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Her name is Thuso. When you ask her a question, she listens to you, and then she gives you a right answer. She can also ask you a question too, so she can understand you better. Her technical name is NUL Chatbot and her job is to provide you with as much information about the National University of Lesotho (NUL) as possible but in a nice, relaxed, conversation.

Developed by two NUL students; Motloheloa Maieane and Pitso William Mothibe, supervised by Messers Lebajoa Mphatsi and Lerotholi Mojela, the app can even assist students with their academic results during the results season, among many other things.

So let’s go for a ride by starting a conversation with this lovely lady app.

You, “Hi there!”

Thuso, “Hi”

You, “How are ya?”

Thuso, “I’m kind’a great, how can I help you today?”

You, “First, “who are you?”

”Thuso, “I am Thuso, otherwise technically known as NUL Chatbot”

You, “O.k. Sounds good. So what do you do?”

Thuso,” Well, I am here to provide as much information about NUL as possible.”

You, “Oh wow! So cool! I’m a student at the NUL and I’m just wondering if you can let me know my end of the year results; can you help?”

Thuso, “Cool, gi’me your student number”

You, “2016000976”

Then the Thuso makes a request and then sends you a soft copy of your results slip, in a PDF format. Then you are good to go.

[Join Phuthalichaba, the Future Bank of the People by the NUL Innovation Hub here:]

More amazing is that you are actually making this conversation on WhatsApp or Facebook, “because we have embedded this app within the two popular social media platforms,” Motloheloa said.

By now you are already wondering, why Thuso at all?

Imagine the trouble both you and NUL have to go through, just so you can get any information about NUL. First it’s the website. When you visit the website, you might find a rather static (unchanging) information that may have remained there since 2010.

Or you can phone call the university.

Imagine the problem with that approach. At any moment in time, hundreds of people want to get in touch with the University but the person on the receiving end of the calls can only talk to one person at a time. Worse still, that person gets tired, bored, annoyed, sleepy, and can goes for lunch, and leaves for home at 5.00 pm only to attend to you at 8:30 a.m. the next morning.

Of course you can send an email or inbox but experience shows how long it takes for people to respond to inbox messages these days, if they respond at all. Understandably so, people are swamped up with all kinds of demands on their times.

No wonder then, that you need this heroine, the robot called Thuso.

Her benefits are obvious, “unlike real humans, she can answer multiple questions from multiple people at the same time,” Motloheloa said. Think about this for a second. Hundred people, from anywhere in Lesotho or anywhere in the world, are asking this lady different questions at the same time and she is answering each one of them at the same time, depending on the question being asked.

Now, that’s a feat!

Think too that young this lady is of the tireless breed.

She doesn’t go for lunch or use a bathroom, she doesn’t get annoyed with you—she has no anger issues, she knows nothing about going for a strike,she doesn’t leave an office for a mini-gossip, she doesn’t leave work at 5.00 pm (she works 24/7), she doesn’t dodge some tasks, she needs no disciplinary hearings. When she functions well, she is almost stress-free to whoever employed her!

In any case, how is this even possible?

Thuso project was years in the making. “We are not the first students to work on this great project,” said Motloheloa. “Several other students (the likes of Kabelo Lekhatla) worked on it before us, but we are confident that we have nearly brought it to a finale, Thuso is just amazing!”

Thuso is the result of the so-called Artificial Intelligence (AI).” Basically, we develop and train the app to behave more and more like a human.”

That means one needs to feed Thuso with a lot of data such that she ends up knowing how to answer each question you ask. “Like, humans, she also learns from past experiences, and the more you talk to her, the better she becomes at striking great conversations.”

Let’s end it with another conversation,

You, “Hi”

Thuso, “Ola!”

You, “Can I get my end of year results please,”

Thuso, “Please provide your student number,”

You, “200167889087”

Thuso, “Oops! Your results are blocked, kind’a like, you haven’t paid your fees or something?”

One last try. You, ”Hi there! I want to study BSc at NUL, what are the requirements?”

Thuso, “Great question. For you to study BSc at NUL, you need, at minimum, B in English, B in Maths and C in any Physical science. Are you O.K.?”

You, “Yep!”

Thuso, “Great night buddy!”

[Join Phuthalichaba, the Future Bank of the People by the NUL Innovation Hub here:]

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