Through intensive translation, localization, and technology efforts, the Australian state of Victoria has rolled out its latest project in international development translation services: a multilingual chatbot. The ultimate goal is to address the significant disparity in linguistic representation on the Internet, which became a matter of urgency with the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Victorians are able to communicate with the bot, named AskVic, via the instant messaging application giant, WhatsApp. Users chat with the bot to ask coronavirus-related questions and find pertinent external resources through technology translation services.
Creators of the Chatbot Translation Tool
There are two organizations behind the bot: the Department of Families, Fairness, and Housing and Melbourne-based communications agency ThinkHQ. Their main goal was to bridge the language gap in Victoria through the most streamlined means possible.
A Chatbot for WhatsApp
AskVic was designed to be used via WhatsApp in order to ensure accessibility to the diverse target audience, as it was found to have the greatest infiltration in those communities compared to the other world-class communication apps in circulation.
Using a dedicated contact number or a link, users chat with the bot as if they were exchanging instant messages with a real person. The chatbot delivers in-language information to user queries about COVID-19 protocols and links out to other resources and support services when needed.
The creators of AskVic had, as a goal, the consolidation of a seamless translation services experience, with virtually no learning curve, by making interaction with the bot run identically to the way it does when users interact with their real-life contacts in the app.
Communities Served By Chatbot Translation
Aside from English, the communities that were targeted in the creation of the AskVic service speak:
What makes AskVic different is that it wasn’t only designed to provide a seamless instant messaging experience, but a seamless linguistic experience. The bot was formulated integrating the nuance and cultural communication styles of each of the languages it hosts, so that communication is natural and fluent as interpreting services.
COVID-19 Information in Multicultural Communities
This new chatbot service was created to address the fact that multicultural communities have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic. In Australia, these communities are known as CALD, or Culturally and Linguistically Diverse, or CALD, communities.
The lack of availability of information in languages that are underrepresented online is globally considered to be one of the main causes of this linguistic discrepancy. Different countries have organized different public health translation efforts in order to support the international communities that make up their population. The AskVic chatbot is an example of such an undertaking in the Australian state of Victoria, known for its richly diverse population.
Expectations for the Chatbot Translation Tool
In a statement, the Head of Digital at ThinkHD said that AskVic will provide essential information to audiences that are “too often forgotten from traditional communications in Australia.”
He added that the chatbot results from a blended effort of human-centric design, strategic content, multicultural knowledge, and advanced technology.
These comments bring us to the overarching desire behind AskVic. The intention is to continue use of the service in the long-term, not just for queries related to the pandemic.
The service is to become an established source of information for multicultural and immigrant communities, with the goal of cultivating equal access to opportunities and participation in local society.
In the long-run, one might even be able to say AskVic is a budding effort in diversity, equity, and inclusion, also known as DEI.
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