An engaging AI bot named Bo is at the heart of a new Facebook Messenger chatbot service called rAInbow, launched in South Africa to help victims of abuse. It provides advice on coping with abuse, as well as stories of abuse victims who have overcome their experiences and circumstances.
Domestic abuse is a big issue in South Africa, according to the South African Medical Research Council. In a household survey, it found that 40% of men had hit their partners and that one in four men had raped a woman. The same study found that just 2% of women who have been raped had reported it to the police.
Backed by the Sage Foundation, rAInbow aims to break the silence around domestic abuse by starting a conversation with victims. The chatbot can also chat to friends of abuse victims, and offers advice on how to get the conversation started with victims of abuse.
The chatbot’s AI is geared to learn from behavioural patterns of users and provide responses in line with the situation.
The developer and CEO of AI for Good, Kriti Sharma, says rAInbow was created with ethics in mind. It is not a replacement for a therapist, and claims only to provide options and stories from which abuse victims can learn.
rAInbow is accessible to a large portion of South Africans, as it does not require a smartphone. All it needs to run is access to Facebook Messenger, which can run on smartphones and some feature phones. It does also use data, although many South African networks provide access to Facebook Lite for free.
A huge positive of the chatbot is that it isn’t in a separate app and exists on Facebook Messenger under a gender-neutral name: Hi Rainbow. This helps in the event of an abuser going through the victim’s device.
“The app is powered by the AI and natural language processing, but there has been a lot of work on the user experience,” says Sharma. “We’re trying to make the chatbot technology as easy to use as possible so the powerful technology behind it can fulfil its purpose.”
Data collected will make rAInbow smarter but will not be able to identify users, as users are assigned a random ID every time they chat with the bot. Data that will be used is how abusive situations affect the lives of South Africans and how to deal with it.
rAInbow is available now by searching “Hi rAInbow” in the search bar of Facebook Messenger.
South Africans are searching in the dark, according to the latest Google Search trends.
With more 1 million search queries generated in the space of 76 hours, load-shedding was by far the top trending search on Google South Africa this week.
Valentine’s Day came a distant second.
After news emerged last Sunday of the impending stage 3 load shedding, South Africans had generated more than 1-million load-shedding search queries by the time Tuesday came around:
- “Loadshedding schedule” – generated more than 100k searches on Sunday
- “Load shedding schedule” – generated more than 100k searches on Sunday
- “Eskom load shedding” – generated more than 100k searches on Sunday
- “Load shedding Cape Town” – generated more than 50k searches on Sunday
- “Load shedding schedule” – generated more than 400k on Monday
- “Load shedding Johannesburg” – generated more than 20k searches on Monday
- “Load shedding schedule” – generated more than 200k search queries on Tuesday
Leading up to Valentine’s Day, South Africans generated close to 300k search queries related to the romantic festival, including searches for quotes and gift ideas:
- “Valentines Day” generated more than 100k search queries on Thursday
- “Happy Valentines Day Images” and “Valentines Day Images” generated more than 10k search queries each on Thursday, with “Happy Valentines Day 2019” generating more than 20k search queries on Wednesday
- “Valentines Day Specials 2019” generated more than 5k search queries on Thursday
- “Love quotes” generated more than 5k search queries on Thursday
- “Valentines Day quotes” generated more than 100k search queries and “Valentine messages” generated more than 50 000 search queries on Wednesday
Search trends information is gleaned from data collated by Google based on what South Africans have been searching for and asking Google. Google processes more than 40 000 search queries every second. This translates to more than a billion searches per day and 1.2 trillion searches per year worldwide. Live Google search trends data is available at https://www.google.co.za/trends/hottrends#pn=p40
Thanks to the growing popularity of video-on-demand services, there’s a new opportunity to help kickstart the careers of local filmmakers.
Numerous Hollywood blockbusters (District 9, Tomb Raider 2018, and The Avengers: Age of Ultron to name a few) have featured substantial shoots in Johannesburg and Cape Town. While providing great opportunities for SA’s production talent, aspiring writers and directors don’t get the same benefit.
So where can local creatives showcase their work? Broadcast TV isn’t a natural home for unknown short films, and while self-publishing platforms are readily available hosting options, it’s tough to get noticed and get traffic when competing with videos from across the planet.
But with the emergence of video-on-demand services into the mainstream, there’s now a solution. The African film school AFDA has teamed up with the streaming service Showmax to give local talent a much larger platform than ever before. From 18 February, eighteen of the best recent short films made by AFDA students from their Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban and Port Elizabeth campuses will be live on Showmax. Drama, documentary, fantasy, and animation are all represented, in pieces running from under eight minutes to almost half-an-hour long. The full list of movies is included below.
Teresa Passchier, CEO of AFDA, said: “AFDA, Africa’s number-one school for the Creative Economy, is proud to kickstart this exciting and meaningful journey with Showmax and AFDA students, ensuring emerging young African filmmakers’ voices are heard and given a platform. It’s ground-breaking to share young, local, culturally relevant content on the same platform as Hollywood blockbusters. I am certain that this unique initiative will serve to boost and develop the African film industry and the careers of many young South African and African students alike.”
Included in the short films coming to Showmax are the award winners Junior and O-Puncha. Junior, directed by Bert Dijkstra, picked up the Audience Award in the Made in South Africa Competition at the shnit Worldwide Shortfilmfestival Awards 2017. O-Puncha, directed by Adam Hansen, won two awards at the 5th annual Eldorado Film Festival: Best Student Made Short, and Best Editing – Alexander La Cock.
Another celebrated film is Sicela Amanzi directed by Mlu Godola, which talks to the subject of water shortage. The film’s heroine Zoleka is a mild-mannered young woman forced to go to extreme lengths when a small community’s only source of water unexpectedly collapses. The power of films like this is they shine a light on critical topical issues in new ways.
Speaking about working with the film school, Candice Fangueiro, Head of Content for Showmax, said: “There’s
AFDA is an Academy Award-winning institution, founded in 1994, and the first and only African film school to win an Oscar – for the Best Foreign Student film in 2006, the postgraduate film Elalini, directed by Tristan Holmes.
The full list of AFDA short films coming to Showmax is as follows:
|Lullaby from the Crypt||Keenan Lott & Raven Davids||Animation|
|Ko Ga Cherenyane||Sibonokuhle Myataza||Documentary|
|Mallemeule||Jaco Van Bosch||Drama|
|Canal Street||Brodie Muirhead||Drama|
|On the Fence||Warrick Bews||Drama|
|The Righteous Few||Lindo Langa||Drama|
|Hlogoma Peak||Luke Ahrens||Drama|
|Frozen Flame||Cameron Heathman||Animation|
|Wolf||Brett van Dort||Fantasy|
|The Walk Home||Sisanda Dyantyi||Drama|
|Doreen||Luvuyo Equiano Nyawose||Drama|
|Sicela Amanzi||Mlu Godola||Drama|