While the government is trying to contain the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, fake news peddlers are busy spreading misinformation regarding the COVID-19 disease. WhatsApp has partnered with the World Health Organisation and the Indian government to launch two chatbots in order to provide authentic information about the coronavirus.
The MyGov Corona Help Desk chatbot for the Indian WhatsApp user has been developed by Jio Haptik Technologies Limited and powered by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare together with the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology.
The chatbot developed by WHO provides global information regarding the COViD-19 outbreak and is simply known as the “World Health Organization”.
The MyGov Corona Helpdesk can be accessed by adding +91-9013-151515 to your contacts and sending a message or by following this link: wa.me/919013151515. The WHO chatbot can be accessed by adding +41-7989-31892 to your contacts and sending a message or by following this link: bit.ly/who-covid19-whatsapp. I tried both of these chatbots and here is what I found:
The MyGov chatbot introduces itself as “the Government of India’s Coronavirus (COVID-19) Helpdesk to create awareness and help you and your family stay safe” and straight up shares the emergency helpline number and email address for the Indian users.
The chatbot has six options in total:
1. Latest Update on Coronavirus in India
2. What is Coronavirus and what are its symptoms?
3. How does Coronavirus spread?
4. How to reduce the risk of Coronavirus?
5. Professional advice by AIIMS-Director
6. Where to get help?
Users need to reply with the number written against a query to make the selection.
When I pressed 1, the chatbot informed me about the confirmed cases of coronavirus in the country along with active cases, cured or discharged cases, and the number of deaths by COVID-19. However, the information with chatbot does not refresh too often. Even at 3:45 pm in the evening, it continued to show stats from 10:30 am in the morning.
In the same message, the MyGov Corona Helpdesk shared the number of testing facilities in the country, along with a link to a document containing state and district wise details of COVID-19 cases. It also had links to the MyGov website and MOHFW website.
The response from the chatbot also carried the latest announcement made by the government related to the coronavirus outbreak. In the morning, it shared the lockdown announcement and around 3 pm, it shared information about the Prime Minister’s address to the nation scheduled at 8 pm.
For other responses, the chatbot presented useful information regarding symptoms, spread of disease, and health tips with the help of YouTube videos, graphical pamphlets, and more. It also shared links to videos by Director, AIIMS-Delhi to learn and clear doubts on coronavirus. This can be particularly useful given so many fake videos of ‘doctors’ are being shared on WhatsApp.
If you press 6, the chatbot shares helpline numbers again with an option to view state-wise helpline numbers.
The MyGov chatbot and WHO chatbot are not that different, but the latter is aimed at a much wider audience. It presents users with eight options and users need to send the number written before a query to get the information.
The WHO chatbot gives you “latest numbers” of coronavirus patients from around the world as well as new cases reported in the last 24 hours. You can also check country numbers by tapping on the link shared by the chatbot. The chatbot also lists out COVID-19 symptoms together with advisories to “protect yourself”.
It also shares “myth-busters” as well as “travel advice”. I would urge readers to see these myth-busters in particular, and share them on WhatsApp considering this is authenticated information.
With WHO chatbot, users can get the latest news updates shared by the WHO with just a tap. My favourite part of this chatbot was the third option— “Your questions answered”. Once you complete all the question-answers, you will feel like an expert on the subject leaving no doubt for any confusion. These reponses cover all aspects of the coronavirus (SARS-Cov-2) and the COVID-19 disease.
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The WHO chatbot also gives you a shortcut to donate to the COVID-19 Fundraiser. The target amount is $10 million and you can contribute to help WHO-led effort to respond to the pandemic.
The coronavirus pandemic has claimed more than 17,000 lives globally, affecting more than 3.8 lakh people. In India, there have been more than 500 positive cases of COVID-19, out of which 10 people have died.
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