ORIENTATION TO ONTARIO PROGRAM LAUNCHES BILINGUAL CHATBOT
COSTI is proud to announce the launch of the Orientation to Ontario (O2O) Bilingual Chatbot. Funded by the Canadian Institutes for Health Research, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, and the Province of Ontario, the chatbot is the newest addition to O2O’s client-centered user experience, where newcomers can access standardized information about settling in Ontario and connecting to community services as soon as they arrive, while accessing print and online resources, on-demand webinars and workshops, at any time.
Dr. Rupa Banerjee, together with post-doctoral fellow Leslie Nichols, received a grant from the Canadian Institutes for Health Research to develop a digital solution to address a pressing social need of a vulnerable population in the community. The digital solution prototype, a chatbot that would reach newcomers and provide settlement information in an accessible way through mobile devices, was presented to a panel of expert judges at the Hacking Health Conference in June 2017. The digital prototype received the “Most Scalable Idea” Award for its capacity to be widely applied across multiple platforms. A member of the expert judges, Cossette Health (an app development firm now known as Gene Global) expressed its interest in working on the initiative by offering its services and expertise pro bono.
“We are thrilled that COSTI’s Orientation to Ontario program was selected to partner on the development of the Chatbot,” says COSTI’s Executive Director, Mario J. Calla. “The program has a tradition of offering newcomers a variety of in-person and online tools and resources catering to the different learning styles of newcomers. The O2O Bilingual Chatbot is a complementary component to existing O2O resources and services available, allowing tech savvy newcomers to learn more about Ontario, and explore and receive answers to their settlement questions at any time.”
“Being a recent immigrant myself, I appreciate how the O2O Chatbot serves as a one-stop-shop for all settlement needs of newcomers. Its layout makes searching for information easy and pleasant,” comments Damira Karimova, a graduate of Seneca College’s Social Work program. “While studying at Seneca, I did my internship at COSTI’s O2O program. At that time, O2O was undertaking beta testing of the chatbot. I thought it was a great tool and suggested that we conduct one focus group at Seneca College. When presented with the chatbot by the O2O team, all the focus group participants loved it! This was pre-COVID. Now, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the chatbot has become even more important.”
Bonaventure Otshudi, Director of Newcomer Services at the Centre de santé communautaire Hamilton/Niagara, adds “the O2O Chatbot is a very useful tool that increases the accessibility of French-speaking newcomers to settlement information and resources in Ontario. We live in a digital world that depends on technology and our mobile devices. The chatbot will help newcomers access information at their fingertips. It is important to popularize the chatbot to make the Francophone community aware that such a resource exists at no cost."
The O2O Chatbot also connects users to local settlement service providers, 211 Ontario and settlement.org. If users require additional information not included in the pre-defined responses, the chatbot also includes an option to contact the O2O Program Team.
The O2O Chatbot can be accessed on COSTI's website and O2O's website http://settlement.org/o2o/ and is available at all times.
Cathy Woodbeck, Executive Director of the Thunder Bay Multicultural Association, an O2O service delivery partner, shares her views and comments on the benefits of the chatbot for newcomer clients. View Cathy Woodbeck’s comments here.