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Tackling bullying with a “digital twin”

In order to combat bullying, we've partnered up with Friends and the University of Örebro to create a digital twin of bullying.

Michael Westberg

Senior Digital Strategy Consultant, Tietoevry Create

Every year, a staggering 10 % of children in years 3 – 6 (in Sweden) report that they have been subjected to bullying. The worrying statistics continue as children grow, with 5 % of children in years 6 - 9 report being bullied. Bullying can have long-lasting and devastating effects that last a lifetime, including mental health problems such as depression, and in severe cases, suicide. Our partner Friends’ vision is a society in which no person is being bullied, and to combat bullying, they provide adults with research-based tools that can be used to prevent and stop bullying. 

We hope that this new way of working will increase the opportunity drastically for an equal school environment and safety for all children. Our goal is a society free from bullying and now we are using digitalization and new technology to get there" - Maja Frankel, Secretary General of Friends.

In order to find out the prevalence of bullying, one must first ask the right question. But how do we know when to ask the questions, and how do we make sure that everyone answers as earnestly as possible? 

The importance of being earnest and feeling safe

Friends’ research in schools has, until now, been quite traditional, including methods such as physical questionnaires. However, the process of gathering and processing the data is not as fast as it could be, meaning that too much valuable time passes between the time an incident of bullying is reported to an action is taken. In addition, the children are often answering the questionnaires in a place or room that they might not consider a safe place.

For example, a classroom might be a perfectly safe place for one child, but for another, it’s quite the opposite. Further, it would be suitable to rethink the medium used for gathering data (physical questionnaires) and create a method that uses an interface that children respond well to, like a digital tool. 

All of our projects are special, but this one really speaks to me and the team. There are numerous options and we’re very excited to see which one(s) helps the best. We’ve got the perfect mix of people involved in the project, from graduates for project managers, and I have no doubt that we can come up with a great solution together with Örebro University and Friends.” – Michael Westberg  Senior Digitalization Advisor at Tietoevry

Predictive analytics as a catalyst

Together with Örebro University, one of Sweden’s leading universities when it comes to researching bullying, we’re amped up to help Friends combat bullying through creating digital solutions that work for them and their mission. A dedicated team with various roles and backgrounds will be responsible for designing, developing, and testing the digital tool, ensuring that it does what it’s supposed to do; gathering information quickly in a way that works for the respondents, showing the data, and minimizing the lead times for serious incident reports.

This project, known as the "The digital twin of bullying" has received support from Vinnova, Sweden's innovation agency, and will be run by the three parties as a joint project with the latest technology in data collection, artificial intelligence, and modeling in the form of a so-called digital twin.

The first part of the project is all about gathering, consolidating, and managing the key to most modern problem-solving – data. Current data, as well as historic data, will be collected and run against other statistics available, such as information about the schools and class sizes. The project’s second part consists of creating the “digital twin” environment. The digital twin will be able to predict future trends based on the collected data and will, with the help of artificial intelligence, be able to suggest concrete actions to intervene before it’s too late. 

This is us – learn more

The format for the digital tool is yet to be decided. In order to create a digital twin, various digital tools can be used, such as an avatar in a game, a social media account, or an app that checks in with you from time to time. The benefits of modeling the data as a digital twin are numerous, not least because it will help to set a national standard for how to combat bullying, as well as a way to easily demonstrate the data and see how the trends vary over time and location. 

“We see enormous potential with this project, and we are convinced that we are now laying the foundation for something very important. We have seen how digitalization has changed society in many areas, but in the preventive work in schools, people are stumbling, even though it is technically possible to work smarter”, Michael Westberg,  Senior Digitalization Advisor at Tietoevry.

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