NEW DELHI: Andhra Pradesh has deployed an IBM Watson-powered chatbot on the state’s health mission portal (http://covid19.ap.gov.in/covid19/) to answer queries related to covid-19, including measures taken by the Centre and state for prevention, treatment and welfare of citizens. This will help reduce wait times for citizens making calls to state helpline numbers.
The chatbot, known as Watson Assistant, will use Natural Language Processing (NLP) capabilities of IBM Research and Artificial Intelligence (AI) search capabilities of Watson Discovery to understand and respond to questions about covid-19 in three languages— English, Telugu and Hindi.
“While the government is putting all resources available at its disposal to use, efforts like these go a long way in helping citizens meet their information needs,” Bhaskar Kattamneni, mission director, National Health Mission and Commissioner of Health, Medical & Family Welfare Department, Andhra Pradesh, said in a statement.
Information gathered from central and state government ministries regarding prevention and treatment of covid-19 will be consolidated and fed into the health portal. The chatbot will use the information to answer questions. It can also ask for clarification and redirect users to specific pages on the portal or to other websites of related ministries and government agencies which has the appropriate information.
Chatbots have been widely deployed by central and state governments on social media networks particularly WhatsApp to curb the spread of misinformation about covid-19 and its treatment. Having Chatbots on government portals ensure users have the information they need as quickly as possible.
“In these unprecedented times, access to accurate information plays a critical role in allaying fears, dispelling myths and building trust among citizens,” Sandip Patel, General Manager, IBM India/South Asia said in a statement.
IBM has been actively involved with other government agencies and institutes on various covid-19 related projects. In May, ICMR (Indian Council of Medical research) deployed a Watson powered chatbot on protected pages of its website which were accessible only to authorized personnel working on sample collection and testing in hospitals and diagnostic labs.
The Watson Assistant is also expected to help with on-boarding new data entry operators and staff of diagnostic centres as the test network expands.
IBM ispart of the covid-19 High Performance Computing Consortium formed by US Department of Energy. The consortium has made available 400 petaflops of computing power (for free) to researchers and scientists. The consortium recently approved NIT Warangal to use the covid-19 supercomputer and study the dependence of structure and dynamics of novel SARS-CoV-2 on temperature and humidity in the atmosphere.