A week in Uganda with Safe Hands and RHU

“I want to have sex but I don’t want to be pregnant” is a common statement heard across Reproductive Health Uganda (RHU)’s clinics every day. Without access to safe sex information, 1 in 6 young women in Uganda will be pregnant before the age of 20, putting her at risk of unsafe abortion, complications in pregnancy and childbirth, and contracting HIV or a sexually transmitted infections (STIs). That is why SafeHands, together with RHU and chat bot expert Say It Now, are developing an automated information service “Ask RHU” – a chatbot that uses mobile messaging channels to deliver instant, accurate and reliable safe sex information. Ask RHU puts young people first and using ‘Conversational AI’ will evolve to offer personalised and contextual information related to unwanted pregnancy, contraception, HIV and STIs. ‘Ask RHU’ is an innovative solution to transform young people’s access to SRHR information and services. Our chatbot will improve access to routine safe sex information. Collective intelligence will provide an improvement to the performance and cost-effectiveness of youth-friendly SRHR services.” Erica Belanger – Safe Hands

At the beginning of October we traveled to Fort Portal in Uganda to kick off this partnership with Safe Hands. The first step was to engage a local partner, Reproductive Health Uganda (RHU) in the project and start to design what a Sexual Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) chatbot might look like.

We wanted to test our hypothesis:

A chatbot could increase access and reduce cost to deliver sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) information to young people in Uganda.

So we brought together a cross disciplinary team consisting of Youth Action Workers (YAM’s) people working from the clinic, RHU’s head office and Say It Now. We had about 12 people involved in the initial workshops which set out to describe the operating landscape, how the service is currently being delivered and how this ‘Ask RHU’ chatbot may help.

By integrating Ask RHU with RHU’s youth-friendly services, we learned we could increase the quality of information dissemination and productivity of service providers, freeing them up to answer more complex questions and requests for services. We want to test and learn by field testing our chatbot to gain the following data:

  • Number of requests resolved

  • Types of questions asked through this service

  • They types of language used with this service

  • The age ranges of people using the service

  • The sex of people using the service

  • Reduction in response time for young people to gain safe sex information

  • Effect on productivity and performance at RHU

  • Effect on cost of service provision at RHU as a result of chatbot

We are in constant communication with the team we created in Fort Portal with a WhatsApp group with weekly status updates which helps hold the team accountable and delivers us an always on channel for support around content and context. We plan to trial the chatbot in a live environment in early 2020.

We’ve captured some of the process and what the chatbot might look like in the below video. We’re looking for support to continue project past the pilot in early 2020. Full Case study available here.

This project is in response to the issues that Safe Hands have clearly laid out in this video: