Impact Area:

Quality Early Learning Programme

Year of Investment and Stage:

2020 | Early Proof of Concept

Current Stage

Early Proof of Concept

Investment Amount:

<R500 000

Financial Instrument:


Have we reinvested:



Closed, Active

ECDConnect is a WhatsApp chatbot resource to support South African ECD practitioners with reliable and useful information for their centers and programmes. It was created in response to the abrupt closure of the ECD sector due to the Covid-19 pandemic as a means to support the revival of the sector and assist with getting children back on track.

The Problem

There are over 3 million children between the ages of 3 and 5 years in South Africa, 63% of whom were enrolled in some form of Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) programme prior to the Covid-related national lockdown. These services are often informal, and many operate outside of formal information management systems, making it difficult to understand and respond to their needs timeously.

The ECD sector faces many challenges in re-opening, and returning children to their care. These range from clear informative guidelines, to relevant psychosocial support for caregivers and children. Combined with the lack of resources in many parts of South Africa and the financial strain that many are feeling, a long term innovative way to connect and support ECD service providers is key.

The Innovation

ECDConnect uses a WhatsApp chatbot to deliver relevant and timely information and motivation to ECD practitioners. There are 4 key areas of support content provided:  

  • COVID-19 information
  • Professional development for teachers
  • Learning support for in the home and classroom
  • Relief and emotional support resources 

Using a two-way communication platform such as WhatsApp there is also a dedicated helpline to answer key questions and share further relevant resources with practitioners.

With the data received back from the practitioners, we will be able to quantify, visualise and analyse trends within the sector, and make this information available to relevant stakeholders (including the provincial and national government, NGOs and Social Services).  

Access ECD Connect now:  

Click this link and send the message ‘hi’  or send a WhatsApp message ‘hi’ to this number 060 011 1123 

Why we Invested

In the unprecedented era defined by COVID-19, access to up-to-date and accurate information is critical. This is especially true for Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) practitioners and providers whose very livelihoods are at risk.

In contrast however, compared to the flurry of information that has been released by the COVID-19 National Command Council, as well as various government ministries, information from the Department of Social Development regarding ECCE centres, has been noticeably lacking. This has left ECCE practitioners, and caregivers alike, confused, frustrated, powerless, and unable to plan for the future.

We utilise WhatsApp Business. WhatsApp is accessible by most in South Africa. The location-sharing feature adds immense value, as it allows the user to conveniently and accurately share their location and get an accurate list of nearby sites in return. WhatsApp Business is an AI-powered conversational platform. Access to this functionality will make it easy for users to get answers to questions and contribute data. This functionality also enables sustainability and scalability as FAQs become learnt and less manpower is needed on the backend.

The Project Team

Innovation Edge conceptualised, created and piloted the ECD Connect platform and have since handed it over to ECD Link (a DGMT funded initiative) to develop it further.