top of page
  • Writer's pictureAisha Playton

FOONDAMATE: THE ACTIONABLE AFRICAN AI STARTUP GEARED TOWARDS ADDRESSING THE EDUCATIONAL DISPARITY IN THE DEVELOPING WORLD


A graphic featuring a hand holding a cellphone

AI is the hottest topic on the tech scene right now. The trend has led many African innovators in search of funding to create AI software to cater to first-world conveniences instead of problems that affect their greater community. Foondamate is different. While AI is poised to become the next big money-maker amongst investors, Foondamate focuses on creating the ChatGPT of Africa, developing a technology rooted in solving problems, not making money. What exactly is Foondamate, you might ask? Keep reading to find out! In this article, we will introduce you to the mission and function of Foondamate, identify the tech driving the platform, how they are navigating tricky privacy restrictions and learn about the platform's ambitions for the future.


Foondamate is a WhatsApp chatbot that helps students access helpful learning tools to succeed at school. The concept is born from an inspiring story of two founders, Dacod and Tao, from two very different worlds, who joined together to create a platform that is an immense force for good. Let's start with Dacod.


Dacod grew up in rural Mpumalanga, a notoriously underresourced province in South Africa. As he and his family lived without electricity for much of his youth, the realities of technological advancements were far removed from his formative years. It wasn't until Dacod hit high school and talked his brother into redirecting their savings for Christmas clothes into purchasing their first PC that Dacod's life took an unexpected turn towards the successful future he enjoys today. After acquiring their first computer, Dacod's attention turned toward using his money to buy mobile data to surf the web in search of past papers and other resources to help him learn. Learning in Dacod's educational circumstances was challenging, to say the least. Students were rarely provided with textbooks and learning aids, and each of his classes often consisted of 50-70 students at a time, whereas for some subjects, he would only have a teacher present to teach for a few months out of the school year. These factors made it challenging for students in his situation to learn and gain individualised assistance when required. Due to his determination, resourcefulness and his trusty PC, Dacod graduated at the top of his class, making history as the highest-achieving student to ever graduate from the school. This achievement led Dacod to relocate to Cape Town, where he studied Computer Science at the University of Cape Town, the highest-ranking university in Africa. After working as a software engineer for a few years, Dacod was struck with the idea for Foondamate and reached out to his co-founder Tao to collaborate on the project.


Tao has always been an intelligent and hardworking woman, achieving incredible grades and graduating at the top of her class. The Cape Town native enjoyed a starkly different schooling career than her co-founder, Dacod. Attending one of the country's elite schools, and lack of resources and opportunities was never a real consideration for her. This didn't, however, close Tao's eyes to the needs of fellow South Africans around her and the disparity in opportunities and upward mobility that South Africa's educational inequalities created. After completing her further studies in the US, Tao returned home and began working with Dacod to build Foondamate.


Now that you've met the founders, let's chat further about Foondamate itself. It is, at its core, a study chatbot tasked with tackling the educational disparities prevalent in South Africa and other developing nations. Dacod's Foondamate journey started in August 2020 when he began tinkering with WhatsApp's beta API (Application Programming Interface) offering. API is a backend feature that enables WhatsApp Business users to efficiently oversee and programme their conversations to automate custom interactions on WhatsApp. Much like ChatGPT, Foondamate employs advanced natural language processing and machine learning algorithms to understand and respond to user queries. By creating a business structure that keeps its original user persona at the heart of the start-up's culture, Foondamate has become an indispensable educational companion for its over 3 million users worldwide. Coupling its student-first ethos with an impressive tech stack Foondamate is empowered to solve its student's problems with ease. The effort that the team has placed in thoroughly understanding its users has allowed them to develop tech that can promptly, effectively and affordably solve student queries in several languages. By leveraging the accessibility and affordability of apps like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, Foondamate can serve an immensely broad and diverse audience of students who may lack access to standard educational resources or private tutoring. By activating an affordable monthly subscription (which starts at just ZAR30 per month), students will have unlimited access to Foondamate features and, with the premium membership, even obtain assistance with submitting well-formulated university entrance applications.


Now, let's move on to privacy. The Foondamate team aim to strike the seemingly elusive balance between developing their machine-learning capabilities while protecting private user data. While Foondmate may collect and process data from its users, it has made explicit to its users their "right to access, correct, or delete your personal information" from their database(s). For a more in-depth look at the privacy practices of this standout AI startup, click here.


Where is Foondamate headed in the years to come? With ambitions of becoming the "educational ChatGPT" of the developing world, Foondamate imagines developing boundless technology to support the genesis of a future where all children can access the necessary learning tools to succeed, despite their socio-economic or geographical circumstances. The platform aspires to continue to scale its venture to serve other developing nations facing similar educational challenges as South Africa (Foondamate currently serves over 30 countries).


So, what makes Foondamate different to every other generative AI platform? Foondamate shines as a prime example of technology harnessed for the greater good. The answer lies in the brand's ethos which is rooted in empowering future generations to create a more equitable and prosperous society. In a saturated market of AI launches, Foondamate has emerged as a beacon of hope and empowerment for everyone – no matter their zip code.


Would you like to share Foondamate with a student or give it a try for yourself? Here's how! Text "hi" to +27 60 070 3213 on WhatsApp to start chatting with their study bot today. There is also the opportunity to sponsor a student in need with a Foondamate subscription! Give back by visiting https://foondamate.com/spread-the-foondamate-love/ to learn more.


DISCLAIMER

The information we have included in this article concerning Foondamate and similar generative AI tools is intended solely for educational, entertainment and informational purposes. We aim to ensure that our readers who use Foondamate and similar AI tools are aware of all potential risks involved in this action and understand that such use is at your own risk. We strongly advise our readers to exercise caution and diligence where necessary when using any AI software or platforms. De Beer Attorneys expressly disclaims any liability for any negative outcomes, damages, or consequences that may arise from the use of generative AI tools highlighted or discussed in this article. A few potential examples include but are not limited to, errors, inaccuracies, omissions, breaches in data and privacy or unintended outputs generated by AI algorithms. De Beer Attorneys cannot guarantee that any AI tools mentioned in this article are reliable or suitable for each user's intended purpose. We encourage our readers to conduct their research, seek professional advice, and exercise their judgment before using any AI tool. By accessing and utilising any generative AI tool discussed or cited in this article, you agree to release De Beer Attorneys and its related affiliates, employees, contractors, and/or associates from liability from such use and acknowledge and agree that De Beer Attorneys shall not be held liable for any direct, indirect, incidental, consequential, or punitive damages arising from your use of such tools. Commercially available AI tools are new to the marketplace and constantly evolving. As such, the usage outcomes of these platforms may vary depending on a myriad of factors.


Comments


bottom of page