Health Agencies Receive Free Assistance from Facebook

In order to combat the rapidly evolving COVID-19 pandemic that the world is facing, Facebook has taken an initiative to provide health agencies with free development services by using Messenger to scale their response with regard to the crisis.

As per Facebook:

“We’re launching a global program to connect government health organizations and UN health agencies with developers that can help them use Messenger most effectively to share timely and accurate information, and speed up their responses to concerned citizens. Our developer partners have offered to provide their services free of charge to these organizations during this crisis.”

In addition to providing accurate updates and information on the pandemic, ideally, the main purpose of the initiative is to minimize the burden on already overwhelmed staff by helping these agencies develop universal automated responses to the most common questions and advice tools for Messenger.

A new bot was launched last week by WhatsApp in conjunction with WHO, in order to provide its 2 billion users with accurate, timely information and prevent the spread of misinformation with regard to the pandemic. In addition, WhatsApp is also working with different agencies in different countries to create similar chatbot tools to cater to each region.

Although there are several bots already in operation, it is vital for each individual organization to develop their very own system with response tools, as not everyone will look into the WHO, and would rather contact or seek information from the service they are most familiar and comfortable with.

Messenger, having over 1.3 billion users every month, is a key communication source that can help connect and maximize community awareness to users while ensuring that the updated information reaches a bigger audience. In addition, tips and advice on how to most effectively share updates in the app will be provided by the Messenger team, and how to transition seamlessly from an automated conversation to a live chat with a person if necessary.

With the focus of building and leveraging the Messenger platform to address COVID-19 issues like social distancing, to educate and inform people, the Messenger team is inviting developers to participate in an online hackathon.

“Participants will be encouraged to build both global and local solutions and will receive unique access to Messenger-related content, including Facebook Live tutorials with product experts and a range of educational materials to support innovation. Winners will get mentoring from Facebook engineers to help make these solutions a reality. They’ll also receive invitations to attend F8 2021, including flights and accommodations, and will be given the opportunity to participate in the F8 hackathon.”

Although highly unlikely, the hope is that we might be able to put an end to the COVID-19 crisis before any such tools make it through the development pipeline. From the way it seems, this pandemic will change the way we live for months to come, and the impact will worsen, therefore we will need all the tools we can to best communicate accurate and latest info to minimize and prevent further damage. Hopefully, these projects will prove useful for the purpose.