You are not alone who is fighting against this COVID-19 pandemic, but we are all together fighting against coronavirus to feed our families and to keep alive our businesses. Physical stores have seen such a big loss due to this novel coronavirus (COVID-19). Despite the fact that people have seen such a loss, some innovative people have utilized their brains to sort out business problems. IT and web and mobile app development companies have utilized chatbots to solve business problems in this coronavirus pandemic.
Not only that but also institutions like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have started employing chatbots to share information, suggest behavior, and offer emotional support.
A bot is artificial intelligence software designed to perform a series of tasks on its own and without human help, such as making a restaurant reservation, marking a date on the calendar, or collecting and displaying information to users. The most frequent model is that of the chatbot, a robot capable of simulating a conversation with a person and that is why they are increasingly present in messaging applications.
COVID-19 must be fought from all possible fronts. And digital health, or eHealth, is one of the most promising tools. Most bots use advanced artificial intelligence techniques to understand what the user is saying and respond correctly. Surely you have used more than one at some time, such as Alexa, Siri, or Google Assistant. It is estimated that 80% of companies already use some type of bot.
A trained bot with knowledge of the coronavirus could act as a first line of shock against the pandemic and help avoid the risk of collapse of the health system. If citizens have a channel to answer their questions about, for example, the symptoms of COVID-19 without calling emergency numbers or approaching a health center, telephone lines and medical professionals will be available to treat cases urgent.
WHO has created a WhatsApp Chatbot that is designed to give valuable information related to COVID-19 immediately. Surprisingly, almost 100 million people talked with the WHO WhatsApp chatbot in just 3 days. It can chat in English, Spanish, Arabic, and other 20 languages. \
Similarly, WHO has also a Viber chatbot with same kind of functionalities.
But still lacking for the ideal bot
We have already mentioned the important role bots can play in controlling the pandemic. And the ones we have just seen are the first step in that direction. A still small step and with limited real impact, although this is understandable given the speed with which they have had to be created.
As COVID-19 seems to be staying with us for a while (or it will return or new pandemics will come), it is appropriate to put on the table some aspects to take into account for the future generation of chatbots.
- In the list of official bots, there are none that work with voice. Remember that COVID-19 affects above all the elderly and other vulnerable groups. Not all of them handle WhatsApp well and probably prefer to speak rather than type.
- For this same reason, the bot has to be integrated into the public emergency system. So when concerned people call 112 (and remember that in the early days of the crisis, the calls multiplied), a bot can take care of basic inquiries and reserve professionals for all urgent calls.
- Also, we need maximum transparency. Both in regards to the creation of the bot and its use. Being a very sensitive topic, it is best that anyone who wants to can examine the definition of the bot to make sure that, for example, no personal data is saved when interacting with the program.
- Our knowledge about COVID-19 is evolving very quickly. And with them, the recommendations to citizens and the type of concerns they express. The bot has to be constantly updated and for that, it has to be easily adaptable and configurable.
- Flexibility, coupled with transparency, also allows the bot to be reusable. It is not necessary that every government or organization that wants to publish a chatbot for its local environment has to start from scratch. Much better if the bot can have a common knowledge base that can be quickly imported and refined. So when the next wave comes, we can react much faster.
- Although the above is of little use if, in the end, the quality of the bot is poor. One issue we are actively working on is developing methodologies to test and evaluate chatbots to ensure they behave as intended.
Shall we get down to it?
One solution to promote the development of these programs would be for the Government to launch a transparent initiative for the collaborative development of an anti-COVID bot using a free software platform. In this way, anyone could contribute to improving it.
For example, an ordinary citizen might suggest new questions that they would like the bot to be able to answer. Scientists and doctors could improve their answers. Professionals with a technical profile could create tools that import public data to enrich the knowledge of the bot and a long etcetera. So let’s get started?
If you’d like to have a before purchase technical support or consultancy related chatbot development and integration feel free to contact us.