Digital Innovation Programme: Nigerian Developers Develop Chatbot for BBC

British public service broadcaster, BBC has finally announced the launch of the news chatbot developed by Nigerian developers during its Digital Innovation Programme in Lagos, Nigeria.

Last year, the BBC hosted a workshop in Lagos to generate ideas for digital tools and products that better distribute BBC News to African audiences and increase the reach in ways that are relevant to these markets.

Four teams were thereafter shortlisted by a judging panel, and after further submitting a detailed plan and undergoing a Q&A session with BBC experts, two teams – Codulab and Timerail – were selected for the next stage.

Both teams built their ideas into pilots throughout last year. Further details on the pilots were to be announced later last year but that didn’t happen.

The good news now is BBC has finally launched Codulab’s pilot: a news chatbot called BBC Newschatta.

The chatbot is a mobile phone based service which generates news stories based on the users’ input, using keywords and topics to send relevant news stories to them via the WeChat Messenger app.

“Newschatta is a chatbot that provides news content in a more personalised manner to young people across Africa. The aim is to deliver the latest news contents to users in a timely and interesting way that fits into the users’ current daily digital routines,” said Stanley Ojadovwa, Product Developer at Codulab, a Lagos-based technology company.

Newschatta is targeted at young people in Africa aged between 16 and 34, living in urban areas. This demographic’s mobile phone usage for things such as calls, emailing, banking, playing games and reading news, is pretty high.

The news chatbot can now be accessed worldwide via WeChat Messenger. Its launch continues the BBC’s investment in digital innovation across Africa, and joins other successful African-designed digital pilots, BBC Drop and BBC Minute CatchUp.

The other Lagos pilot, Timerail, is still a work in progress. Its user experience was designed by Nigerian company, Isoventurian. A working prototype is expected later this year.

Image Credit: BBC.

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