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Pune: Tech startup initiative ‘Covid Helpdesk’ provides solutions through chatbot service

Mumbai-based tech startup Machadalo has come up with a Covid-19 information service that functions in the form of a WhatsApp chatbot. Named ‘Covid Helpdesk’, the service provides solutions in about 540 of the 742 districts in the country, Shyamle Khanna, who leads the volunteer programme, told The Indian Express.

Users can communicate with the chatbot on WhatsApp by initiating a conversation with the number 7208880208. It provides the user with a menu from which a particular category of information and a city could be chosen. It also lists out examples of queries like oxygen cylinders in Guwahati, beds in Mysore, doctors in Maharashtra and so on.

“A team of more than 20 members got together on April 20 during the second wave of Covid. We started with rescue and relief by assisting 500 to 800 people daily since April 27. The nature of help is also evolving. Initially, it was around oxygen cylinders and concentrators. Now, it is about finding a bed and ensuring tier 3 and 4 city residents are getting free online medical consultations. We have more than 450 doctors and 300 volunteers helping us out,” Khanna said. He also gave the example of how a woman in Pune found an oxygen bed for her maid through the chatbot service.

“We now want to move towards rehabilitation and prevention. Around 725 residential societies have approached us for vaccine drives. We are using forecasting techniques to define disaster possibilities to be well-equipped to fight the third wave of Covid. We are also going to use the same volunteer base to help rehabilitate those who lost their jobs,” Khanna added.

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