In the spring of 2022, the educational chatbot “Oilo” (from Kyrgyz “knowing”) was introduced to the public in Kyrgyzstan. Oilo bot is a virtual assistant created using machine learning technology.
The bot is designed as a safe and fun interlocutor for teenagers and young people. It can answer questions that may seem too embarrassing to address to parents, doctors, or teachers without fear of stigma and judgment. A group of experts verified the chatbot knowledge base: doctors, psychologists, and lawyers from Kyrgyzstan to ensure the relevance and reliability of the answers.
Health, psychology, safe relationships, sexuality, family, and physiology – are the six key topics that Oilo can embrace in a dialogue. The conversation with the bot is free and completely anonymous. Oilo can be called artificial intelligence – the more people feed the bot their questions, the better it will be able to answer them in the future. UNESCO IITE partnered with the non-profit organization “Bishkek Feminist Initiatives” to work on this project.
Gulyaim Aiylchy, activist and curator of the Oilo bot project:
The issue of sex education in Kyrgyzstan is a pressing one. Due to the lack of systematic knowledge, the cases of early pregnancy, sexual abuse, and teenage anxiety are on the rise. Many problems come from the ignorance of people’s rights and lack of access to medical and psychological assistance. In addition, there is very little reliable information on the topic of sex education in the Kyrgyz language. Our chatbot helps to solve this problem – it is available at any time in Kyrgyz and Russian; all you need is to have Internet access and a Telegram account. I hope that thanks to Oilo, teenagers and young people will be able to receive the necessary support and knowledge.
Chatbots are very popular nowadays, they do not need to be downloaded on the device, and they do not take up additional memory. Today, bots operate worldwide, helping users in various areas. E.g., to counter family and domestic violence, choose optimal contraception methods, and ensure compliance with the medication regimen and psychological support. For example, the Hello, Caas chatbot was developed for Australian women who can use SMS communication to seek help in case of domestic violence. In the US, the Roo chatbot advises young people on sex education. In South Africa and India, the Big sis chatbot answers questions about women’s health (and it has received more than a million messages since the start). The potential of using bots for socially significant causes grows every year.
Since its launch, Oilo has already processed more than 80,000 questions. Furthermore, the number of Oilo bot subscribers is actively growing as the team is collaborating with media and influencers in Kyrgyzstan, creating materials about sex education, body positivity, sexual consent, menstrual health, and the concept of shame (“uyat”) in society. In addition, the authors of the project regularly update the “Articles” section on the Oilo bot website, which contains additional popular science materials on the topic of the chatbot.
The bot itself is based on the Telegram messenger, and anyone can start a chat with it – ask an exciting question or study topic after topic, following the prompts and recommendations on the buttons. Using the Oilo bot is very simple: one needs to go to Telegram, enter @oilo_bot in the “Search” field and start chatting in the chosen language.
Oilo bot will become an organic part of the regional ecosystem of health education for adolescents and youth, along with such UNESCO IITE initiatives as the previously launched Eli and ASPAN chatbots, the LoveLogs mobile application, the youth media teens.kg, teenslive.am, DVOR and many others.