3. U-Report: Your voice matters
Across the world, young people are concerned about a variety of issues, ranging from climate change to the economy. Unicef created its own bot, U-Report, to give them a voice. The bot, available via Twitter and Facebook Messenger, polls its followers (called ‘U-Reporters’) on a range of topics. The idea is to gather opinion and experiences from these young participants, who now number over three million, and use them to help influence public policy.
U-Report regularly sends out polls on a variety of issues, and assesses the results based on demographic data provided by U-Reporters when they sign up.
The pollster bot has achieved some notable results. In Liberia, it asked 13,000 young people if teachers at their schools were exchanging grades for sex. 86% said yes, uncovering an endemic problem and prompting Liberia’s Minister of Education to work with UNICEF on stamping it out.
4. Quitxt: Helping users quit smoking
It is 2017, and despite smoking bans and punitive taxes, people still continue to light up. Could a chatbot help people to quit smoking? Dr. Amelie G. Ramirez of the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio’s Institute for Health Promotion Research hopes so. She created Quitxt, an SMS-based quitbot designed to help addicted puffers deal with their cravings.
Targeting young adults aged 18-29, the bot consistently encourages smokers to give up and not look back. Smokers can set their quit date and embark on an 8-10 week program, receiving between three and seven text messages per day for the first two weeks, gradually reducing over time. In addition to encouraging words, the bot also provides tips for managing stress and building a support network. Participants can expect links to mobile webpages designed to help people give up smoking.
5. MeditateBot: Creating a daily meditation habit
While some bots exist to help you stop a habit, others want to help you start one. Entrepreneur Eric Rems created MeditateBot as a Facebook Messenger tool to help him remember to meditate. Meditation is a proven health technique, and helps practitioners to remain mindful throughout the day, reducing stress and conflict.
Developed over a weekend, the chatbot teaches the benefits of meditation and advises on different kinds. It also enables people to schedule daily meditation reminders. When creating the bot, Rems focused on keeping the barrier to entry low by not imposing too many requirements on users early on. He avoided collecting too much information from them, so that they could begin using the bot easily without filling out forms that would create a hurdle for them to begin using the bot.
He enabled them to choose when they meditate, and let them choose how long. He also limited the available options. “I’ve seen too many apps that have an endless amounts of options, this makes it hard to select the “right” one — which causes frustration,” he said.
Over 500,000 users have been busy chilling out and improving their mental health using the chatbot, so he must be doing something right.
One organization has proven that technology can have a positive effect on democracy. Digital marketing firm @Mssg created a Facebook Messenger bot for the Connecticut House Democratic Campaign Committee that enabled voters to find their voting location quickly and easily.
The Connecticut HDDC bot enabled voters to submit their address in a conversation on the organization’s Messenger page, and returned the actual voting location, along with a Google Map. What better way to support the democratic process?