Humanitarian chatbots: how can we “meet people where they are” while supporting digital rights?

A chatbot is an artificial intelligence feature that can be used in websites and different platforms like Facebook or Twitter and that simulates human conversation through voice commands, text or both. The first chatbots appeared in the 1960s and reemerged in 2015- 2016, when mobile phone devices made it easier for companies to see how informal oral speech works and thus develop chatbots.

The aim of Humanitarian organizations is to save lives and alleviate suffering from the displaced, for instance. By early 2010, the sector was awakening: workers from the field realized there were information gaps that needed to be filled to make sure the right people get the right information at the right time. And where are the displaced populations? Nowadays they are mostly online, and that’s where Humanitarian chatbots can find them.

In this #BreadandNet 2020 session Sacha Robehmed from the International Rescue Committee (IRC) discusses the online connection between displaced individuals and Humanitarian organizations while sustaining online privacy and security. Some examples of Humanitarian Chatbots in the Arab Speaking Region are Hakeem learning companion, Ask Noor and Signpost.

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SMEX is a registered Lebanese NGO that works to advance self-regulating information societies in the Middle East and North Africa.