Delhi citizens have got their own helpline on WhatsApp to receive the latest information around COVID-19. The new move has been taken by the Health and Family Welfare Department of the Government of NCT of Delhi with a view to provide credible updates related to the ongoing pandemic. Namely the Delhi Government Corona Helpline, the development is available as a chatbot service -- similar to what we saw by the Central Government last month. It can be used to receive details around the key signs and symptoms related to COVID-19 on WhatsApp. Additionally, users can also access helpline numbers and government authorised facilities for screening and testing the deadly disease.
The chatbot service can be accessed by Delhiites simply by saving the number +91 88000 07722 in your phone contacts and then sending a message with the word ‘Hi' on WhatsApp. Initially, the helpline provides details in English, though we expect at least Hindi support in the coming days.
One of the prime functions of offering native helpline through WhatsApp is to eradicate the circulation of fake news and misinformation around COVID-19. However, you can also access the chatbot service to receive details on the available government authorised testing facilities for the disease that is believed to spread through the Novel Coronavirus (SARS-Cov-2). The bot also provides access to the information around the available night shelters in the capital city and how citizens can donate to the Chief Minister relief fund. There are options to let users apply for electronic curfew passes to move during the lockdown.
You can access the available list of options provided by the helpline by selecting their corresponding numbers in the initial message. Alternatively, the chatbot also provides information upon receiving the emojis provided next to the listed options.
“We are doing everything we can to keep our citizens safe in these challenging times and urge everyone to stay indoors and ensure they rely only on verified channels of information,” said Arvind Kejriwal, Chief Minister of Delhi, in a prepared statement.
The chatbot is developed using cloud communication platform Infobip and is built on the WhatsApp Business API.
“Our focus, at this time, is to make sure every citizen can access credible and accurate health information,” said Abhijit Bose, Head of India for WhatsApp, while announcing the new offering for Delhi citizens. “We value the opportunity to support the Government of Delhi and urge people to do their part by relying on authentic and official sources of information.”
Last month, the Central Government launched its chatbot MyGov Corona Helpdesk on WhatsApp with a similar list of features. It reached over 1.7 crore users across the nation in 10 days of its launch and recently got support for Hindi -- in addition to the default English language.
Several states in the country have also launched similar chatbot services to provide trustworthy information to citizens. Users can now reach Health Ministries of Maharashtra (+91 20 2612 739), Gujarat (+91 74330 00104) and Kerala (+91 90722 20183) on WhatsApp with more states to launch in the coming days, the Facebook-owned company wrote in its press release.
In addition to backing chatbot services by the governments, WhatsApp recently launched its Coronavirus Information Hub and announced the donation of $1 million to help curb misinformation around COVID-19. The instant messaging app also added a dedicated bot for the World Health Organisation (WHO) to provide various alerts and mythbusters around the outbreak.
The Indian government also brought its coronavirus-focussed helpline through a Telegram channel and a Facebook bot in the recent past. All that is targeted to limit the spread of fake news through social media.
How are we staying sane during this Coronavirus lockdown? We discussed this on Orbital, our weekly technology podcast, which you can subscribe to via Apple Podcasts or RSS, download the episode, or just hit the play button below.