One-line solution summary:
Providing African smart-phone users a free and easy-to-use way to verify, extract, and receive COVID-19 related information
Pitch your solution.
Fact-checking information and accessing verified sources is a crucial part of being well-informed. But the COVID-19 crisis has made this step critical to keeping vulnerable African communities safe and healthy.
AccuroLab provides smartphone users of vulnerable communities with an ergonomic and easy-to-use solution that will cover two key functions presented here below:
Fact-checking: With AccuroLab, social media users fact-check the information they receive. AccuroLab assesses the accuracy of the scanned content by crossing checking it against a large base of reliable data from trusted sources.
Crisis compass: As an information dissemination tool, AccuroLab users receive verified information from trusted sources. Additionally, government and health agencies can use AccuroLab to push out verified information and guidelines to local communities to help them navigate safely during the pandemic and the "New Normal" phase.
The dangers of misinformation are materializing around the globe; lessening their impact and protecting vulnerable communities is our mission.
Film your elevator pitch.
What specific problem are you solving?
The COVID-19 crisis is made worse by an invisible and dangerous enemy: misinformation. As the coronavirus started to spread in major metropolitan areas in Africa, the spread of fake coronavirus cures, phony conspiracies, and false statistics—particularly on the WhatsApp messaging platform—intensified. This generated confusion and exacerbated the dangers of the pandemic across the continent as people started to act in contradiction to the instructions of health agencies. Historically in Africa, and more recently during the HIV an Ebola epidemics, outbreak-control efforts, were repeatedly undermined by misinformation. Local governments and social media conglomerates are taking steps to push back against false coronavirus-related information. Unfortunately, these efforts are inadequate, and stand low chances of success against the viral nature and spread of misinformation.
AccuroLab’s objective is not only to push back against false information, but to also educate smartphone users: disseminate information directly to them, raise their awareness to the dangers of misinformation and train them to spot false information, and finally, provide them with a frictionless method to verify the received information before they forward it to their friends, loved ones, and community networks.
What is your solution?
AccuroLab is a mobile-based messaging service
AccuroLab acts as an intermediary between cellphone users and Trusted Health Organizations (THO) sources: when users subscribe to the AccuroLab service, AccuroLab’s fact check functionality allows them to use the same channel to assess the accuracy of WhatsApp incoming texts related to the coronavirus. The verification is completed using a key-words and key-phrases search engine algorithm that communicates with a large knowledge database and provides the user with a succinct, easy-to-understand, bullet-pointed rich card. The database is updated regularly.
Ongoing prototype developments focus on 4 COVID-19 thematics:
· Causes & transmission
· Treatments & prevention
· Statistics (local, regional & worldwide)
AccuroLab‘s core functionality (fact check tool) works as described below:
Front-end: Designed to integrate with both Whatsapp & SMS messages, AccuroLab’s fact check tool utilizes natural language processing (NLP) to decipher and analyze the text sent by a user, and check the text against its categorized database of trusted sources.
Back-end: After having received an incoming text from the user, the information is processed by the backend server. In a matter of seconds, AccuroLab’s backend server launches a matching process that queries our pre-built Coronavirus Knowledge Base (CKB).
Who does your solution serve, and in what ways will the solution impact their lives?
There are over 340 million smartphone users in North,West & Sub-Saharan Africa. This figure is expected to reach 670 million users by 2025.
Our target demographic are African smartphone users between the ages of 19 and 39 who do not have an easily accessible way to verify the information they receive and share concerning the prevention, management, and statistics of the COVID-19 pandemic.
By conducting surveys and collecting data from target users we have identified the following major pain-points:
- Not having a reliable source to verify received COVID-19 information.
- Not knowing what information to trust and how to identify false information before sharing it with others.
- Not having a single trusted source for continuous information flow and COVID-19 updates.
AccuroLab’s solution tackles all three pain-points by allowing users to easily verify, extract, and receive accurate and updated COVID-19 information. This, by extension, empower smartphone users with accurate information and nudges their content-sharing behavior by raising their awareness to the dangers of spreading misinformation.
Explain how the problem, your solution, and your solution’s target population relate to the Challenge.
Accessing accurate information and having the ability to verify its accuracy against trusted sources is essential to staying safe during a pandemic and preventing users from unknowingly spreading false information that could have dangerous ramifications.
The goal of AccuroLab is to combat Covid-19 misinformation and disrupting its spread by engaging phone users (a primary source of misinformation transmission). We are creating a solution that utilizes a 360-degree approach by proactively educating the user and interactively allowing them to check for information accuracy. The solution simultaneously primes and nudges the user's behavior as it relates to sharing potentially false information.
In what city, town, or region is your solution team headquartered?New York, NY, USA
What is your solution’s stage of development?
Prototype: A venture or organization building and testing its product, service, or business model
Who is the primary delegate for your solution?
Tarik Fathallah, Co-Founder
Which of the following categories best describes your solution?
A new application of an existing technology
Describe what makes your solution innovative.
AccuroLab empowers both smartphone users and Certified Authorities to combat COVID-19 misinformation. Our solution is unique in the sense that it triangulates the issue of misinformation and combats it on three different fronts:
Raising Awareness: AccuroLab aims to raise the awareness of the dangers of Covid-19 misinformation through interactive messages (think warning labels on cigarette boxes) to get users to stop sharing false information.
Debunking false information: AccuroLab provides smartphone users with an easy-to-use fact-check tool to verify the factuality of Covid-19 information they receive.
Keeping users informed: AccuroLab continuously updates smartphone users both passively through push notifications and interactively through an information extraction feature which users could use to pull specific, accurate, and concise information-nuggets that have been collected from Trusted Health Organizations.
Describe the core technology that powers your solution.
From a macro perspective, our technology is a text categorization algorithm that uses keyword and key-phrase matching and other classification models to query context relevant responses from our Knowledge Database.
We are currently working to enlarge our data-sets, improve our text categorization, and enhance our high-ability database. Once we have enough data, we are looking to deploy a natural language processing model to better understand user intention, and subsequently begin training our machine learning models to expand the query scopes and refine search results.
Provide evidence that this technology works.
As of today there are multiple solutions that operate in our solution's space. The Poynter Institute and the WHO both have created chatbots that tackle Covid-19 misinformation.
However, the solutions above are simply chatbots and provide general information and only provide value when users initiate the process. Our solution in contrast engages with the user on multiple fronts and works proactively to educate and raise the awareness of the user about the dangers of spreading misinformation. Our solution is built to be country specific, easily integratabtle so as to be used as a conduit of information by local authorities, and has the added value of serving as an online destination of crucial COVID-19 information.
Please select the technologies currently used in your solution:
What is your theory of change?
Considering both AccuroLab’s main objectives mentioned in the dedicated section of this proposal (What makes your solution innovative), we will measure our success through 3 KPIs during the next 3 months:
- The number of end users from developing communities signing up to our platform
- The number of fact checking requests received
- The number of misinformation self-awareness contents (written or graphical) pulled through our platform
Using these specific KPIs will allow us to test our added-value hypothesis and assess our user-case and traction assumptions. Following our first beta testing (15-25 users), we expect to get valuable insights from the field in order to:
Enhance and stabilize our solution for a pilot phase 6 to 8 weeks post-beta testing phase (50+ users)
Target and attract more visibility through trusted local figures (social media influencers, governmental authorities, community leaders of the area being identified)
Invite potential THOs using similar technology to learn from them and forge partnerships that would help us in the fight against COVID-19 misinformation.
Select the key characteristics of your target population.
Which of the UN Sustainable Development Goals does your solution address?
In which countries do you currently operate?
In which countries will you be operating within the next year?
How many people does your solution currently serve? How many will it serve in one year? In five years?
We are still in the prototype phase, getting ready to deploy our first beta testing model to test our added-value and user-case assumptions.
- Current number (beta testing 1): 40 to 50 users
- Number of users we will be serving in one year: 5000 to 10000 users
- Number of People we will be serving in five years: + 250 000 users
What are your goals within the next year and within the next five years?
Given the sheer number of smartphone users in Africa and the prevalence of misinformation in a range of domains, we expect this project to have impact in multiple levels.
In terms of impact:
AccuroLab has the potential to increase the self-awareness of millions of inhabitants of poor communities about the dangers of the misinformation (on the Covid-19 specifically and more globally on the dangerous misinformation)
It also has the potential to give the end user an easy and reliable way to fact check any text-based information related to the Covid-19 pandemic and tackle the spread of misinformation by only targeting the information itself but also the content-sharing behavior that enables its spread
What barriers currently exist for you to accomplish your goals in the next year and in the next five years?
In term of potential concerns and risks we are closely monitoring:
- A strong emphasis is being and will continue to be put on the identification of Trusted Health Sources (THO) and the monitoring of the lifecycle of the information provided by these THO. This point is all the more critical because of the newness of the COVID-19 disease and the frequency of its statistical and health-related updates.
- The integration of AccuroLab’s tech solution with the smartphones platforms being the most used in developing countries and targeted communities.
- Another constraint would be the translation of the Covid-19 rich cards into local languages.
How do you plan to overcome these barriers?
Thanks to MIT COVID-19 Challenge, the project team has already reached out to a translation company specializing in +100 African languages in order to prepare content for the first communities targeted in the second RUN phase of AccuroLab's prototype.
These concerns and risks are very much on our radar. We are regularly engaging with mentors and practitioners who agreed to support us in various fields (legal, health, machine learning, AI, UX, etc.). We are also actively building relationships with individuals and organizations in Nigeria, Ghana, Cameroon, and Kenya who would support our implementation efforts on the ground post testing phase.
What type of organization is your solution team?
Not registered as any organization
If you selected Other, please explain here.
Our team is currently in the process of incorporating AccuroLab as a non-profit 501c3 organization headquartered in the United States.
We believe that non-profit incorporation is more aligned with AccuroLab's mission and strategic objectives: raising awareness about the dangers of misinformation, providing a way for people to be well informed, and empowering users to make better decision about spreading information.
How many people work on your solution team?
As of today, we have 6 members on the team.
- 1 Business strategist
- 1 UX Designer
- 1 Communication & Outreach Lead
- 2 Software Engineers
- 1 Data Science Advisor
How many years have you worked on your solution?
Why are you and your team well-positioned to deliver this solution?
Our team is diverse in gender, nationality, academic background, professional experiences, and more critically in skill-set. The team currently has a solid skill baseline well equipped to get through our first 2 years of operation. We have secured talents in the following areas:
- Software engineering, including advanced skills in ML and NLP modeling
- UX design with emphasis on android, SMS, and USSD user experience
- Sourcing and Partnerships
- Data science and data modeling
- Communication and user engagement
In addition to the core competencies listed above and having defined roles for each member of the team, we have also created an internal culture of two-way communication where everyone engages with the subject at hand from their perspective but at the end of the day accepts input and constructive feedback from others. While many of us are graduate students and are proficient in our area of expertise, we are very much self-aware of what we don’t know and are eager to learn from each other. In addition to being visionaries, we are also determined action-takers and result-driven individuals. We believe strongly in the ideate, build, test, and refine or iterate model. Half of the members of our current team have either worked on a new venture or a new program, so we are very familiar with the uncertainty that accompanies startup solutions and comfortable with the rapid pace, constant change, and unexpected challenges we will continue to face at every turn.
What organizations do you currently partner with, if any? How are you working with them?
AccuroLab currently partners with:
MIT COVID-19 Challenge, an extensive network of individuals, initiatives, and organizations looking to assist social entrepreneurs in their fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
What is your business model?
Do you primarily provide products or services directly to individuals, or to other organizations?
Individual consumers or stakeholders (B2C)
What is your path to financial sustainability?
Primary sources of funding:
- Sustained donations
- Development Support
The type of funders we are looking to partner with:
- Social Innovation Incubators
- Early Stage Accelerators
- SDG and Social Entrepreneurship Government programs (US, France, Germany, UK)
- Corporates, Academic and NGO COVID-19 funding Initiatives
Why are you applying to Solve?
Getting selected as a Solver and securing access to the network and community of mentors, subject experts, and practitioner at SOLVE MIT would optimize our solution and help AccuroLab carry out its social impact mission.
At AccuroLab, we believe that having access to accurate information during times of crises is human right and should not be denied on the basis of education background, economic status, or geographical location. We recognize this need and understand the implications of not addressing it directly.
To that end, we are committed to empowering our communities and providing them with the right tools to educate and protect themselves from the dangers of misinformation, and we hope that SOLVE MIT will join our efforts.
In which of the following areas do you most need partners or support?
What organizations would you like to partner with, and how would you like to partner with them?
As indicated in previous responses we would benefit greatly from partnerships with:
- Data centers and initiatives
- Academic and Research Institutions
- Charity Foundations
- local and international associations
- Local and regional governments
- Local and regional health organizations
Do you qualify for and would you like to be considered for The Elevate Prize for Health Security?
Do you qualify for and would you like to be considered for the AI for Humanity Prize?
Do you qualify for and would you like to be considered for the Innovation for Women Prize?
Do you qualify for and would you like to be considered for The People's Prize?