The last person you interacted with online, how sure are you that was a human being? When sci-fi movies “predicted” that robots would be taking over, they failed to warn us that Bots would come first.
Not to scare you but there are about 48 million bots on Twitter, over 100,000 bots on Facebook Messenger platform and about 5,000 bots on Telegram. This is without considering the bots that we have on WhatsApp, yes we have those and the bots that crawl around the internet doing whatever it is that bots do.
The use of bots on social media has been growing drastically. In Kenya particularly, we have seen bots that have been used as “influencers” for the sole purpose of trending hashtags, case in point the #JohoBots saga.
Not all bots are bad however, so don’t go running up to your room and locking the “bot monsters” out.
Facebook recently announced winners to the Bots for Messenger challenge that saw two Kenyan-made bots, MyTichaa and BridelyBuzz, end up on the finalist list as winner and runners up in their respective categories.
Speaking of useful bots, Telegram bots have been on the rise. This can be attributed to the ease of creating bots on this particular platform.
We met up with George Waweru, a Kenyan developer who has taken advantage of the rise of the bots revolution. George wants to take on the likes of Ipsos (or what are they known as nowadays?) and other big players by using bots to carry out polls. Polls are an expensive affair, it involves traveling, data analysis and a lot of resources are required including human power. With bots, you can get participants wherever they are without any movement from both parties and that is what George was aiming for.
George’s first task was to develop election based polls using his bots. “Elections are the hottest thing happening right now, this is an opportunity for me to market myself” he said. His bots, plural because he has developed one for each county in Kenya and for some popular constituencies such as Westlands, Starehe and Makadara constituencies bring the total number of bots under his command to 96.
To find the county bot on Telegram search for the county name and append 2017Bot at the end. For instance, to access the Nairobi County Bot search for “Nairobi2017Bot“. The same applies for the constituecy bots, simply search for the name of the constituency and appends 2017bot at the end, i.e. Westlands2017Bot. A list of all county and constituency bots can be found on https://www.myvote2017.com/
At the moment, the bots offer polls for the presidential, gubernatorial, senatorial, women representative, member of parliament and member of county assembly positions with actual data of the candidates from the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC).
George says the platform, which has been undergoing testing for the past five months, has over 1000 users at the moment, who have actively participated in the polls.
Participating in the polls is as simple as tapping on buttons and following instructions. Once you tap on “Start”, you receive a menu with the various electoral positions and tapping on each, gives you a list of the aspirants in that respective position. You can choose to vote for your preferred candidate or just view the poll results directly. After participating in a category, the user is prompted to continue to the next category of their choice.
The results of the poll, which are presented in a graphical manner, are delivered as an image, making it easy to share the results across various platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp. One can even share the bot itself, since the necessary share buttons are embedded within the chat bot.
As a plus, George has added a button to share peace messages during this election period. The peace messages are in the form of images, making them easy to share as well.
Privacy and Anonymity
We all know that polls are meant to be anonymous and one question that was raised in regard to George’s Poll Bots, was how he would ensure that his users identities remain anonymous. “There’s no issue in that,” he says. George says that the bots do not associate the users with their phone numbers, but instead identifies individual users with their Telegram usernames, ensuring that the real identities of the participants remain undisclosed.
With a smile on his face, George says “The bots can be used as an excellent campaign tool, since the admin side has an analytics dashboard that shows how users have voted for the different candidates from Presidential level to Ward Level and based on this, the admin can push targeted ads to users, delivering manifestos and campaign promises to the people that matter.”
The bots can be used as an excellent campaign tool
“This is why I made different bots for each county and for some major constituencies,” He explains. “It is easier to reach people from Westlands through the Westlands constituency bot as opposed to the Nairobi bot.”
George has gone as far as creating bots for individual candidates, such as Nairobi Governor, Evans Kidero, where the bot delivers all the campaign messages and manifesto items from the candidate.
After the elections, George plans to use his bots to carry out sponsored opinion polls for individuals, corporates and even governmental organizations. He says that this kind of a platform can be applied in other areas such as customer care, “where users can easily access menus on the bots and receive instant feedback based on what the user clicks.”
Read More: Why Brands Use Polls in Social Media Apps
We have seen people use apps and web apps to carry out polls, but the beauty of using bots is that it ensures you reach your users from within the platforms they are in, be it on Telegram, Facebook or WhatsApp. Whether you like it or not (speaking to you devs who have the “Mugabe spirit” and have refused to move on from native apps), bots are the future.