Consultation with Dr Chatbot
More reliable than Dr Google: in Rwanda, artificial intelligence is providing health tips from trustworthy sources. All based on open-source code.
What should I do if I develop a fever? How can I tell if I have COVID-19? The RBC-Mbaza chatbot has the answers. It offers advice on COVID-19 and provides information on symptoms and preventative measures – and it is getting better all the time. The chatbot is based on artificial intelligence. People in Rwanda can use it to get reliable answers, and the system learns at the same time by remembering helpful answers and frequently asked questions and linking them together. RBC-Mbaza builds on existing information systems in Rwanda, including the databases of the Rwanda Biomedical Centre and the Rwanda Information Society Authority (RISA). A unique feature of the chatbot is that it also works in the local language Kinyarwanda.
Previously, access to information and services was severely limited. The chatbot is now opening up access and allowing everyone to receive information. With more than 2.2 million users – around 15 per cent of the Rwandan population – demand for the service is high.
On behalf of the German Development Ministry, the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH is working in Rwanda to advise the Ministry of Information Communication Technology and Innovation (MINICT). GIZ set up a digital transformation centre together with local partners, including Digital Umuganda. This makes public services accessible to all Rwandans. The chatbot developed at the centre is a first success.
Artificial intelligence with open-source code: a building block for further development
The bot uses open-source code. It is a digital public good, which makes developing it further even easier. Audace Niyonkuru heads Digital Umuganda, a start-up specialising in artificial intelligence and voice processing. He says, ‘This is a really big help for those who work in Kinyarwanda or other African languages. They now have an infrastructure upon which they can build. The fruits of these efforts will be seen in the months and years to come – in the form of products and innovations.’