Pass It On Award Recipients

Damini S.

2019 Anita Borg Systers Pass It On Award Winner
Project Title: Elsa: AI Conversational Agent Aimed at Improving Mental Health for Women
Country: India

Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide and is a major contributor to the burden of disease. While it can affect anyone, women are twice as likely to develop major depression and have higher rates of depressive symptoms in bipolar disorders and dysthymia (chronic depression). Treatments are expensive, so many people who require professional help don’t get it. For some, there is also a social stigma associated with going to a psychotherapist. The widespread availability of Internet connectivity and social networking services such as messenger, WhatsApp, and telegram paves the way for Internet-delivered Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) and other solutions to use computers and conversational agents as a less expensive alternative to face-to-face therapies.

This project aims to invest in Elsa, an open-source conversational agent that uses machine learning and crowdsourcing. Elsa runs the CBT questionnaires in the form of a chatbot interaction, gathers data from the user, and determines the type of depression being exhibited. The initial data corpus is gathered from professional CBT experts which are extended with positive daily messages and nudges to the user throughout the day, all of which are crowdsourced. The core machine learning service ingests data sets and feedback from open source contributors. While the initial corpus of data is obtained from expert clinicians, the aim is to open up the dataset for modifying the response. The PIO Award funding is contributing to computing resources and purchasing psychological CBT training data for improving machine learning models.

Damini Satya is a software engineer at Salesforce building compelling user interfaces and experiences to the world’s leading CRM solutions. She was a speaker at GHC 2018 with a talk titled “Elsa, A Conversational Agent Aimed at Improving Women’s Mental Health.” She also spoke at GHC 2017 and GHC India 2016 on a variety of technical topics. She presented tech talks at conferences like ReactConf & FOSSASIA. A passionate developer with a desire to mentor students, she transitioned from her role as a student in Google Summer of Code (GSoC) 2016 with the FOSSASIA organization working on a peer to peer scraper system, Loklak, and became a mentor for the organization during GSoC 2017. She is an active open source contributor and a part of various open source communities while continually aiming to bring more women into contributing to open source software.