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Empowering Women Through AI

The ideal situation of an entrepreneur is when the business idea not just serves a need, but also fuels the core passion. A business with a conscience. Think AI and women empowerment and Saba Khalid should be one of the names on your list. With a background in journalism, blogging and activism, she founded Aurat Raaj, a digital content platform with an aim to end gender violence and inequality through raising awareness. The service, a web and app-based chatbot that empowers girls and women, inspires ideas through innovative technology.

Aurat Raaj produces content to educate girls about nutrition, sexual and reproductive health, gender inequality and empowerment through sports, many of the areas that are spoken only in hushed whispers across certain segments. “When I started Aurat Raaj, it seemed really easy because I hadn’t imagined that the scope would expand so quickly. Three months into it I found myself in the midst of something much bigger than myself,” says Saba.

Saba wanted a way for women to be able to ask the questions and have access to information, which gave rise to the AI chatbot, Raaji. “From a technical perspective, content platforms we were finding were very rigid. We needed something more flexible,” says Saba Khalid. Something agile, quick to change and scalable as the demand increased.

Raaji is a common name for women in Thar, which is where the chatbot gets its identity from. The character of a young girl and honor killing survivor, Raaji provides free access to a host of content and services. The service partners with health and legal professionals to provide effective counseling to users even anonymously should the need arise. The service presently caters to urban women who have access to technology yet are unable to find the right solutions to their problems.

Fear of being judged is just one of the reasons a platform like Raaji can be so critical. Technology doesn’t have a bias and it doesn’t judge therefore, sharing through the platform can prove to be more effective than traditional channels. The chatbot presently only understands English, which is sort of a setback considering a large part of the population is unfamiliar or comfortable communicating in English.

“So far we have been unable to incorporate any regional language. We are focusing on testing the chatbot in English first to see its overall usability and gauge the level of interaction. This will later set our direction for Urdu,” says Saba.

Since the chatbot is still in the learning phase and when it is unable to answer a question, it asks the user if they want to be transferred to a human agent. The more questions the human agents answer, the smarter Raaji gets. According to Saba, the next step for Raaji is to appear as an app on smartphones.

AI in the Development Sector

Artificial Intelligence is slowly making inroads across sectors in Pakistan.  A growing number of ventures have started to integrating AI to take effective decisions in medicine, healthcare, science and sports. After all, machine learning is the future and can have profound implications for the development sector.

Data Science has a pivotal role to play in shaping the future of the development sector because of its unprecedented growth rate, therefore, the application of artificial intelligence and machine learning is more necessary than ever. There are already community-driven chatbots which take care of the a lot of the FAQs posted, thereby reducing the time burden on the community itself. This can have a tangible benefit on the IVR and support helplines that are available in abundance. Just imagine how much more efficient and accent-free those experiences could become.

There is no doubt that AI improves the efficiency of existing systems and operations and it is this efficiency that becomes the driving force in the rate of acceptance of AI products. Globally, the healthcare sector is already using AI to its assistance while companies like GE are running medical imaging, medical diagnostics and patient monitoring systems on AI.

There is huge scope for AI to carry out research and development in the social sector. And problem solving through AI is like taking the use of technology to another level considering its current implementation and acceptance. It’s only a matter of time when the humans making the decision to integrate AI into their systems will happen.

 

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