On 13 December 2021, UNESCO Institute for Information Technologies in Education, in partnership with UNESCO Almaty and UyatEmes.kz, launched a new educational project featuring Aspan, a chatbot designed to provide reliable and non-judgmental answers to questions from teens and young people about growing up, relationships, sexuality and health.
A Telegram-based bot application, Aspan can chat with users in Kazakh or Russian, helping them find answers or explore various topics by using prompt buttons. Aspan is essentially a knowledge base powered by a neural network and implemented in an interactive, user- and youth-friendly format. Although chatting with a bot cannot replace advice from a live expert, the technology can serve as an entry point by helping youth find answers to their questions and concerns promptly, privately and free of charge and also by facilitating access to specialists or services young people may need. During its chat sessions, Aspan offers users relevant additional materials, such as contacts of support services.
Today, Aspan can cover a broad range of topics of immediate and potential future relevance to young people, e. g. users can ask the bot about reproductive health and doctor appointments, mental health, family planning, growing up and puberty, sexuality, and relationships, including family, friendship and romance. Numerous experts have contributed to the chatbot’s knowledge base, among them medical specialists, psychologists, lawyers and researchers, making sure that Aspan shares only evidence-based, reliable information and debunks popular myths.
«Aspan is still learning to understand and answer questions correctly but will improve these skills as he gains experience with users. Both young people and adults who want to learn more about health, relationships, psychology and adulthood can use the chatbot. Especially useful chatbot may seem to those who are looking for answers to talk about sex with their children, nephews and nieces, brothers and sisters»
Karlygash Kabatova, founder of Uyatemes.kz.
«Sexuality education is part and parcel of modern education. That is why I am very glad to see that such a useful project like “Aspan” is being developed in our society. I have already tested the chatbot, asked it several questions. It can share a lot of useful information. I highly recommend trying it»
Medet Esimkhanov, journalist at Factcheck.kz.
The chatbot is easy to use: on Telegram, input @aspanchatbot in the search field and start chatting in Kazakh or Russian. The project is implemented with support from UNESCO, UNAIDS and Soros Foundation-Kazakhstan. See more here about the chatbot, its design, functions, and experts involved.