During the 2016 International AIDS Conference the Praekelt Foundation launched a new chatbot for Facebook Messenger to provide expectant and new mothers with a more affordable and engaging way to access MomConnect.
The NDoH launched the MomConnect SMS-based messaging platform in 2014 to support mothers from pregnancy to their baby’s first birthday with information and advice on pregnancy. The mHealth platform encourages the women to start ante-natal care, test for conditions such as hypertension, HIV/AIDS and diabetes early on in their pregnancy.
The Praekelt Foundation chose to expand the MomConnect services to Messenger in response to the 10 million + South Africans using Facebook, 75% of which access the social network on their mobile phones.
The new bot will be integrated into the existing Messenger platform, making it a more financially affordable and interactive method because it allows for larger character limits than SMS and none of the time-outs of USSD.
The bot will provide mothers, nurses and child health workers access to a resource of information around HIV, pregnancy, delivery and a baby’s first year, as well as a future helpdesk to offer mothers a platform where they can have their questions answered by live operators and escalated to health professional.
“We focus on providing innovative and scalable solutions for those in need of access to information in low income countries by keeping ahead of changing technology as well as the changing needs of the end user,” said Praekelt Foundation Founder and CEO, Gustav Praekelt.
“We launched MomConnect in 2014, before the rise of Messenger. To be relevant with the latest technologies, we have created a bot to integrate into the platform, as they allow mothers and health care professionals a cheaper way to access vital maternal health and HIV information personalised to them directly on their mobile devices. We are proud to lead their integration into health systems,” continued Praekelt.
On the benefits of the new bot, Chief Engineer at Praekelt Foundation, Simon de Haan, said: “Starting with maternal healthcare, access to essential information delivered via Messenger poses a fundamental shift in how personal health services are delivered at national scale in emerging markets. Our maternal health services are made possible by our open-source Junebug integration for Messenger and we are excited about the potential this open-source release creates for the wider health and technology industry.”
The Praekelt Foundation plans to roll out the technology to its existing suites in other African countries, which have replicated the MomConnect model, including Hello Mama in Nigeria and Family Connect in Uganda.