The winners and finalists of Fast Company’s 2022 World Changing Ideas Awards were announced today, including Big Sis, an artificial intelligence-powered agony aunt chatbot that offers girls in South Africa a safe, private, non-judgemental and accurate source of information on topics they do not feel comfortable discussing elsewhere – like sex, STIs and HIV prevention – and points them towards services. Big Sis is a finalist in the Developing World Technology Category.

Big Sis’ persona connects with girls because it was built with girls. Girl Effect works with girls in South Africa from diverse backgrounds, and with mixed ages and life experiences, to listen to their challenges and how they feel and build content that will resonate with them. Phrases submitted to the chatbot by the girls fuel Big Sis’ AI-engine through a Natural Language Processing model, which can recognise incoming questions and deliver an immediate answer.

This approach has led to more than 75,000 chats started with Big Sis and over 1.3 million messages received by the chatbot to date. After advice from Big Sis, 76% of girls intend to access a health service before starting a new relationship (12% higher than those who have not used it).

Girl Effect CEO, Jessica Posner Odede said: “Big Sis provides us with the opportunity to forge closer links between girls and the health services they need, by providing content that helps with her concerns and encourages her to access curated and vetted healthcare providers. We’re honored to be a finalist for such a prestigious award and we’re not stopping here. We aim to further develop Big Sis to increase the number of girls we connect with and to continuously improve our engagement with them, and to scale to new countries and languages.”

Now in its sixth year, the World Changing Ideas Awards showcase 39 winners, 350 finalists and more than 600 honorable mentions – with climate, social justice and AI and data among the most popular categories. A panel of eminent Fast Company editors and reporters selected winners and finalists from a pool of more than 2,997 entries across transportation, education, food, politics, technology, health, social justice and more.

“We are consistently inspired by the novelty and creativity that people are applying to solve some of our society’s most pressing problems, from shelter to the climate crisis. Fast Company relishes its role in amplifying important, innovative work to address big challenges,” says David Lidsky, interim editor-in-chief of Fast Company. “Our journalists have identified some of the most ingenious initiatives to launch since the start of 2021, which we hope will both have a meaningful impact and lead others to join in being part of the solution.”