Govt launches chatbot on WhatsApp amid COVID-19 fears

Coronavirus: Govt launches chatbot on WhatsApp to curb misinformation on COVID-19 fears

With fears around coronavirus fuelling rumours and misinformation on social media, the government has launched a chatbot on messaging platform WhatsApp to address user queries around the pandemic, and offer verified information and official advisories to the public.

'MyGov Corona Helpdesk' can be accessed by sending a WhatsApp message to +91 9013151515, and is equipped to address various FAQs pertaining to coronavirus such as its symptoms, precautionary measures that need to be undertaken, helpline numbers, affected cases in the region, government advisories (including travel), among others.

Sources said the chatbot has been developed and implemented by Jio Haptik Technologies, a conversational AI platform and a subsidiary of Reliance Industries.

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Misinformation and fake news circulating on social media is fuelling public fears around coronavirus, and the tendency of mass-forwarding messages without verifying content has triggerred rumour-mongering and, at times, panic.

"The government along with Haptik is looking to curb such misinterpretations by introducing the 'MyGov Corona Helpdesk'. With the WhatsApp user base in India crossing over 400 million, this is an ideal medium to route basic hygiene practices around the virus," sources said.

The move is aimed at curbing circulation of false information that can cause mass hysteria, while at the same time educating the population about the present scenario and promoting awareness.

The chatbot is backed by verified data from the Ministry of Health, and is updated on a real-time basis. The chatbot has been developed for the government, free of cost by Jio Haptik, sources added.

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