WhatsApp introduces WHO chatbot to answer COVID-19 queries
Facebook-owned instant messaging platform WhatsApp announced the launch of the World Health Organisation’s Health Alert. The new service, which is free to use, has been designed to answer questions from the public about Coronavirus, and to give prompt, reliable and official information 24 hours a day, worldwide. This will also serve government decision-makers by providing the latest numbers and situation reports.
Users will only have to click WHO Health Alert and send the word ‘Hi’ in a WhatsApp message to get started. The service responds to a series of prompts and will be updated daily with the latest information.
Users can also visit the WhatsApp Coronavirus Information Hub at whatsapp.com/coronavirus, and click on the WHO link on the homepage to open up a chat with the WHO Health Alert if you have WhatsApp installed.
The World Health Organisation’s Health Alert will provide official information on topics such as how to protect oneself from infection, travel advice, and debunking Coronavirus myths. The service is initially launching in English but will be available in all six United Nations languages within the coming weeks (English, Arabic, Chinese, French, Russian and Spanish.)
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO said, “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. We are proud to have partners like Facebook and WhatsApp, that are supporting us in reaching billions of people with important health information.”
Since February, the instant messaging platform has reached out to dozens of governments to assist their efforts to provide accurate information to the general public. The WHO Health Alert is the latest official NGO or government helpline to become available on WhatsApp, joining the Singapore Government, The Israel Ministry of Health, the South Africa Department of Health, and KOMINFO Indonesia. The platform is also working to launch local services with other countries.
Earlier this week WhatsApp, in partnership with the World Health Organisation, UNICEF, and UNDP, launched the WhatsApp Coronavirus Information Hub, to provide simple, actionable guidance for health workers, educators, community leaders, nonprofits, local governments and local businesses that rely on WhatsApp to communicate. The site also offers general tips and resources for users around the world to reduce the spread of rumours and connect with accurate health information.
WhatsApp also announced a $1M grant to the International Fact-Checking Network to support fact-checking for the #CoronaVirusFacts Alliance, to report on rumours that may be circulating on various messaging services including WhatsApp or SMS.