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India’s AI-enabled COVID-19 chatbots empower citizens

India deployed the world’s largest WhatsApp chatbot , MyGov Corona Helpdesk, in March 2020 to aid the country’s fight against the pandemic by disseminating timely and right information.

According to a report, the onset of the global pandemic brought about a panic wave in the country, so the government took it upon itself to curb the spread of rumours and misinformation. The government wanted a solution that would empower citizens with the right steps to take precautionary measures for staying safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. The key objective was to offer a 24/7 helpdesk that answered COVID-19 queries and helped prevent the spread of false information. It was also important to handle the scale and diversity of queries being directed from millions of users across the country in English and Hindi.

Haptik is a Conversational AI company that built the MyGov Corona Helpdesk in record time. This Intelligent Virtual Assistant (IVA) is essentially an AI-powered WhatsApp chatbot that provides accurate information. The chatbot has the following functionalities:

  • Help users check symptoms and get a diagnosis.
  • Provide tips and precautionary measures to stay safe.
  • Share the latest updates and advisories from the Ministry of Health.
  • Bust myths around COVID-19.
  • Share information about the official helpline.

Timely and accurate communication has been a key pillar in the fight against COVID-19. This has been greatly strengthened with the MyGov Corona Helpdesk, which has been handling millions of diverse queries in both English and Hindi. Since its launch, the helpdesk has successfully catered to over 25 million users with over 36 million queries. Remarkably, the chatbot was deployed in a record time of only five days.

A similar application was launched to help the public deal with COVID-19. Under the Digital India programme, in collaboration with Accenture and Microsoft, the government unveiled MyGov Saathi, enabling citizen communication. The bot uses AI and natural language processing to understand customer questions and provide appropriate responses.

The bot also directs residents to webpages with comprehensive information. Initially started in English, it has now been expanded the bot to Hindi and other regional languages so that it can reach more citizens in a personal, direct way. Currently, the bot has around 250,000 monthly users, and daily active sessions range from a few hundred to a few thousand, with total active sessions over a 16-day period nearing 600,000.

Further, another chatbot, Aaple Sarkar Bot, allows users to access information regarding public services managed by the state government and can process many queries every day such as analysing, maintaining records, and providing the user with the most useful information.

Through the app, an individual can search for services such as permanent water connection, driving licenses, and access-related information including prerequisites for the application, tracking the status of the application, and monitoring progress.

A news report explained that as part of the Right to Services Act of 2015, the bot is deployed to complement existing mobile apps and websites that help with queries related to healthcare, education, public utilities, rural development, revenue, and other public related services. The chatbot comprises of a range of algorithms that has the ability to process many queries every day, such as analysing, maintaining records, and providing the user with information. Haptik used its own personalised tool for creating the bot which comprised of three parts, including a bot-builder, human chat agent, and analytic dashboard.

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