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SnehAI: An Artificial Intelligence Companion that Nurtures Empowerment and Safety in India’s Digital Landscape

“As a community, creating a safe online space for children requires collaboration with parents, educators, and the children themselves. By promoting awareness, education, communication, and responsible use of technology, we can empower our children to navigate the online world safely and confidently and become responsible digital citizens.” 

-Tejwinder Singh Anand, Lead -Technology and Communications, Population Foundation of India

SnehAI: An Artificial Intelligence Companion that Nurtures Empowerment and Safety in India’s Digital Landscape

In the vibrant tapestry of India's digital landscape, where the younger generation is increasingly becoming citizens of the virtual world, an initiative is using cutting-edge technology to shape a safer digital world. Meet SnehAI, an Artificial Intelligence (AI) powered chatbot that offers a safe space for young people to access information on online child sexual exploitation and abuse. SnehAI is not only a digital entity; it's a sign of empowerment and protection for adolescents navigating the complexities of the online realm.

SnehAI was introduced by the Population Foundation of India in 2018, marking a significant milestone in leveraging AI for social good. It serves as a digital extension to their transmedia initiative, I, A Woman, Can Achieve Anything, making it the first of its kind initiative in India to utilise Artificial Intelligence in an edutainment program combining entertainment with learning. Accessible through Facebook Messenger, SnehAI provided a safe and confidential platform for young people to access verified information and address concerns regarding their health and wellbeing.

In its latest version, funded by Safe Online, SnehAI integrates content on online child sexual exploitation and abuse (CSEA). The chatbot is now available on WhatsApp, Messenger, and the SnehAI website, aiming to support young people in enhancing their online content consumption and usage. It also assists users in identifying different forms of CSEA, learning about appropriate online behaviours, and building resilience. Covering topics such as online abuse, exploitation, digital safety, online grooming, and the importance of consent, SnehAI equips adolescents with essential knowledge to engage safely in the online world.

The Digital Risks Faced by India's Youth

Children and young people in India, much like their peers worldwide, face a range of online safety risks. From cyberbullying to exposure to inappropriate content, the challenges are diverse and pervasive. Digital literacy gaps, coupled with the frightening danger of online child sexual exploitation and abuse, further compound these risks. Additionally, privacy concerns and digital addiction present dangers that many young people may not fully grasp.

Recognising the urgency of these challenges, the Population Foundation of India underscores the importance of holistic approaches encompassing education, awareness, and technological innovations. Safe Online emerges as a fundamental facilitator in tackling these issues, enabling organisations like the Population Foundation of India to direct initiatives that yield tangible impact.

In this landscape, SnehAI stands out as an important technological innovation. This AI-powered chatbot, accessible to children and young people through familiar social media platforms like Facebook Messenger, embodies a fusion of cutting-edge technology and cultural relevance. By employing 'Hinglish', a colloquial blend of English and Hindi commonly used by North Indian youth, SnehAI bridges linguistic barriers and resonates with its target audience.

Key Partners and Stakeholders: Collaborative Strength in Online Safety

SnehAI's journey is an example of collaborative strength. Developed in partnership with Jio Haptik Technologies, one of the world's largest Conversational AI companies, the chatbot is built on Haptik’s Intelligent Virtual Assistant. This partnership amplifies the technological capabilities of SnehAI, ensuring it remains at the forefront of innovation in the digital space.
SnehAI conducts workshops on the ground to promote online safety. By partnering with educational institutions and organisations, these workshops engage important child protection stakeholders in India. The aim is to provide adolescents, teachers, counsellors, and others with information and skills for online safety.


Target Audiences: Empowering Adolescents for Safer Digital Navigation


SnehAI primarily targets adolescents aged 13 to 19, equipping them with tools, information, and resources to navigate the online world safely. This focus aligns with the crucial developmental stage where young individuals explore and establish their online presence, making it important to empower them with the right knowledge and skills.

SnehAI's impact in the digital community has been both tangible and extensive, marked by several key achievements. Most notably, this innovative chatbot has facilitated over 2.1 million messages exchanged with 65,000 users, establishing a robust platform for meaningful digital interactions. Beyond virtual engagement, SnehAI has also made significant strides on the ground, conducting interactive workshops that have reached 614 participants. These workshops have been key in disseminating critical information about safe online behaviours, creating an enriching environment for learning and dialogue. In a strategic move to broaden its impact, SnehAI expanded its presence to WhatsApp, supplementing its existing availability on the Messenger platform. This expansion not only diversifies its accessibility but also widens the chatbot's reach, allowing more individuals to benefit from its services.



SnehAI: A Digital Companion that Empowers Minds and Shifts Norms

"Online safety is a complex issue that requires a multi-pronged and collaborative approach to make the digital world safer. A combination of education, technology, policy and parental involvement is necessary to create a safer digital environment for children across the world," Tejwinder Singh Anand shares.

In April 2023, the emergence of SnehAI 3.0 served as a striking example of technology being carried for social good. With significant financial backing from Safe Online, this milestone highlighted the pivotal role played by technology in addressing societal issues. Functioning not just as a digital companion but as a source of empowerment, the chatbot now aims to provide adolescents with a secure platform for accessing information on sexual and reproductive health while simultaneously tackling the critical issue of online safety.

Amidst the ever-evolving digital landscape that confronts India's youth, SnehAI emerges as a catalyst for change. By empowering individuals, challenging societal norms, and cultivating safer online environments, this innovative initiative epitomises the transformative potential that arises when technology intersects with social responsibility. Supported by Safe Online, the Population Foundation of India continues its steadfast commitment to fostering dialogues that challenge existing norms, ultimately striving towards a safer world.

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