Chatbot launched to address coronavirus concerns

Updated 17 Mar 2020

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Digital Pakistan creates system to answer common questions regarding coronavirus. — AFP/File
Digital Pakistan creates system to answer common questions regarding coronavirus. — AFP/File

KARACHI: Head of the prime minister’s ‘Digital Pakistan’ initiative Tania Aidrus on Monday announ­ced that the government has launched a chatbot to address common concerns and give information regarding the COVID-19 outbreak.

The Digital Pakistan team has created the tool to support the health emergency efforts by providing an online triage in infection diagnostics.

“Our team wanted to build an effective way to get information out to Pakis­tanis. We’ve launched a chatbot to address common concerns on #Coronavirus. You can find labs near you and even do a quick test to assess your risk of #Coronavirus. Please try it out!” the former Google executive wrote on Twitter.

To access the chatbot, a user can message the Face­book page of Ministry of National Health Service, Regulations and Coordina­tion (NHSRCOfficial) on Messenger and get started. The chatbot allows messaging in both Urdu and English languages.

The technology answers questions about the symptoms, ways to protect yourself, risk assessment, and shares information about nearest labs for the coronavirus test.

The chatbot is powered by artificial intelligence that answers basic questions about the virus and if a user wants to assess if they need a COVID-19 test or not, it will recommend testing based on questions such as “do you have fever above 100?”, “do you have cough?”, “have you travelled in the last 14 days?” or if you have “pre-existing conditions”.

Besides the chatbot, Ms Aidrus said the government was using data and technology to ‘get ahead of the coronavirus’.

“We’re using data analytics techniques and cutting edge technology to get ahead of the #Coronavirus. We’re trying to modernize and streamline data collection from the frontlines. We have some of the best @CodeforPakistan engineers available in Pakistan volunteering their support,” she wrote.

On Monday, the Digital Pakistan head said a national dashboard had been set up for the public to access data around COVID-19 in real time.

“I’d like to thank @CodeForPakistan for setting up the national dashboard in such short notice. We now have a holistic view of the active cases from across the country. This will aid in providing timely and data driven decisions as the situation changes in real time. #CoronaVirus,” she tweeted on Monday.

The dashboard can be accessed on the National Institute of Health’s (NIH) official website.

Published in Dawn, March 17th, 2020