Giving Compass' Take:

• Poonam Muttreja and Sanghamitra Singh explain how a television show and accompanying AI chatbot are working to fill the gaps in India's sex education. 

• Can this approach be used to advance education in issues areas you work on? What are the limitations of this type of outreach program?

• Learn about an effort to use hip-hop to fight HIV in Kinshasa.

The fourth National Family Health Survey (2015-16) states that over half of the married women, between 15-19 of age, have begun childbearing. At least 10 percent of women (25–49 years of age) had sex before the age of 15, and 38 percent by the time they were 18. This data is indicative of the need for sex education to promote positive sexual and reproductive health, family planning, and prevent unwanted pregnancies.

Over the years, behavioral scientists and researchers have demonstrated the impact of social norms on health behaviors and how some of the most pressing health problems can be solved by transforming these norms. Social and behavior change communication (SBCC) experts have used transmedia storytelling as a critical tool to influence behaviors, create awareness, as well as generate and maintain demand for health services. Evidence from countries like South Africa (Soul City), USA (East Los High), India (Main kuch bhi kar sakti hoon- I, A Woman Can Achieve Anything’ (MKBKSH), Mexico, and Brazil have demonstrated the efficacy of edutainment in changing mindsets.

Effective communication needs to be grounded in socio-cultural contexts, and so a holistic 360-degree communication approach, across all communication mediums—television, radio, social media, YouTube, and face-to-face community outreach—has been built into the MKBKSH initiative.

With a surge in consumption of online content in India, riding largely on mobile data usage, a large percentage of young people seek information on sexual and reproductive health through online platforms, many of which feed misinformation.

Our 360-degree approach recognizes the critical role of social media as a prominent channel to reach the intended audience (aged 15-24 years) and aims to enhance it further and deepen audience engagement by using an artificial intelligence (AI)-powered chatbot, hosted on the Facebook page of MKBKSH and on the MKBKSH website.

One of the greatest strengths of an AI-powered chatbot is its capacity to optimize responses according to the audience, thus accounting for more effective communication. AI and automation techniques can provide consistent, trusted, personalized information to adolescents on SRH and connect them to resources and services closest to them.

The MKBKSH chatbot uses the persona of the lead protagonist of the series, Dr. Sneha, a female role model, to communicate personalized responses to questions on contraception, young people’s sexual health, and other related issues in an anonymous environment; it also connects viewers to existing resources on the subject.

In order to make the functionality familiar and improve usability among the target audience, the chatbot has been developed in close consultation with adolescent groups and community facilitators.

Read the full article about sex education in India by Poonam Muttreja and Sanghamitra Singh at India Development Review.