These 2 Brands Made a Facebook Messenger Bot to Draw Awareness to Ethiopia’s Water Crisis

2.5-hour digital adventure aims to build empathy

Since launching Facebook Messenger bots earlier this year, brands like Trolli and American Express have built chatbots as a new way to interact with consumers. Now jewelry brand Lokai and nonprofit Charity: Water are using bots to raise awareness and visualize the challenges people in rural areas of the world face in getting clean drinking water.

The two companies and AKQA have teamed up to create a bot dubbed "Walk with Yeshi" that takes Facebook users through a two-and-a-half-hour experience with a woman named Yeshi who lives in rural Ethiopia and spends two-and-a-half hours each day walking to find water. 

Once someone starts chatting with the bot, Yeshi sends out images, videos, audio clips and maps. For example, users can follow a digital map of her route across the country from Facebook Messenger.

"We thought about how we could connect people with a girl in Ethiopia and her struggles, so we thought about how we could take that mindset and put it into something that you really feel like you're getting to know someone and standing by them and experiencing it eye-to-eye," said Steven Izen, CEO of Lokai.

To promote the bot, Lokai is pushing out messages on Instagram to its 1.7 million followers and through email.

The bot marks the second year that Lokai and Charity: Water have partnered, and the team has also created a special water bottle and blue bracelet available through Sept. 16. Ten percent of profits from the products go back to giving people clean drinking water in developing countries. Last year, Lokai and Charity: Water built 33 water wells in Ethiopia with the goal to build 100 wells this year.