India Leverages WhatsApp Chatbot to Propagate Legit Information for COVID-19

by April 3, 2020


The coronavirus pandemic has affected a number of countries across the world including the Indian subcontinent. As of now, India has a total of 2567 coronavirus cases with 72 deaths. The rage of the virus is gradually increasing in the country. However, in this battle against COVID-19, people have to combat the battle against rumors, myths, and misinformation also. Such a time of crisis brings in all the misinformation through social media platforms specifically over WhatsApp. As the World Health Organization (WHO) partnered with WhatsApp to create a helpline to provide people with accurate health information related to the coronavirus, it has become even more necessary to provide people access to accurate and reliable information about the coronavirus in India. To facilitate this process of efficient and timely information dissemination, Haptik has developed the MyGov Corona Helpdesk – the official Government of India chatbot to answer queries about the COVID-19 pandemic.

MyGov Corona Helpdesk offers a wide range of information related to the COVID-19 pandemic in an easy-to-use conversational manner. This includes information about the coronavirus, its symptoms, and how it is transmitted; preventive measures that can be taken as a safeguard against the virus; health & travel advisories; and official government helplines for further information/assistance. It also provides links to additional resources for those who wish to learn more about the disease.

The government decided to implement the MyGov Corona Helpdesk on WhatsApp as it is the world’s largest messaging platform, with 400 million users in India alone. This ensures that the chatbot has a wide reach and is accessible to as many citizens as possible.

Similarly, Goa has rolled out a chatbot–Cobot-19–in collaboration with healthcare startup Portea Medical and Bengaluru-based automation firm Verloop. The bot can respond to queries on COVID-19 in English and Konkani, with Hindi support in the works.

Chatbots like Cobot-19 have been trained using basic machine learning (ML). Gaurav Singh, founder of Verloop explained that there are two parts to the process. The first is offline training that happens in the backend. Second is online real-time usage.

The first step of training is intent mapping where a chatbot is trained on what novel coronavirus is and how it spreads. The intent is further divided into categories. Due to this training, the bot tries to match the intent behind a user’s questions with “intent categories” it has been trained on before answering said question.

And most recently, the Delhi government has launched a COVID-19 helpline chatbot on WhatsApp. Similar to other COVID-19 chatbots, this one too will keep users informed on the latest developments around the pandemic.

The Delhi government’s COVID-19 helpline can be accessed by saving the number +91 88000 07722 and texting the word ‘Hi’ via WhatsApp. Through this helpline, users will get updated information on coronavirus from the Health and Family Welfare Department of Govt. of NCT, Delhi.

Users can get information on coronavirus prevention measures, symptoms, other helpline numbers and ways to tackle it. This WhatsApp chatbot will also inform users on how to apply for e-passes in Delhi amid the lockdown.
“The Delhi Govt. is happy to partner with WhatsApp to establish a dedicated Coronavirus helpline for its residents to ensure that all your queries related to Coronavirus are answered with credible and accurate information. We are doing everything we can to keep our citizens safe in these challenging times and urge everyone to stay indoors and ensure they rely only on verified channels of information,” Arvind Kejriwal, Chief Minister of Delhi said on the launch.