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Afinidata - The artificial intelligence chatbot that helps parents boost their child’s potential

Parents receive a free personal 'assistant' in Facebook Messenger to facilitate early-childhood education activities to their children.

Photo of Andreana Castellanos
11 10

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Updates: How has your idea changed or evolved throughout the Prize? What updates have you made to this submission? (1500 characters)

One of the most important improvements we made since the last submission is related to use of our technology by low income population. While most low income families use cellphones, the majority have what are called "feature phones" that have limited access to data plans and network connection. For that reason we had worked to improve the performance and functionality of our virtual intelligence platform to enable correct access for phones with low connectivity and limited resources. Recently we have been able to grow our user base organically by partnering with different mothers who are also bloggers that promote our program and also by giving moms who have already subscribed to our program the option to share with others.

Name or Organization

Afinidata LLC

Geography

Afinidata LLC is incorporated in Colorado, we have users in 4 countries (US and Latinamerica)

What is your stage of development?

  • Early Stage Innovator, with at least one-year experience in ECD

Type

  • For-profit

What is the stage of your proposal?

  • Full-scale roll-out: I have completed a pilot and analyzed the impact of that pilot on the users I am trying to reach with my idea. I am ready to expand the pilot significantly.

Describe how your solution could be a game-changer for your selected Opportunity Area (600 characters)

Chatbots are a big opportunity. They are the apps of the future, and the artificial intelligence incorporated in chatbots is simply a game changer for helping provide a scalable solution to provide access to quality ECE resources to thousands of parents within seconds. Similar to the volunteers who help parents with ECE visits, our platform is able to learn and collect a new set of variables about parents and children with every interaction. This helps create more personalized content for the children, in a much cost effective and scalable way.

Select an Innovation Target

  • Technology-enabled: Existing approach is more effective or scalable with the addition of technology

Tell us more about your innovation (1500 characters)

Afinidata uses artificial intelligence to provide parents a personal assistant that guides them with personalized and effortless early-childhood activities, delivered directly into messaging apps they already use to communicate with family and friends and without requiring any new downloads. All of our educational activities had been designed in Spanish, with words, materials, and culturally relevant practices for the hispanic population. The activities are age specific, fun, and include materials parents can find at home. Each activity has been designed to help children reach certain milestones in the following development areas: motor, cognitive, language, and social-emotional. For example, we can suggest a parent builds a sensory bottle using recycled materials like empty water bottles and buttons in different colors and sizes, for visual stimulation, or to create noise for a sensory play experience. In some areas we complement our chatbot with in person workshops run by community leader that have learned from our program and soon we will be adding chatrooms were parents with similar situations could support among the. The community leaders are our best ambassadors

What problem are you aiming to solve? (3 sentences)

Afinidata provides accessibility to quality early-childhood education for thousands of hispanic families. Existing early-childhood education options, such as daycare or private tutors, are often expensive and difficult to scale. Afinidata fills a need for effective, easy-to-access educational tools that is inclusive with lower income families.

Explain your idea (5000 characters)

Imagine if each parent had their own personal 'assistant' for free to help them build the resources they need to provide adequate early-childhood education to their children. This is what Afini does! Here’s how we work: 1. A parent subscribes to Afinidata by starting a conversation with us on FB messenger; 2. Every week our virtual assistant reaches out to the parent and engages with them through a conversation on Facebook Messenger; 3. The parent receives a new idea or tip to play, sing, talk, and/or engage with their children in their own household; and 4. The parent practice the activity with their child and shares with Afinidata their opinions about the activity, and their children’s perception and reaction to the activity. While parents are interacting with our artificial intelligence platform, we collect each parent’s input. We use this to not only improve our educational program but also to offer targeted advertisement for the brands that sponsor our activities and to help researchers in ECE collect valuable data. We help brands and organizations increase their market share while they help us keep the program and ECE content free to the parents.

Who benefits? (1500 characters)

The main beneficiaries are the children and their families who are provided access to high-quality, ECE resources that prepare children for primary school. The parents benefit by saving time and money, but most importantly Afinidata allows parents an opportunity to enjoy the time spent with their children learning. We focus our efforts on understanding and benefiting parents, because they are our most valuable resource to truly have a lasting impact on children. If we can capture the attention of the parent, the child will benefit not only from the content and resources provided by Afinidata, but also by the awareness and importance of ECE the parents have gained through networking with Afinidata. We partner with schools and hospitals to offer free ECE resources to their clients. These institutions have also benefited from Afinidata by offering their clients an additional free service that parents find valuable and that complements the institutions own efforts to keep children healthy and prepared for school.

What kind of impact will your idea have? (1500 characters)

The expected outcomes for children who participate with their parents in our program are improvements in the following developmental areas: motor, cognitive, language, social-emotional, and mental health skills. Each activity we suggest to parents has been designed with developmental milestones based on the Caregiver Reported Early Development Index (CREDI) Instrument, which is a new tool develop by Harvard for measuring skills of children under the age of three in culturally diverse settings. We expect to improve the developmental outcomes of individual children, and the social and economic well-being of society in the countries we are currently working. We also have a wider positive impact on the ECE ecosystem by offering access to datasets we collect during conversations with parents. This data collection helps to develop new tools and resources in ECE.

How does or how could your idea impact low-income children? (1500 characters)

Since the foundation of Afinidata, we have dedicated considerable effort to make our program accessible for low-income communities. Our initial pilot programs were conducted in very low-income communities in remote areas of Guatemala. Every aspect of our educational program was designed to make ECE resources available at any time to children in households of any income level. Afinidata views our impact on low-income via education, business, and technology. 1. Education: Afinidata develops educational content that works across a broad range of economic status of latino families, via simple communication and effective materials. 2. Business: Afinidata’s business model leverages collecting valuable data from marketers and researchers in order to keep ECE content free to parents and children of low-income families (see business model). 3. Technology: Afinidata offers accessible ECE tools, which can be implements with technology that low-income families already use on a daily basis.

Innovation: What makes your concept innovative? (5000 characters)

Afinidata incorporates an old proven model of parent intervention combined with the power of technology to enable a cost-effective method to scale the solution to enhanced ECE. We reach out to parents in their Facebook inbox and provide them with relevant content for their children, and engage them like never before! Unlike private academies, our activities can be accessed for free by anyone with Facebook. Furthermore, Afinidata is different from other technology-based solutions in that our technology integrates and runs directly within the highest growth and penetration app, Facebook Messenger, which has 1.2 billion active users. We reach parents where they already are! Facebook reports 60% of U.S. Hispanics use Facebook Messenger to connect with friends and family (Facebook, 2014).

Scale: Describe how your idea could reach a significant number of end-users. (1500 characters)

Scalability is a noteworthy attribute of Afinidata’s platform of ECE. We reach and help thousands of parents in seconds. Since a image is worth a thousands words, please take a moment to watch the live video stream of Afinidata’s platform. Within six months since we launched and with limited resources, the beta version of Afinidata has reached over 10,000 families. Our user acquisition cost ranges from $0.10 to $0.30 per user and we have reached up to 90% monthly user growth. Every month we share over 50,000 educational activities with hispanic families in the U.S, Guatemala, El Salvador, Chile, Colombia, and Honduras. We know there is considerable room for growing rapidly the number of end-users we reach since our limit right now is everyone who users Facebook messenger basically billions of users.

Feasibility: Where are you with understanding the feasibility of your idea? Describe what you’ve done so far and your plans. (3000 characters)

We are a team of four, and together we have tested and run multiple pilot projects with the first version of Afinidata’s ECE platform. We have launched the ECE program in four countries, developed and tested over 200 educational activities, grown to 10,000 users in less than six months, and gained initial revenue. In February 2017, Afinidata was selected by Startup Chile — the top business technology accelerator in Latin America — for their March to August accelerator program. That timeframe in 2017 constitutes a significant growth period for Afinidata, which we believe can be enhanced via collaborating with OpenIdeo. Our innovation team has over ten years of experience in software development and artificial intelligence. We are passionate to use our technical skills to solve social problems. We also understand the hispanic market; we understand how hispanics moms interact with different technologies, what content they find relevant, and how to reach them. We had devoted numerous resources to find the most cost effective way to enroll new users into our program. Currently we are optimizing our marketing budget by using a combination of highly-effective marketing strategies that allow us to grow our user base rapidly. Our marketing strategies include partnerships with schools, health clinics, bloggers, and online advertising. However, our best strategy is having parents who are participating in our program refer to other parents. We are currently focused on growing our users to 50,000 over the next eight months.The biggest challenge right now is growing our user base quickly enough with our own resources in order to be more attractive to multinational companies, while continuing to improve our users experience and ECE content. Last year we received our first paying clients via providing advertising and market research services to universities and small brands. We have had initial conversations with Nestle and Simons to provide marketing opportunities to larger brands. However, this year we will need to focus more on piloting and testing different models to start working with multinational brands who target hispanic moms.

Business Viability: How viable is your business model? (5000 characters)

To brands and researchers who target hispanic families, we provide market research and marketing services in more effective ways than traditional methods. We reach out to parents directly in their Facebook inbox with relevant ECE content for their children. helping brands to really connect and understand moms. Afinidata’s market opportunity is very exciting. Our users (hispanic women) represent the fastest growing consumer segment with $650 billion USD in consumer power (Nielsen, 2016). The responses from our users are very valuable, because these responses are really hard to get. This is especially true in Latin America, where internet connectivity is limited Hispanic parents reach out to us every day, asking questions, sharing special achievements of their children, or seeking our advice. Every day our database is more robust, and we are continually building better relationships with parents throughout the U.S. and Latin America. We understand that these relationships are Afinidata's biggest asset. That is why we value, protect, and nurture each relationship, because we know each relationship we form is an endless opportunity for Afinidata.

HCD: How have you used human centered design to build or refine your concept? (5000 characters)

We have conducted hundreds of interviews and surveys, pertaining to habits, influences, and practices of ECE with hispanic parents. We have hosted 79 sessions with parents and their children where we learn how parents interact with their children, use Afinidata’s ECE content, and what activities they like the most. We have tested multiple communication channels via verbal conversation, email, text, apps, and website before we adopted the chatbot technology. Since the launch of our chatbot, every week we ask our users a set of questions to help understand how they are using our content and activities. The feedback allows us to improve the educational materials we share with the parents, and also the interactions each parent has with our virtual intelligence.

Tell us more about you (3000 characters)

I was 18 when I met a child in my home country, Guatemala, who told me he had no other option than to become a farmer. Since then I started to imagine a world where every child could have the skills they needed to create their own path. What is most exciting to me is that maybe one day that vision will be a reality through Afinidata. My background is not in ECE, which gives me a different perspective. I am an industrial engineer and Fulbright scholar with a MBA. I have experience launching and growing over a dozen tech projects for Fortune 500 companies and startups. What makes me the most excited and passionate about Afinidata is using the power of business and technology to solve access to education. As part of my contributions to education I have co-authored three educational books for children in Central America and I have collaborated as a co-author on a upcoming publication about the Caregiver Reported Early Development Index (CREDI) Instrument. The CREDI Instrument is a new tool for measuring motor, cognitive, language, social-emotional, and mental health skills of children under the age of three in culturally diverse settings. This tool was designed by a group of professors at Harvard University and is the one we use at Afinidata.

Do you have the people and partners you need to do what you’ve described? (600 characters)

So far we have design our own content in collaboration with the Executive Director of the Early Childhood Center at CSU, who has provided the educational framework for Afinidata´s content, but we are very interested in assistance to help develop potential partnerships that can provide us ECE content, such that we are not re-creating content that already exists. We believe this assistance would allow Afinidata’s team and resources to focus on main competitive advantage and the areas we add the more value, like on further increasing our users, and continuing to developing our technology.

As you consider your next steps, what kinds of help could you use? Is there a type of expertise that would be most helpful? (1800 characters)

There are three main areas were Afinidata can use assistance so please reach out to us if you have any input in the following areas 1. Impact Analysis: Although we already collect some very important data about the use of our content, we want to gain a deeper understanding about the impact on the different developmental areas. 2. Content partnership and other program networks- So far we have developed our own content but we are very interest in knowing other programs educational content at to evaluate if some of this content could be adapt and reach a higher number of users though Afinidata. 3. Business Development: In order to ensure the financial sustainability and growth of Afinidata, a key focus area moving forward is business developement. We desire to increase the number and services we sell to CPG multinational companies, so any connections with brands of consumer good companies who serve the hispanic market are highly appreciate.

Would you like mentoring support?

  • Yes

If so, what type of mentoring support do you think you need? (1200 characters)

We are looking for mentorship to assistance as we move forward with the piloting of different business model , pricing models , and for the design of a business development strategy to target CPG companies in a more effective way.

Are you willing to share your email contact information submitted on OpenIDEO with Gary Community Investments?

  • Yes, share my contact information

[Optional] Biography: Upload your biography. Please include links to relevant information (portfolio, LinkedIn profile, organization website, etc).

Please learn more about Afinidata at www.afinidata.com reach us at ac@afinidata.com or connect with through LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/andreana-castellanos-587185106/ We will love to hear from you!

Name or Organization

Afinidata LLC

11 comments

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Photo of Ileana Félix
Team

This is such an amazing and powerful project, in a little time Affinitas has achieved a lot of challenges putting the technology on service to education. No doubt there are many more successes that lead to the most important, to maximize the potential of people.
For me the most important part of this project is that it manages to go from an online technology to the offline world, there are very few projects that manage to operate under this modality and Afinidata has done it with great success.

Photo of Andreana Castellanos
Team

Thank you for all your support Ileana!

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