“Foodbot”: Developing a WFP Chatbot to Communicate with Target Populations

Chatbots are an emerging technology that can assist humanitarians and international development practitioners to communicate with beneficiaries and community members. We are working with the World Food Programme to facilitate information gathering and sharing using chatbots. Once our “Foodbot” has been deployed, InSTEDD will continue to develop an open-source chatbot that can be used by any humanitarian organization. 

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INTRODUCTION


Chatbots are an emerging technology that can assist humanitarians and international development practitioners to communicate with beneficiaries and community members. A chatbot is a computer program designed to simulate conversation with human users over the Internet. Imagine an invisible robot living inside a chat application asking you questions and providing answers.

OPPORTUNITY FOR IMPACT


People are increasingly engaging with chatbots via messenger apps such as Facebook and and Telegram that are rising in popularity as mobile data plans and Wifi become more prevalent. The impact opportunity and need to engage vulnerable populations on food security issues sparked a project collaboration between the World Food Programme (WFP) and InSTEDD with support from the Cisco Foundation, are working together to create “Foodbot”, a chatbot that’s goal is to collect and share information relating to food security.

PROJECT ACTIVITIES


Following the initial prototyping and development of “Foodbot”, WFP and InSTEDD received funding to further develop and pilot “Foodbot” from the Cisco Foundation. Feasibility and user research was done by WFP with support from InSTEDD in Haiti, Nigeria, and Kenya. Upon completion of these visits, Kenya and Nigeria were selected as the initial pilot countries for “Foodbot”. In September 2017, WFP and InSTEDD staff went to Kakuma Refugee Camp in North Western Kenya to test “Footbot” with refugees and discuss its future use. Technical development of Foodbot is currently ongoing.

OUTCOME OF COLLABORATION


Pilot deployment will start in Kenya, with a larger roll out of “Foodbot” slated for 2018. After the roll out of FoodBot, InSTEDD will  work towards the release an open-source version of the chatbot technology that will be available for all humanitarian organizations.

STAY INFORMED:


To stay informed, follow InSTEDD & WFP MVAM on Twitter, Read the latest chatbot articles on the MVAM blog, and sign up for the quarterly InSTEDD newsletter.

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