Covid-19 pandemic: Govt talks to Facebook, Google, WhatsApp for virus information blitz

New Delhi: The government has roped in technology company Google and instant messaging platform WhatsApp, and is in talks with Facebook to run massive information outreach campaigns to fight the Covid-19 pandemic, three government officials told ET.

The US-based search giant will send close to 300 million notifications a day to users containing information on the pandemic, a senior official said. The government has also launched a Chatbot on Corona on Whatsapp called MyGov Corona Helpdesk. Saying Hi on WhatsApp to 9013151515 will get automated response on queries related to Corona, a government official told ET.

Google has also customised its India search page with the campaign “DO THE FIVE. Help stop coronavirus” that also contains a link to the Ministry of Health page giving important information on the pandemic, along with real-time data on the number of positive cases, their location and reported deaths.

“The government is exploring all possible technology solutions to deal with the contemporary challenge of Covid-19,” said another government official, adding that the Big Tech companies had approached the government with some suggestions on how to create awareness.

While the Google initiative was launched on Thursday, talks are on for collaborating with some other big platforms such as WhatsApp and Facebook, the person added.

India is one of the largest markets for Google. With 400 million users, it is the largest market for WhatsApp. Facebook has over 260 million users in the country.

“The company had approached the government for partnership on this and it is also changing search algorithms to provide information from authentic sources such as the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare at the top of its search ranking,” said a government official.

“To help surface authoritative information during these exceptional times, we are working closely with all government ministries including the PMO,” a spokesperson for Google told ET. Apart from the ‘Do The Five’ social campaign, Google has also issued Push Notifications on the Google App for Android and iOS users in India to highlight this important information. Other initiatives include SOS Alerts, country-specific Search Trends pages and a promo card on the YouTube Homepage that links out to the MoHFW website for up-to-date information, the spokesperson added.

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