Partnering for the Greater Good: Social Innovation in the pandemic

Partnering for the Greater Good: Social Innovation in the pandemic

150 150 Ellyne Phneah

During the recent wave of COVID-19 infections amongst migrant workers in Singapore, we were given the opportunity to leverage the spirit of partnerships to deliver and design a solution to solve a challenge, enabling us to serve the community by leveraging the strength of our network. This was also one of the winning designs by the Design for Good initiative by Singapore’s Design Business Chamber Singapore (DBCS).

Together with our technology partner, LivePerson, we responded to a call by HealthServe, a longstanding provider of medical services to the migrant worker community, to build an interactive helpline powered by conversational AI (‘chatbot’).

A human-centered solution for pressing needs
Our first step was to understand the problem from HealthServe—that the workers had a long list of anxieties and concerns, ranging from immediate worries about health to practical issues, such as food, salaries and employment status. Amidst a confusing and rapidly evolving situation, it was important to combat the spread of fake news and ensure a timely and personalised flow of accurate information to migrant workers who are far away from their homes and loved ones.

We realised the chatbot should meet both the emotional need for timely information and assurance, as well as offer practical follow-up with HealthServe caseworkers where necessary.

We successfully launched the chatbot on 17th April, offering daily COVID-19 updates in Bengali, Tamil, Chinese and English. It also answers important related to medical, mental health and other practical concerns. Workers who need direct assistance are quickly connected to caseworkers from HealthServe, who can respond to them over the LivePerson platform in real time.

“Migrant workers in Singapore are going through a particularly uncertain and difficult period. The introduction of an interactive helpline was to help scale our efforts in reaching out to those who need practical help and immediate access to information. We hope that our combined efforts will provide anxious and worried migrant workers some assurance and practical help as we stand in solidarity with them to meet their mental and physical needs,” says Suwen Low, Head of Communications and Engagement.

Going beyond information to emotion

We also discovered the need to use more informal and culturally-specific syntax, such as the frequent use of the first person and specific vocabulary in English. For example, “I got question”, “I want talk to someone”, “feelings”, “social service”.  In addition, we used emoji liberally to convey nuances in emotion.

Moving forward, we hope to employ other forms of communications such as audio, video and even graphic illustrations to communicate more effectively with the workers.

“We’re all working together, that’s the secret.” – Sam Walton

As we reflect on this rewarding journey of collaboration and co-creation with LivePerson and HealthServe, these stood out for us:

Firstly, we travel further when we work together, as each organisation in this initiative was essential to the creation of the chatbot. Bridge Alliance provided the partner ecosystem and innovation expertise, LivePerson offered its platform and technical support, while HealthServe and its volunteers shared immediate feedback from working with migrant workers and conversing with them over the chatbot.

Over the many late nights and tireless enhancements to the helpline, we were united by the goal of serving this vulnerable and at-risk community. At Bridge Alliance, we were excited to uncover a fresh and creative way of giving back—making use of the communications technologies and tools our industry is already familiar with for a meaningful purpose of social innovation and the greater good.

Second, to create strong regional products, we need to be deeply empathetic to our users’ needs. As the leading mobile alliance in Asia-Pacific, we are acutely aware of the linguistic and cultural diversity in the region. While this initiative was aimed at migrant workers in Singapore, we were pushed to consider the needs and behaviours of the different communities they originated from, such as the Bengali and Tamil speaking communities.

Lastly, we are reminded of the power and responsibility that the telecommunications and technology industries have to do good. The latest global pandemic and public health crisis demonstrates the need for prompt, accurate and relevant communications. Given the unprecedented scale of this global crisis, we are grateful be able to bridge the communications gaps for a community with specific needs and challenges.  

In time to come, we hope our Bridge ecosystem can participate in more initiatives surrounding social innovation, to serve the public’s needs and solve pressing issues.  

Thank you, HealthServe and LivePerson, for the opportunity to serve alongside each other. Together with the many other ground-up initiatives that we see emerging from around the world, we hope the ‘global village’ can come out stronger and more resilient from this crisis.