So, what about a chatbot assistant to help poor families in Brazil? I decided to make one.
We need to be able to reach many people so I used Facebook Messenger, as this has a wide reach in Brazil but it would actually have been better to use WhatsApp. However for now bots are not allowed on this platform.
The chat interface also needs to be quick and to provide immediate value since many people using it may be on pay-as-you-go data connections. We are not building a character but providing a service and users will not use our bot just for the sake of it — they will only use it if it provides an easier or faster way to access a service and get things done.
It should therefore give an estimation of how much the family might be awarded and what they need to be accepted on the program. The amount families actually receive depends upon a number of factors such as income level, whether there are any teenagers in the family, whether anyone is pregnant and so on.
Because of this, creating it was very interesting and very similar to creating a mobile data collection form with relevance, calculations and grouping. Portions of chat messages can trigger another set of messages so instead of simply ensuring that all the conversation paths would work from a functional perspective, you need to test they also work from a social perspective.
There is currently no automated way to do this as far as I am aware, just in case anyone feels inspired to build such a service.
Bolsa Família Bot understands Portuguese and unlike others is a quite simple but hopefully useful service. The bot has only been live one day and already over 500 people have exchanged more than 10,000 messages with it.
(Update 2018 - currently 13000 users)