- Rakuten Viber is collaborating with the World Health Organization (WHO) on a chatbot to fight misinformation about COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. The service is available worldwide in English, Arabic and Russian, and Viber will soon add 20 more languages, according to an announcement shared with Mobile Marketer.
- To find the chatbot, Viber users need to tap on the "Explore" tab, which shows a banner with the WHO insignia at the top of the screen. After tapping on the banner, a chat session opens to show a menu of sections including "Latest News," which has real-time updates from WHO's website.
- The chatbots other sections include "Protect Yourself,” "Mask Usage," "Travel Recommendations" and a "Myths" quiz for users to test their knowledge about COVID-19. Viber users who wish to support WHO's efforts to fight the pandemic can also tap on a "Donate Now" button to give to the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund.
The chatbot from Rakuten Viber and WHO aims to provide the messaging app's millions of users with reliable information about avoiding infection, recognizing symptoms and seeking proper medical care. As the number of confirmed coronavirus cases climbs past 870,000 worldwide, resulting in more than 43,000 deaths, Rakuten Viber is doing its part to help health officials in their scramble to contain the pandemic.
The WHO chatbot is a novel use of a technology that many organizations have developed to automate their conversations with mobile users. However, WHO's chatbot is more like a notice board than a conversational platform capable of answering questions or handing off a chat to a live human being.
The more limited functionality of WHO's chatbot could actually be advantageous in its goal of providing news updates rather than robust conversations. Chatbots have been derided for creating awkward interactions and a poor user experience. According to a 2019 survey by Drift and SurveyMonkey, 39% of respondents said they had a good experience with an online chat platform, but only 16% said the same for chatbots.
Rakuten Viber is the latest messaging app to join WHO's effort to provide mobile users with accurate information around the pandemic. WHO planned to reach more than 50 million people with a service on WhatsApp, the messaging app owned by Facebook. The function was used by 10 million people within the first three days of its March 20 launch, Bloomberg News reported. That usage indicates there is a significant appetite for information about COVID-19, especially in countries where government communications may be inadequate.