AI-powered chatbot will help educate refugee youths

Norwegian refugee youths

Today, more than 68 million people are forcibly displaced worldwide, of which 28.5 million are refugees and 40 million are internally displaced. The Norwegian Refugee Council, Microsoft, and several partners have together developed a chatbot that, with the help of artificial intelligence (AI), can give young people the education they need and deserve

“In crisis and conflict situations, children and young people often get their education interrupted,” says Ida Sørby, Global Innovation Advisor in the Norwegian Refugee Council.

“Such crises can last for several years and even decades. This means that entire generations of young people lack basic knowledge, vocational education and higher education. Thus, a country that is going through the process of reconstruction and stabilization can face additional challenges in that the population lacks education. Here artificial intelligence and machine learning can be the key to educating young people on the run.”

The Norwegian Refugee Council, NetHope, University College Dublin and Microsoft have developed a chatbot that uses AI technology, such as language understanding, machine translation and language recognition, to find high quality education options in places where there are no schools or universities.

The chatbot searches through huge amounts of learning resources available on the internet, tailored with input from the youths, academic courses, education and learning resources anywhere in the world.

Students can learn everything from languages, entrepreneurship, coding or marketing, expertise, all of which can help bring value to their communities. The chatbot that is being developed and tested now in cooperation with young refugees in Lebanon has been named Hakeem.

“Hakeem is a personal school adviser. The youths are the ones who know best about the challenges they face. Therefore, it is incredibly important that they participate in the development of Hakeem”, says Sørbye.

chatbot screen

Collaboration equals innovation
“Closing the education gap for millions of conflict-affected youth requires a collective impact approach – the humanitarian sector working together with the private sector and impacted youth to create scalable and sustainable solutions,” said Leila Toplic, the NLG Tech Task Force lead at NetHope.

Hakeem is just a piece of a bigger puzzle. Using chatbots like this can also be a tool to assist workers in the field to communicate with migrants who speak different languages and who need access to food, health care and shelter.

“Our employees are experts in humanitarian aid. Together with the technology industry, we can come up with new ideas and solutions. We rely on collaboration across business, technology and humanitarian aid organizations to find these innovative solutions”, Sørbye continues.

Kimberly Lein-Mathisen, General Manager of Microsoft Norway adds that “Technology can help make a big difference and actually save human lives. Right now, only half of the world’s population has access to the benefits that technology creates. We are very proud to help more people get the benefit of the huge technological advances that are being made right now.”

Artificial intelligence for humanitarian action
In conjunction with the United Nations General Assembly meeting, Microsoft announced AI for Humanitarian Action, a new $40 million, five-year program.

The initiative will harness the power of AI to focus on four priorities – helping the world recover from disasters, addressing the needs of children, protecting refugees and displaced people, and promoting respect for human rights. Our AI for Humanitarian Action program is part of Microsoft’s AI for Good suite – a growing $115 million, five-year commitment to work to unlock solutions to some of society’s biggest challenges with artificial intelligence.

Read more about Hakeem in this blog post and learn more about our new AI program for humanitarian action here.

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