Ushahidi took part in Paypal, Ebay, and Cisco’s #OpportunityHack event this past week, and our team won first place. We were part of 10 non-profits who put forth problem statements to a gathering of over 100 software developers and designers. Ushahidi stood up and put forth the problem statement of the manual process required to structure SMS and social media messages that don’t come in as organized reports via an embeddable web form or mobile app. In a crisis or election scenario we might receive thousands of unstructured partial-reports in a day, and it can take hours of back and forth to structure them before we can start to respond. This is both extremely manual, as well as causes a significant time delay, which in the case of an emergency, it dire for the reporter.

A team of five amazing developers from Paypal, LinkedIn, and Cisco joined our team: Joy, Tran, Nishant, Kenny, and Navin.

We set out trying to solve this problem of faster post structuring and triaging. As we looked at the problem, it became clear that building a chatbot tool that could take SMS or Facebook Messenger that builds off of the survey structure was the right approach. We named our team and the chatbot “Plato”, a play on the Socratic method teaching style of asking questions.

The team started cranking. They worked all week to build a working prototype chatbot for both SMS and Facebook Messenger that pulls directly from the survey structure on the Ushahidi API. Here is a video demo of the SMS bot in action:

Come Friday we presenting the solution to a panel of judges. And we won first place!

The next step will be to work on integrating this chatbot prototype into Ushahidi functionality.