The chatbot takes RSS feeds from the World Health Organisation and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. It also offers regional maps with the latest figures and access to the world map administered by the John Hopkins Center for Systems Science and Engineering.
The chatbot has a symptoms subroutine that allows users to check whether they need to contact a doctor and an FAQ section with advice, reiterating the key messages: stay home, wash your hands frequently, if you have to go out, wear a mask.
In one week, from March 29 to 4 April, the chatbot exchanged 2.15 M messages with users on Messenger, Telegram and Viber and this rate of use spiked dramatically in the last day. Facebook analytics show that 207k unique users talked to the chatbot on Messenger over the course of the week. There was a noticeable gender and age divide, with 51% of users being males between 18 and 24, another 26% being men between 25 and 34, while only 9% of users were women in the 18-24 category, and another 9% were women in the 25-34 category.
Avi Ben Ezra, CTO of SnatchBot explains why he believe this figures show that the chatbot is saving lives.
“Across the globe, governments and health care organisations are trying to spread the message that coronavirus is a massive threat, against which it is crucial that people take simple but important steps: stay away from other people; wash your hands often; wear masks. On the whole, these steps are being observed. But if there is one section of society least likely to follow them, it is young men.
“What we’ve found with our chatbot is a means of reaching that section of society and really engaging them. When we drill down into the chatbots conversations it is really striking how many of them begin with the user being flippant and, for example, trying to flirt with the bot, only for the conversations to become very serious indeed, especially when they move to the section on symptoms.
“By the end of the conversation, the user typically thanks the bot and signs up for alerts.
“We’ve started gathering data on the number of users who reply ‘yes’ to having symptoms associated with COVID-19. Interestingly, it shows that in India, where most users of the chatbot have come from, the ratio of those with self-reported symptoms to messages exchanged has fallen slightly between 30 March and 3 April, by eighteen percent. This might be good news for India, but obviously we need to keep gathering this data for it to become more robust.”
Avi Ben Ezra also made it clear that SnatchBot was willing to assist national healthcare organisations for free at this time of crisis.
“Our chatbot is giving out information from the WHO and the ECDPC but it can very easily be tailored to national organisations and to provide local information which is updated daily. Everyone at SnatchBot wants to do their part in defeating this virus and while we are in talks with two governments about what we can do, we are confident we can move fast to assist very many more.”
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