Niger launches chatbot on Whatsapp to answer COVID-19 queries

A WhatsApp chatbot service accessible on +227 80 06 60 30 to provide accurate, timely information on the coronavirus pandemic in Niger.

 Thanks to a collaboration between Facebook Inc., the Ministry of Public Health and UNICEF, Niger officially launched today a “chatbot” on the Whatsapp social network, to provide users accurate and timely information on the situation of Covid-19 in Niger and answer any Covid-19 queries.

“The new service, which is free to use, has been designed to answer questions from the public about Coronavirus, and to give prompt, reliable and official information 24 hours a day. It will help us to combat rumors and provide the public with reliable and credible information and practical advice to protect them from the virus,” said Dr Idi Illiassou Maïnassara, Minister of Public Health in Niger.

This chatbot offers a wealth of information to users – including practical advice on how to protect yourself from coronavirus, answers to frequently asked questions, directions for verifying the facts and stopping rumors, practical advice for travelers, as well as any other questions that users want to raise. Several doctors and communicators have been made available to respond directly to any queries.

To use the service, WhatsApp users can save the number (+227 80 06 60 30) to their phone contacts, then text whatever words in a WhatsApp message to begin. The bot will then respond via a series of prompts, covering key queries and information – and dispelling some of the rumors and misinformation around the outbreak which have been spreading via social and messaging apps.

“We are pleased to be able to provide the Niger Ministry of Health with communication tools that will help answer citizens’ questions on Covid-19 and make reliable and credible health advice easily accessible,” said Balkissa Idé Siddo, Facebook Inc. Public Affairs Manager for French-speaking Africa.

Access to information and communication technologies has seen significant growth in Niger in recent years. Almost half of the population has access to mobile phone and the country has more than 490,000 active users on social networks, according the Global Web Index 2020.

“Along with other partners, UNICEF continues to explore innovative ways to widen the scope of prevention messages on the Covid-19 and to provide as many people as possible with the necessary information and knowledge to help them protect themselves from the virus,” said Dr. Félicité Tchibindat, UNICEF Representative in Niger.

To support the Ministry of Public Health efforts, UNICEF also collaborates with the National Information Society Agency (ANSI) for the provision, management and moderation of the green line 701 and the dedicated website, which is now the reference site on the situation of Covid-19 in the country.