Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 3 April 2020

WHO rolls out WhatsApp chatbot to answer questions and debunk myths about coronavirus

Service first available in English but will be in five other languages, including Arabic, in coming weeks

Medical staff and volunteers from Children's National Hospital test children, who arrived with a doctors referral, for the coronavirus at a drive-thru test site in Washington, DC. EPA
Medical staff and volunteers from Children's National Hospital test children, who arrived with a doctors referral, for the coronavirus at a drive-thru test site in Washington, DC. EPA

The World Health Organisation has rolled out a free chat feature on WhatsApp to answer questions from the public about coronavirus, providing reliable information worldwide to as many as 2 billion people.

The WHO HealthAlert chatbot can give information on how to protect yourself from infection, travel advice and debunks Coronavirus myths.

“Digital technology gives us an unprecedented opportunity for vital health information to go viral and spread faster than the pandemic, helping us save lives and protect the vulnerable,” Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of WHO said.

The service was initially launched in English but will be available in all six United Nations languages within the coming weeks, including Arabic, Chinese, French, Russian and Spanish, according to the agency.

The service can be accessed through this link that opens a conversation on WhatsApp. Users can simply type “hi” to start the conversation, prompting a menu of options that can help answer their questions about Covid-19. The chatbot can respond to a series of prompts and will be updated daily with the latest information.

The WHO said it also aims to serve government decision-makers by providing the latest numbers and situation reports through the new service.

The WHO HealthAlert was developed in collaboration with South African social impact technology company Praekelt. Org. Developers used machine learning to build an automated information response system that provides answers to the most frequently asked questions, with the initial aim of relieving traffic to call centre helplines.

WHO HealthAlert chatbot. Courtesy WhatsApp
WHO HealthAlert chatbot. Courtesy WhatsApp

Updated: March 26, 2020 03:15 AM

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