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MomConnect Facebook Messenger chatbot launches at Durban AIDS conference

At this week’s 21st International AIDS Conference held in Durban, the Praekelt Foundation introduced a new Facebook Messenger chatbot integrated with the SA Department of Health’s MomConnect service.

The bot will allow an inexpensive way for mothers, nurses and child-health workers to access vital information at a seemingly lower rate than sending in an SMS.

Praekelt Foundation was founded in 2007 and makes use of simplistic technologies to provide information to citizens of low-income countries. According to World Wide Worx, a quarter of South Africans currently use Facebook, this meant that 13-million South Africans currently use the site while 77% access it on their mobile phones.

Read more: Praekelt, SA Department of Health officially launch MomConnect service

Currently MomConnect serves over 850 000 subscribers, with many of those users able to access Facebook Messenger. This means that HIV positive mothers have a different platform to receiving staged messages. Some of the information afforded to the customers include information around delivery, the baby’s first year, HIV and pregnancy.

MomConnect’s bot will allow mothers, carers to access vital info via Messenger

“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. We launched MomConnect in 2014, before the rise of Messenger,” says Praekelt founder Gustav Praekelt.

“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’re proud to lead their integration into health systems.”

Healthcare in South Africa will always be an issue with obesity, high-blood pressure, tuberculosis and malaria among the top five killers. In 2012 HIV/AIDS was the leading cause of death, taking the lives of 202 000 people, according to a World Health Organisation study.

Better models and faster streamlines of services can greatly add to the betterment of the nation’s healthcare. Praekelt chief engineer Simon de Haan elaborates on how Facebook Messenger can do just that:

Starting with maternal health care, 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.

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