The business use cases for chatbots are nearly endless, but there are also interesting and impactful ways that chatbots can be used for social good around the world. In particular, our favourite technology is a fantastic medium for improving access to much-needed education in emerging international markets.

Smartphone vs. Laptop Usage in Emerging Markets

In many emerging markets access to a smartphone is much more common than access to a laptop or desktop computer. And while there are still gaps in ownership between the women and men of some emerging markets, many people will share a smartphone in order to access the apps and information they require. 

In order to improve access to education and support services, the smartphone will play a crucial role. And yes, the smartphone is not the solution for all populations in emerging economies, but it does reach a much higher percentage than if education is simply doled out online or in person. Because smartphones are much more accessible than laptops, education that is optimized for mobile devices will be better received. 

It’s no different than when your experience on a mobile version of a website is sub-optimal. You won’t spend the time reading through information if it isn’t presented well. And if there’s an app that has a better user experience than the website, it’s an easy decision to consume content on the mobile app.

Any organization that is looking to improve access to education needs to look at the lowest barriers to entry for the demographic they are serving. And that might mean getting creative and resourceful with how information can be accessed on the most popular apps downloaded and utilized on a smartphone. 

person holding iphone showing social networks folder - Emerging Markets
Photo by Tracy Le Blanc on

The Best Apps to Reach Populations in Emerging Economies

Globally, WhatsApp, WeChat and Facebook Messenger are the most popular messaging apps based on the number of active users. Keep in mind that Facebook now owns WhatsApp, making it a huge player in the marketplace. WhatsApp also dominates the marketplace in certain emerging economies, such as India, Brazil, Indonesia and Mexico.

NGOs and government organizations have looked at the platform as an option for better distribution of information and education. Because people are familiar with the interface and use it regularly in their daily conversations, there’s no additional learning burden if education is displayed in the app. Further to that, many organizations are choosing a chatbot as the means of distributing information and interacting with end users on WhatsApp. 

As mentioned above, WeChat is another messaging app that is used quite heavily. In fact, it’s the fifth most popular social app in the entire world. Originally developed as a simple messenger app in 2011, it’s now grown to include other services, like WeChat Pay and WeChat Health, which has assisted in delivering online access to pandemic-related information and self-assessment tools for the novel coronavirus. 

Other apps that have seen increased adoption, though not to the level of WhatsApp, WeChat or Facebook Messenger include Telegram, Signal and Line. Signal received a good amount of press after Elon Musk endorsed its use due to its encryption and focus on privacy. However, Telegram, which is also an end-to-end encrypted messaging app, has seen much greater adoption than Signal. It’s users have been growing in countries like Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. 

One final app to consider in emerging markets is LINE, originally created in Japan as a private messaging app, it now contains many additional services, similar to WeChat with payment options and social media features. In 2019, LINE even released an AI chatbot, making way for increased functionality and a whole slew of possible ways to distribute meaningful information. LINE isn’t just popular in Japan though; it’s other top markets are Indonesia, Taiwan and Thailand.

person people hand smartphone - Emerging Markets
Photo by Markus Winkler on

Where Chatbot Technology Will Continue to Improve Access to Education

The WeChat Health example described above is the tip of the iceberg, in terms of what apps can do to help populations in emerging markets. Consider other public health education initiatives, financial literacy programs or other life skills that governments and organizations could further by making their messaging available and easy-to-access on popular apps. Additional education could be delivered to people on financial literacy, mental health and any other 

Taking that one step further with the integration of a chatbot, and users can ask questions about the information being taught, and will be able to converse with the AI technology in their own languages and dialects. Chatbots are also available 24/7 to assit, meaning the education has a higher chance of landing when it’s convenient for people to consume. 

Finally, chatbots can also integrate voice search into their repertoire, which will further improve access to education and support services. For those that have visual impairments, voice search enables access. For those who may not have the reading and writing skills required of a text-based chatbot or educational course, voice integrations break down further barriers to access for both marginalized populations and emerging economies. 

Education delivery is constantly in flux, whether from government organizations and NGOs or from large educational institutions, like universities and private/public schools. This past year parents, teachers and students alike had to navigate the transition of education from in-person teaching to online learning. Questions around access to laptops and tablets for students to access video conferencing began to arise. Many students had to wait for tech to be provided and some simply went without. Imagine if the education was to be optimized in the future for smartphones, and with chatbot options so that more students wouldn’t be left behind. 

If your organization is looking for better ways to reach people with their services, training, support or education, get in touch with one of our expert chatbot consultants today. We can also advise on the best channels and platforms for a chatbot to maximize the number of end-users you impact. We’d love to assist your mission in helping people locally and globally.

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