In Brief: IFRC and Kazakhstan Red Crescent launch COVID-19 chatbot

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IFRC and the Red Crescent of Kazakhstan have launched a COVID-19 chatbot to tackle misinformation. Photo by: Nikolas Joao Kokovlis / SOPA Images / Sipa USA

A social media chatbot designed to tackle COVID-19 misinformation has been launched by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and Red Crescent of Kazakhstan. Currently only available in Kazakhstan, the chatbot operates on Telegram, a social messaging application, and is able to respond to questions, direct people to services they may be looking for, and escalate a comment to the right person. It is also designed to “relieve some of the burden” on Red Crescent employees who would otherwise be spending time replying.

"Creating a chatbot is an opportunity to keep up with the times and simplify many processes,” Yerkebek Argymbayev, president of the Red Crescent of Kazakhstan, said in a statement.

Why it matters: The rollout comes as misinformation around COVID-19 vaccines continues to contribute to high levels of vaccine hesitancy. According to research by John Hopkins University, over 60% of the population in Kazakhstan — and in Turkey, Jamaica, and Azerbaijan — aren’t sure whether they want the vaccine. This is a sentiment common among young people, according to internal research conducted by IFRC and the Red Crescent of Kazakhstan. With social media often a mainstream feature in many young people’s lives and a key source of information, this new chatbot is designed to meet young people where they are.

Stemming from the research, the Georgia Red Cross Society is hoping to follow suit with a similar chatbot while IFRC is also supporting national societies in Armenia and Ukraine in providing accurate information through phone lines and website messaging.

About the author

  • Amruta Byatnal

    Amruta Byatnal is an Associate Editor at Devex based in New Delhi. She reports on global health, gender and human rights. Previously, she worked for News Deeply and The Hindu. She is a graduate of Cornell University where she studied international development.