The Pakistan government has created a WhatsApp chatbot to offer its citizens information about the COVID-19 pandemic and details about testing facilities in their vicinity. The chatbot offers information in 7 languages, including English, Urdu, Punjabi and Kashmiri. The chatbot, called PK Gov Corona Helpline, can be joined by adding +923001111166 to your contacts, and can be initiated by sending “Hi”.
Government of Pakistan takes yet another innovative step by launching ‘Whatsapp Corona Helpline’
— Prime Minister's Office, Pakistan (@PakPMO) March 30, 2020
We did not receive a reply from the chatbot using Indian numbers: The chatbot did not respond when we used Indian numbers that have country prefix +91 (we tried from on Vodafone, Airtel and Jio numbers), but upon using an American number (country prefix +1), the bot responded.
Information available from the chatbot: The chatbot offers general information about the virus, including symptoms and preventive measures to be taken. Unlike a similar chatbot created by the Indian government, Pakistan’s chatbot gives information about nearest testing facilities along with the most recent numbers as well. The Indian chatbot, however, now also provides latest news related to coronavirus, including how different sectors are responding to it. The Indian bot also has an option to fact check some common misconceptions about the virus, including how it spreads and if there is a vaccine to cure the virus (which there isn’t yet). It also allows people from outside India to connect with the External Affairs Ministry, and get help with Visa related queries.
At the time of writing this story on April 1, the Pakistani bot gave the statistics for the number of confirmed COVID-19 from March 31.
Last month, Pakistan had also launched a chatbot on Facebook Messenger (which we were able to test), which provides similar information about the virus, as the WhatsApp chatbot.
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! https://t.co/doniPg17jX pic.twitter.com/l8VbQEHb0M
— Tania Aidrus (@taidrus) March 16, 2020
Indian government, WHO have similar WhatsApp chatbots: Last month, the Indian government and the World Health Organisation had created similar chatbots on WhatsApp. The Indian government has also created a chatbot on Facebook Messenger offering information on COVID-19 such as testing facilities, and stats, among other things. State governments, such as Gujarat and Maharashtra, have also created chatbots on WhatsApp to offer information about the pandemic.