Rapid launch of COVID-19 technology including chatbots to help fight pandemic

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  • A chatbot and AI market leader (SnacthBot) shares statistics on it’s recently launched COVID-19 chatbot
  • Analysis of other technology that were released rapidly to help fight coronavirus

With all the attention on the shortage of ventilators and PPE, less attention is given to the most vital issue of crisis communication at scale. Various technology giants have sprinted to put their innovation to good use in an effort to help combat COVID-19. Below are some of the most interesting solutions that surfaced in a very short time frame:

Chatbot to power crisis communication and critical information flow at scale:

An effective chatbot was launched to enable the dissemination of the most up-to-date information and advice about the coronavirus. Avi Benezra, the CTO of SnatchBot reported that over the last two weeks, the chatbot received a gigantic response and shared some analytics on the spike in usage. Although it is a multi-channel solution that supports a wide range of chat apps, the most popular channel so far has been users of Facebook Messenger (https://www.facebook.com/coronaviruschatbot/). Henri Benezra, the CEO agreed to move swiftly to make available resources that can help the chatbot evolve as the crisis unfolds.

How it works: The COVID chatbot makes use of RSS feeds from the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. It makes available regional maps with the most up to date figures and shares data from the world map which is run by the John Hopkins Center for Systems Science and Engineering.

Symptom FAQs and subroutine: The COVID chatbot makes use of a symptoms subroutine that allows users to check whether they need to contact a doctor and an FAQ section with advice, reiterating the key messages: stay home, wash your hands frequently, if you have to go out, wear a mask. This could be life-saving in many cases, particularly as complications can arise for people who are not actually infected by who go to hospital at a time of overload and an increased risk of contamination once they reach a hospital.

Spiking statistics: In one week, from March 29 to 4 April, the chatbot exchanged 2.15 M messages with users on Messenger, Telegram and Viber and this rate of use spiked dramatically in the last day. Facebook analytics show that 207k unique users talked to the chatbot on Messenger over the course of the week. There was a noticeable gender and age divide, with 51% of users being males between 18 and 24, another 26% being men between 25 and 34, while only 9% of users were women in the 18-24 category, and another 9% were women in the 25-34 category.

Avi Benezra said a huge spike is expected by May as more hospitals across the developing world may deploy this to help them screen people. He also said “I think soon labor shortage in hospitals will be a global problem, since India, Africa and Latin America have not started to peak yet – we hope to help those countries fight back with a powerful information system and to make up for staff shortages quickly and effectively.” 

CDC and Microsoft chatbot:

Another similar chatbot was launched later by Microsoft and the CDC. It is well-known that Bill Gates is currently receiving a lot of publicity during the COVID-19 pandemic. The main aim of this chatbot is also to inform people as to whether they should go to hospital or not. It is understood that the CDC had this tool built on the Microsoft health bot service, which is one of many efforts by the Microsoft to aid in the fight against coronavirus. The main aim is to help “flatten the curve”.

Google Cloud COVID chatbot:

Last but not least, Google Cloud moved forward with something similar: another COVID chatbot.

It is now know as the Rapid Response Virtual Agent program, mainly sharing information and updates. It is aimed at helping Google Cloud customers manage rapid responses. Typically used by governments and healthcare providers.

Other notable efforts from TECH innovators to fight COVID-19:

Apple and Google will collaborate to share data and track the virus. In many countries such as Taiwan and South Korea, officials are using a more aggressive approach to track and trace potential human carriers of the disease and isolate them, with Israel not far behind them in one of the most effective ways of tracking people with a risk to spread contamination.

Fake news about coronavirus and conspiracy theories about 5G has been a huge problem in recent weeks. Now, Whatsapp moved to limit the viral capacity of messages by imposing restrictions on message forwarding.

Live Coronavirus Map:


(Credit: Johns Hopkins University)

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