Earlier this month, WhatsApp announced their support for businesses requiring more powerful tools to communicate with their customers, by launching the WhatsApp Business API.

Praekelt.org has been deeply involved throughout the development of the WhatsApp Business API – initially by participating in the WhatsApp’s Enterprise Solutions pilot, and now through the launch of their WhatsApp engagement product to other social impact organisations.

A universal communication medium

“We feel that the ecosystem is changing,” says Simon de Haan, CTO of the Praekelt WhatsApp offering. “WhatsApp is becoming a universal communication medium in many of the regions that we operate in across the world. WhatsApp is different from SMS in a few, very important ways: it is secure, it is immediate, and allows for richer conversations than SMS.”

The Praekelt WhatsApp product takes advantage of WhatsApp’s rich content capabilities including text, audio and images, as well as the potential for engagement through elements like reciprocal messaging and feedback.

WhatsApp allows for the building of a personal profile for users, based on their interactions with the messages they receive. This profiling helps tailor the optimal time to send them messages as well as what language to use. Additionally, through WhatsApp, it is possible to identify different user groups, optimise message delivery and employ natural language processing as avenues through which digital messages, like those around health, can be delivered or improved upon.

Praekelt.org’s pilot partnership with WhatsApp’s Enterprise Solution was centred on engaging with mothers on the South African Department of Health’s MomConnect platform. As the only nationally scaled mHealth platform in Africa, MomConnect was a perfect fit to integrate the technology which is available in nearly 100% of the clinics in South Africa.

The impact of using WhatsApp is visible in the pilot’s success. In September 2017, all pregnant women at public clinics in South Africa were given the option of using WhatsApp as their medium of choice for receiving maternal health information. Since launch, over 120,000 mothers have signed up to the service and the engagement of those who chose to use WhatsApp has been significant with a WhatsApp subscriber 6.7 times as likely to reach out to the helpdesk.

“WhatsApp not only poses a truly unprecedented opportunity to build a global maternal health platform for MomConnect but now will allow other organisations to personalise messages and distribute them at massive scale.” confirms De Haan.

A quick way for businesses to connect

The success of the MomConnect pilot played a key role in Praekelt.org’s development of a WhatsApp engagement product that can now be offered to other social impact organisations. The product allows a distributed network of support staff to engage in personalised and timely conversations at scale.

A forward-looking product that embraces IP messaging to provide quick responses for businesses and organisations globally, it can connect thousands of individuals monthly, and provides a direct communication channel for people to be in the loop of their consumer engagement, whether it is health workers or other fields.

A shift in how public services are consumed

For the team at Praekelt.org, the success of the MomConnect WhatsApp pilot has provided confirmation of a fundamental shift in how public services will be consumed and designed in the coming decade. SMS, IVR and USSD will be replaced in favour of IP based solutions in all emerging markets – a move that is spurred by the incredible power of mobile phones and data connectivity when used to advance the delivery of vital information and services.

“With the advance of data capable phones and the penetration of affordable IP connectivity, messaging solutions can now engage people at a previously unimaginable scale,” concludes De Haan.

The Praekelt Whatsapp starter plan provides a single WhatsApp number, Natural language support, quick replies, FAQ management and an API for third party integrations. It allows for operator 5 accounts, will store the last 10,000 messages. For information on plans and services, go to www.praekelt.org/whatsapp.

Culled from BizCommunity