An Artificial Intelligence companion empowering India’s youth to be safe online

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snehai The increasingly rapid transformations in the digital world have presented many challenges for the safety and security of children online. But the same technological advances also have the potential to drive solutions and make the digital world safer. End Violence Partnership’s Safe Online initiative is working to make this happen by contributing to projects that deliver innovative technological-based solutions to tackle online child sexual exploitation and abuse (CSEA). 

On 8 April, one of these projects – the SnehAI Chabot 3.0 – was launched by Safe Online grantee Population Foundation of India. The latest SnehAI chatbot is an Artificial Intelligence powered ‘digital companion’ that equips adolescents with tools, information and resources to be safe from, identify and report online CSEA.

Empowering youth 

Around half of India’s population is under 25 years old but has limited access to and awareness of sexual health and safety. The SnehAI chatbot aims to fill this space by providing a safe and non-judgemental space for young people to access reliable information related to their sexual and reproductive health, dispel myths and taboos and address mental health concerns. 

The chatbot is designed in consultation of young people themselves to understand their needs and ensure that they are addressed by the AI system. The chatbot uses ‘Hinglish’, a colloquial mix of English and Hindi language, and is hosted on social media platforms such as Facebook Messenger frequented by the youth. It uses various interactive films, stories and games to engage young people. Within 20 days of the chatbot being live, 2733 children and young people have exchanged over 45,000 messages in 4,000 conversations with the digital companion. 

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Changing mindsets 

Issues like reproductive and sexual and adolescent health are influenced by socio-cultural norms. Research on preventing violence against children is increasingly highlighting the need for changing mindsets to bring about lasting change. 

The Population Foundation of India aims to do just this. SnehAI, developed with financial support of ~ USD 750000 from End Violence’s Safe Online Initiative, is part of the organisation’s ‘Social and Behaviour Change Communication’ approach, which uses the power of media, entertainment and chatbots, to reach out to women, men and young people across the country to inform and empower them. By providing children and youth a space to talk and learn, it aims to create conversation that shifts norms and builds a safer world online and offline. 

Learn more about what Safe Online is doing to end online violence to build a safer Internet for children.