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Saturday, June 15, 2024

SA NPO leads the way in AI technology for social change

Tech-based NPO, Kwanele – Bringing Women Justice is at the forefront of innovative technology for social change in South Africa. In a tech-driven world of AI and chatbots, operators typically represent the affluent and elite of South African society. However, Kwanele’s chat bot challenges this, by working to make AI technology accessible to everyone.

The Kwanele Mobile Application which is free to download and uses no data costs, explores ways to use technology to increase reporting rates for Gender Based Violence. The range of functions include ‘find help near me’, a vault to store evidence, and integration with armed response. This makes it a game changer for women in communities plagued by violence. In line with the theme for this year’s International Women’s Day, the Kwanele App looks to ensure technology for gender equality in the pursuit of justice.

The latest addition to the app, expected to go live by June, is the Kwanele chatbot. The chatbot takes legislation associated with GBV and breaks it down into easy-to-use language. With the help of young people in Gugulethu and Oscar Mpetha High School in Nyanga, Kwanele picks apart the law and looks at the specific language young people as well as women use when trying get help. This language is then built into the chatbot and the answers are broken down similarly. The bot is retrained to ensure its solutions resonate with the users. By doing this Kwanele aims to humanise the technology and minimise the occurrences or algorithmic bias.

“All technology, especially AI technology, is built for a certain audience, making it inaccessible to many of the most vulnerable of society – who, if built correctly, it could serve. With the Kwanele App we look to rectify this harm and represent that voice in our technology,” said Leonora Tima, founder of the tech-based NPO.

Ivan Webb from JVK attorney believes simplifying the legal language is a must. “’Legalese’ is not an actual language, but merely a fancy term coined to boastfully describe how nearly incomprehensible lawyers and law-makers have made the law. It is not a matter of should the law be understandable to everyone, but especially in areas of GBV, it has been for a long time an absolute need for such victims. These are victims who have not been able to spend years learning the complex language of legalese and may not have any time at all moving forward,” said Webb.

The Kwanele chatbot will also include a live chat option, connecting survivors of GBV instantly with a support system. The trained chat operators are not only experienced in trauma containment but also around judicial processes. Survivors can be linked with the National Shelter Movement, the Thuthuzela Centers or Kwanele’s pro bono legal support team. Many women live in areas where they can access support services, and through technology now, they can get the support they need.

Rape and domestic violence are some of the most under reported crimes worldwide, and in a country with some of the highest rape statistics internationally it makes sense that such technology be developed here.

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