Coronavirus: Govt relies on WhatsApp chatbot to curb misinformation

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Published: March 21, 2020 3:00:03 AM

The government has also activated a helpline number +91-11-23978046 and a toll-free service 1075 to help spread awareness about the disease.

Although the service is only in English as of now, over time, the government is likely to incorporate more languages.Although the service is only in English as of now, over time, the government is likely to incorporate more languages.

The government on Friday released a chatbot on WhatsApp that will help authorities curb misinformation regarding the Covid-19 outbreak. Called MyGov Corona Helpdesk, the WhatsApp bot, launched by the MeitY and the Ministry of Health via Haptik, can be used to answer queries related to Covid-19.

For any user wishing to access the service, all she needs to do is to save +91 9013151515 as a contact, and she can automatically start talking to the bot.

The government has also activated a helpline number +91-11-23978046 and a toll-free service 1075 to help spread awareness about the disease. Besides, people can email the government (ncov2019@gov.in) if they have any query.

The bot provides users with options, and users can mention options like A, B, C, D to learn more about the virus. It also provides YouTube links to professional advices by the AIIMS director. Although the service is only in English as of now, over time, the government is likely to incorporate more languages.

“We are currently working with MyGov to incorporate more languages. It’s a common FAQ, but there is a lot of improvement that is yet to come. We are setting it up in a way that it can handle a lot of volume. We shall be incorporating more information in the next few days,” said Aakrit Vaish, CEO and co-founder, Haptik, the chatbot platform that has helped the government create this service.

MeiTY did not respond to FE’s queries till the time of going to press.

The move comes after the Prime Minister on Thursday said while India has been able to do better than others, citizens need to be vigilant to avoid community infections. In his 30-minute address, the PM also announced the need for social distancing.

Although some states like Kerala have been heavily relying on technology to tackle the spread, a lot of private sector initiatives have also sprung up in the last two weeks. Portea Medical, along with Verloop and the government of Goa, has launched Cobot-19, another chatbot to spread information and awareness. The bot has a similar model as MyGov bot, and it provides help in Konkani. Moreover, Cobot-19 provides information on isolation wards in Goa and even the number of location and cases in Goa and the country.

Besides Portea, Bajaj Allianz has released a ‘social trackback’ feature in its Caringly Yours app, where individuals can keep a real-time database of people they have interacted with during the day. The company has said data shall be private, and only users can share access to data if they wish.

Google has been sending its “do the five” updates to android users and recently released “do the five” campaign on its search engine.

As the awareness spreads, one can expect more sophisticated tools to crop up to help tackle this pandemic.

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