Technology giants are investing billions of dollars to build or acquire message-based platforms to fuel their global business ambitions
October14, 20195 min read
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Conversations have changed the world since time immemorial. Conversations led to love, debates, arguments, knowledge, intelligence, wisdom and human enlightenment. Wars were fought when conversations ended. In Sapiens, Yuval Noah Harari, writes, What was the Sapiens secret of success? How did we manage to settle so rapidly in so many distant and ecologically different habitats? How did we push all other human species into oblivion? Why couldnt even the strong, brainy, cold-proof Neanderthals survive our onslaught?
The debate continues to rage. The most likely answer is the very thing that makes the debate possible: Homo sapiens conquered the world thanks above all to its unique language. The deepest desire of human beings is to express and connect with the world. Conversations help them build that connect. And language is the foundation of great conversations.
The birth of the Internet came from the same desire to connect and converse. Scientists and university professors wanted to connect their ideas among peers. Thus was born email and private messaging, which later expanded to websites, videos and apps. Today, the Internet is a volcano of trillions of conversations bursting out through computers, smartphones and smart devices.
This is the reason why conversational chat and conversational commerce are now come back into the consciousness of Internet users. Large technology platforms such as Google, Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp and LinkedIn believe that chat is going to transform the Internet. Products on Amazon, Alibaba and OLX are bought and sold using byte-sized reviews. No wonder, technology giants are investing billions of dollars to build or acquire message-based platforms to fuel their global business ambitions.
Business Insider projects that by 2020, 80% of the corporates across the globe will use chatbots at workplace. According to Drift, 27% of US teenagers have confirmed that they would shop and pay through conversational chatbots, and 13% are already shopping on chatbot interfaces.
While India is replicating the success of chat-driven platforms in social media and brick-and-mortar businesses, it is critical to evaluate conversational chatbots to make learning ubiquitous. India is estimated to have 855 million smartphones by 2022 with a majority of them on 5G network. Chatbots-based education can be easy to produce and simple to deliver without the need for complex education infrastructure. Chatbots cannot replace schools or colleges or teachers, but they can provide knowledge and skills in local languages to masses who are unable to afford education. It can provide a huge fillip to Indias education in terms of addressing challenges of quality as well as scale.
Here are five reasons why conversational chatbots can work for transforming Indian education:
The spirit of Indias culture is built around conversations. Most of our religious, spiritual and cultural traditions have seeped into our daily lives through thousands of years of conversational pipelines. Which is probably why, India is one of the largest customer base for WhatsApp. When Facebook Business conducted a survey, a staggering 74% of users confirmed that they would prefer messaging over all other technology channels to resolve their problems.
Learning is no different. Internet has shown us that businesses can be fundamentally transformed through byte-sized conversations. India also has a burgeoning population of first-generation learners who are getting into blue-collar jobs. Research reports say that over 200 million new job seekers are expected to enter the economy over the next 10 years. The app economy has organized the hitherto unorganized sector and provided millions of jobs to educated and less-educated youth. NSDC has a target to train over 200 million youth in job-related skills. The government is spending over INR 17,000 crore under the Skill India Mission. Over 6 million graduates are entering the formal economy to seek job opportunities. Classrooms are not enough and personal computers are unaffordable. Also most jobs are using smartphones as their primary touch point for business. In such a scenario, byte-sized learning opportunities need to be tried and tested.
The pace of growth in learners and job seekers needs fundamentally disruptive learning technologies. Learning platforms that have large format textual content and long videos, are finding it difficult to engage users who have limited attention span. Websites are out and apps are in. And even apps are swiped off or uninstalled when complicated content is ported on them. This is the reality of the Internet generation. Because chat is ideally suited for small screen devices such as smartphones that are exponentially growing and outnumbering personal computers in markets beyond cities. What e-learning can't, chat can. And all this at 10% of the cost.
Chatbots are quick, easy and cheap to produce. By making conversations as the focus of learning, it takes away the stress from understanding difficult concepts in education. A 10-minute chat-based lesson that moves in with a single learning outcome and moves out once it is delivered is far more appealing to users than a complex lesson plan that tries to fit it multiple objectives in multi-modal formats inside the same screen. Moreover, chat is the only low-cost platform that can integrate and offer just-in-time human expertise to learners, without the need for expensive learning infrastructure. A smartphone can be attached to a projection system in school, to teach and learn the same content that is available at home.
So, it is important for the education community to explore the opportunities that chat offers for improving access and outcomes to learning. Not just students, even teachers and parents can benefit by aggregating themselves on from low-cost messaging-based learning platforms. By creating a learning collective of stakeholders on one platform, chats can fundamentally change the way education is imparted and delivered in the future.
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