On 30th December 2022, the Cambodia based non-government organisation APLE launched the first automated chatbot to support children and youth at risk of Online Child Sexual Exploitation (OCSE). It is a platform where they can report their concerns, learn how to be safe, and seek help.
The chatbot was developed with the technical and financial support from the international NGO Terre des Hommes Netherlands. Through automated responses, it can respond to many users and adapt to their requests in a few minutes and clicks.
According to the recent Cambodia Disrupting Harm study report from 2022, approximately 160,000 children aged 12-17 in Cambodia experience some form of OCSE, which is why technological innovations to prevent it are needed. “The chatbot is an innovative, child- and user-friendly designed tool with potential to drastically increase access to information about OCSE and the reporting of incidents. Users can interact with the bot, using either text or voice messages available in Khmer and English. It is an excellent example of how technology can be used to increase online safety and access to accurate information”, said Piseth Nhem, APLE Hotline Analyst.
The launching event was conducted online with the participation of 31 people, which included children, youth, NGO representatives, and law enforcement. The chatbot tool was developed on the basis of several consultations with children, youth, and NGOs working with them. It is a tool that can be accessed anonymously and independently by children through APLE’s website and Facebook page. For cases that require it, the chatbot will redirect users to speak directly to a hotline staff or an experienced social worker who will provide counselling and refer to appropriate support.
APLE has been running a specialised internet hotline since 2015 that is linked to the INHOPE global network of hotlines, which operating in 46 countries and has been active in raising awareness about OCSE by training thousands of stakeholders on this growing issue, including teachers, parents, government, police, prosecutors, frontline social workers, and children. In 2023, APLE will present the chatbot to hundreds of child protection stakeholders to promote its use. An online campaign will also be conducted to ensure the tool benefits the highest possible number of Cambodian children and youth. "If children and youth use chatbot, not only they will find a wealth of information and have access to support and services, but we will also learn a lot about the experiences and needs of children, to keep improving our understanding of OCSE and its evolution, and ultimately develop programmes that are more and more relevant and impactful", said Mr. Villa Kong, Cambodia Programme Manager for Terre des Hommes Netherlands.
For more information, please contact:
Phay Sopheak, Criminal Justice Development Team Leader, APLE