Great news! Today the End Violence Fund announced it is awarding $750,000 to support the development of Aselo, Tech Matters’ open source contact center platform that allows children and youth to connect with helplines via voice, SMS, webchat, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger. The two-year award also includes significant funding for our partners, Childline South Africa and Childline Zambia, enabling the launch of Aselo in these two countries.
Aselo is one of 14 innovative projects selected through a competitive funding process. In total, the End Violence Fund – the world’s largest non-governmental funder dedicated to ending online child sexual exploitation and abuse (CSEA) – is investing $10 million to support some of the most promising global projects to enhance detection and response to online CSEA. Our joint proposal with our two child helpline partners also includes a particular focus on responding to online child sexual abuse material encountered by both children and adults in South Africa and Zambia by streamlining automated reporting of this abuse material (such as photos and videos) to national portals and law enforcement.
Violence against children is a global – and often silent – epidemic, that happens in every country and every community, and across all cultural and socio-economic contexts. And while the Internet can be an enormous source for learning, there are no built-in safeguards to protect children online. Tragically, incidences of online exploitation and abuse are increasing dramatically. Today, one in three Internet users worldwide is a child. And every half second, a child goes online for the first time.
Child helplines are on the front lines of responding to children in crisis, receiving more than 30 million calls globally each year – with some helplines seeing an increase in their calls by as much as 50 percent during the pandemic. Tech Matters has been working in collaboration with Child Helpline International (CHI), a global network of more than 160 member helplines located in more than 140 countries, to develop Aselo as a modern platform that enables counselors to communicate with children and youth where they are – via online social media and text-based channels.
This funding from the End Violence Fund comes at a critical time in our development of Aselo. Over the past 18-months, we’ve been working with a core group of CHI helplines to inform the design and functionality of Aselo. With their help in co-creating this new platform, we’ve developed new and better tools for helpline counselors, using technology to improve efficiencies and make it easier to connect children with the support they need, while protecting the privacy and security of each individual child. We are looking to raise at least $2 million in additional funding to continue improvements in Aselo and bring it to several more new countries over the next two years.
We’re further energized by the work of fellow grantees and our collective goal of ending violence against children. To learn more about the Aselo platform, see our blog post, Helping 100 Million Kids! To read today’s full grant announcement by The End Violence Fund, click here.
We believe in the power of software and data to help society better hear the voices of children, empowering their advocates to demand the changes needed to end violence against children!