To raise awareness about the coronavirus pandemic, India is turning to WhatsApp, the country’s most popular app.
Narendra Modi, India’s prime minister, said Saturday that the country’s people can text a WhatsApp chatbot — called MyGov Corona Helpdesk — to get instant, authoritative answers to their coronavirus inquiries, such as the symptoms of the viral disease, and how they could seek help.
Sharing the details right, preventing panic.
Here’s an effort by whatsapp and @Mygovinda to ensure you get accurate and confirmed Coronavirus information.
Please click on this link https://t.co/REabfIp5QT or send HI on +919013151515. #INDIAFIGHTSCORONA
– NARENDRA MODI (@NARENDRAMODI) MARCH 21,2020
An individual is required to text +919013151515 (or click on this shortcut link) to connect to the bot.
The chatbot was developed by Mumbai-based company Haptik Technologies, which was acquired last year by local telecom giant Reliance Jio, and the information is being provided by the nation’s health ministry.
“The ‘ MyGov Corona Helpdesk ‘ has been designed to fight rumors, inform the people and add a sense of tranquility to the current situation of turmoil. We are committed to assisting the government with all our strengths and expertise and hope this chatbot will help the GoI disseminate the right information across the country, “Haptik co-founder and chief executive Aakrit Vaish.
On Thursday, Modi urged the nation’s 1.3 billion citizens to stay home as much as possible for the next few days to prevent any coronavirus cases being “explosion.”
“We’ve noticed for the last few days people assume we’re free from coronavirus. That is not right. It’s not all right to become complacent, “he said in a nationally televised interview.
So far more than 415 people in India have tested positive for COVID-19.
The World Health Organization collaborated with WhatsApp earlier this week to create a helpline that will provide people with reliable coronavirus-related health information.
The WHO Health Alert offers information about how people can protect themselves, the latest pandemic news reports and results, and answers to some of the most asked questions. People can subscribe to the bot by clicking here.
In a statement, WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, “Digital media is giving us an unparalleled opportunity for critical health knowledge to go viral and spread faster than the pandemic, helping us to save lives and protect the vulnerable. We are happy to have partners such as Facebook and Whatsapp that help us reach out to billions of people with significant health information.
WhatsApp, which has been struggling with the spread of rumors about the pandemic, started last month to reach out to hundreds of governments to assist in their attempts to provide the general public with reliable details, it said.
“The WHO Health Alert is the new official NGO or government helpline to be available on WhatsApp, joining the Government of Singapore, the Israel Ministry of Health, the Department of Health of South Africa and KOMINFO Indonesia. We are actively working with other countries to launch local services too, “the firm said.