WhatsApp recently launched their Business API, their way of supporting businesses that require more powerful tools to communicate with their customers. WhatsApp being the chat application with the largest global reach, with more than 1.8bn users, mostly in developing countries, it is the perfect platform to reach a significant amount of people.
Praekelt.org, a company that designs products, services, and experiences that address real needs, has been deeply involved throughout the development of this Business API, initially by participating in the WhatsApp’s Enterprise Solutions pilot, and now through the launch of their WhatsApp engagement product to other social impact organisations.
“We feel that the ecosystem is changing,” says Simon de Haan, CTO of the Praekelt WhatsApp offering. “WhatsApp is becoming a universal communication medium in many of the regions that we operate in across the world. WhatsApp is different from SMS in a few, very important ways: it is secure, it is immediate, and allows for richer conversations than SMS.”
The Praekelt WhatsApp product takes advantage of WhatsApp’s rich content capabilities including text, audio and images, as well as the potential for engagement through elements like reciprocal messaging and feedback.
The most notable example of how they’ve made use of WhatsApp’s Enterprise Solution is perhaps the pilot partnership, a service aimed at engaging with mothers on the South African Department of Health’s MomConnect platform. As the only nationally scaled mHealth platform in Africa, MomConnect was a perfect fit to integrate the technology which is available in nearly 100% of the clinics in South Africa.
MomConnect is a service that provides pregnant women with important information regarding their pregnancy, such as regular progress updates, checkup reminders and access to a Helpdesk to answer common questions. This Helpdesk makes use of machine learning to help an operator address frequently asked questions. This is done with the help of algorithms that cluster responses before the correct information can be sent to the end user.
By keeping a human in the loop and making use of natural language understanding, responses to a user’s question can be written in any of the 11 official languages. This is just another element to personalise the experience and ensure that the end user is getting exactly the information they need.
By making use of WhatsApp’s built-in location-based services, MomConnect can even direct users to their nearest clinics.
“WhatsApp not only poses a truly unprecedented opportunity to build a global maternal health platform for MomConnect, but now will allow other organisations to personalise messages and distribute them on a massive scale,” confirms De Haan.
For the team at Praekelt.org, the success of the MomConnect WhatsApp pilot has provided confirmation of a fundamental shift in how public services will be consumed and designed in the coming decade. SMS, IVR and USSD will be replaced in favour of IP based solutions in all emerging markets – a move that is spurred by the incredible power of mobile phones and data connectivity when used to advance the delivery of vital information and services.
Watch the video below to see how MomConnect has impacted the lives of real people:
By Daniëlle Kruger
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