal population from our previous experiences working for social startups that work with this population in Latin America, we developed 5 profiles of would-be users and hypothesized the types of questions they may have. We then designed a chatbot on Twilio to answer these questions, and created a Facebook page for Bio$eguro and ran the bot through Facebook messaging. We spent about US$20 on Facebook ads to recruit about 10 participants from a medium-sized Colombian city (La Virginia) to chat with our service. While the chatbot is currently quite basic and was unable to provide useful answers to the individuals’ questions, this allowed us to have a human response to the users and understand the types of questions they asked and how they interacted with the chat service. As the next steps, we would like to hold qualitative interviews with individuals that fit within the 5 profiles, or others, that we would like to target. We would then like to refine our bot based on qualitative interviews. As we begin to chat with individuals, we would further understand their needs and further, refine the bot.

Viability: what needs to be true for you to be able to implement your idea? What stakeholders, partnerships and resources might be required to implement this solution?

At this point, we need a small injection of funding so that two individuals with different skills can contribute to the project: 1) So that an individual with design experience can support setting up qualitative interviews and adapting the bot to answer questions of interest to the target population. 2) So that an individual with programming experience can support programming the next phase of the bot, which would incorporate lessons learned from the qualitative interviews and future bot interactions. We would also benefit from partnerships with organizations that could direct users to our systems, such as organizations of informal workers such as recyclers or domestic workers.

Adaptability: how does your idea adapt to frequent changes within the context you are implementing, due to COVID-19? Consider the rapidly shifting government policies, and healthcare economic realities that might influence end users.

One of the reasons why it is challenging for the informal population to find accurate and handy information on how to keep themselves safe during the pandemic is precisely that knowledge about the virus has evolved, and as a result information from just two months ago is now outdated. Fortunately, our bot does not offer static information but rather can be continuously updated to share the most up to date information. For services or information that may be constantly changing, we can include links to outside websites or government hotlines to call.

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