Bots are basically software that can mimic conversation through the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI). AI is what makes computer systems able to perform human-like functions, just like you and I. Sounds scary, doesn't it?

It's a lot less ominous than you might think. Bots are designed to perform tedious tasks such as setting a reminder on your phone, playing your favorite song from your playlist, or even checking the weather in your region.

CNN’s Facebook messenger bot is one such example. It allows users to get the latest news, get summaries and find out what's happening in the world.

Poncho is another bot, and it allows the users to receive weather forecasts based on their location.

With bots gaining popularity all around the world, Absa has become the first bank in South Africa to interact with its customers through chat. The bank's bot works via Twitter, allowing clients to message the bot directly for their account balance. They can also view a transaction history, and buy mobile data or airtime.

Around 7.4 million South Africans are on Twitter, making this an attractive avenue for businesses-facing bots.

Some users expressed fears with regards to the safety of their personal information and finances, especially when this is linked to their Twitter accounts. The security concerns are a potential barrier that could put off some customers, it will take a while for them to trust this new technology. All the same, we applaud Absa for taking a step forward and changing the way we do banking.

Another interesting Facebook Messenger chatbot is National Geographic Kids' Dragon Bot, which allows children to learn about Tina the Tyrannosaurus Rex, a dinosaur that lived approximately 66 million years ago.

Children can ask Tina the T-Rex questions through the bot, like what she looks like.

Hello, human! I'm Tina the T. rex. My friends at National Geographic Kids have brought me back from extinction to help you learn about my life. I'm still learning about your world, so I may not have all the answers. To get started, why not ask me about my appearance?

When asked, Tina's response is quite informative:

I was huge! I was longer than a bus and had a massive jaw to crush my dinner with. I stood on two legs and had two small arms with two claws on each. I think you'd have found me very scary!

The bot is set to go live in South Africa, and it will allow for kids to learn about history out of school.

One particularly useful bot is MomConnect, created by South Africa's Praekelt Foundation. The MomConnect chatbot lets mothers access useful information during their pregnancy via Facebook messenger.

MomConnect is a platform that connects expectant moms to government health services in South Africa. It was launched in 2014 by the South African National Department of Health, and has close to 900,000 subscribers. Mothers can use the service to access information around HIV, pregnancy, delivery and information regarding their baby’s first year.

South Africa has taken a creative spin on bots, using the technology to allow for better access to resources on a more personal level. With Facebook allowing everyone to create their own bot, we can expect more to come from the South African market.

Follow this link if you’re keen on exploring more bots out there.

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