Around the world, child helplines can mean a matter of life or death for children in crisis. But far too often, the limited resources and technology of national helplines can leave countless calls unanswered.
Today, the Silicon Valley-based non-profit Tech Matters has launched a new software platform – Aselo – to strengthen and modernize child helplines throughout the globe.
“Globally, child helplines receive more than 30 million calls annually,” said Jim Fruchterman, the CEO and founder of Tech Matters. “But with limited resources and a reliance on voice calls, many of these calls go unanswered, and the real needs of children are far from addressed. Through Aselo, we expect that within five years, child helplines will be able to serve 100 million children annually.”
Aselo was born from a nearly two-year collaboration with members of Child Helpline International, numbering more than 160 helplines in nearly 140 countries. Last autumn, Tech Matters joined End Violence’s newest cohort of Safe Online grantees, all of whom are using cutting-edge technology to protect children from violence.
“Aselo is an open-source, customizable platform that supports the entire global crisis response movement, rather than each helpline having to pay to create individual tech solutions,” said Tech Matters in a recent press release. “It also integrates new cloud-based tools to increase helpline effectiveness and make remote work by counsellors more practical—something that has become essential to accommodate shelter-in-place restrictions because of the pandemic.”
Ten child helplines from around the world participated in the co-development of Aselo by testing prototype software releases during 2020, and Aselo is now being implemented in both Zambia and South Africa. The platform enables counsellors to connect with children where they are, expanding lines of communication on WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, webchat and SMS. It also helps counsellors communicate with multiple children at once by providing a single-screen, browser interface, and allows counsellors to gather crucial data on children’s experiences.
“Aselo will modernize and harmonize the way we provide services,” said Florence Nkhuwa, Chief Executive Director of Lifeline/Childline Zambia. “It will transform the way Lifeline/Childline Zambia delivers counselling services to its clients, and above all, improve the operations of the call centre to cater for a varied clientele across various platforms.”
In the context of COVID-19, these services are more critical than ever before. During the pandemic, calls to child helplines surged in some countries by up to 25 per cent.
“We have faced data backlogs in the past due to the busy nature of our work,” said Dumisile Nala, National Executive Officer of Childline South Africa. “From the testing version [of Aselo] that we have used thus far, we have already seen improvements with regards to case management and flow of capturing when compared to our current system.”