COVID-19: AI for pandemic preparedness
How a powerful virtual AI agent helps citizens manage the COVID-19 crisis
India, like other countries around the world, has faced a steep increase in cases of COVID-19.
The country reported that more than 154,000 people had contracted the virus by late May, with more than 50,000 cases registered in just nine days. But as the country confronted the challenge of the pandemic, it also sought to curb the spread of rumours. To fight the so-called infodemic, the Indian Government wanted to proactively help its people find accurate information that would better prepare them for the crisis and empower them to reduce their risk of contracting the virus.
The Government sought easy-to-use, efficient tools that could keep pace with evolving guidance about COVID-19.
Accenture and Microsoft worked hand-in-hand with the Government of India’s Digital India Corporation (MyGov) to equip its 1.3 billion citizens with a Responsible AI tool that provides accurate and useful information on the pandemic. Harnessing the capabilities of Microsoft’s Power Virtual Agent low-code solution, the team moved fast and used Microsoft Azure to deploy the solution in days. The agent, referred to as MyGov Saathi (meaning “companion” in Hindi), can handle up to 300,000 users per day and 20,000 concurrent users per minute.
The AI-powered virtual agent was embedded on the Government’s “self4society” website, where it manages interactions automatically; this freed up human experts to focus on the most urgent and complex situations. The AI agent addressed frequently asked questions, with users able to retrieve answers from a menu of options easily. The agent also delivered fact sheets, information on Government initiatives, professional and medical advice, and alerts and lists of myth busters to dispel false alarms.
The solution, being persona-based, was tuned to provide customized answers for queries relevant to farmers, migrants, senior citizens, frontline workers and other citizens alike so they all adopt behaviors that minimize transmission and exposure to the Coronavirus. As guidance changes, the agent is updated with the most recent data on COVID-19, ensuring the very latest information is available to users.
Accenture and Microsoft have a history of collaboration, including developing research on the importance of providing AI for the greater good. Their joint emphasis on public AI solutions enabled the team to quickly deliver a pro bono project for the Government of India and its citizens.
As the pandemic strains resources across the globe, the virtual agent continues to play a crucial role in effectively bridging the government-citizen information gap.
By seamlessly partnering with the Government of India, the team was able to deliver a scalable and dynamic solution that was customized and deployed in record time. The assistant is available on the government’s website self4society.mygov.in, reaching Indian citizens where they already are instead of making them adapt to a new platform. The virtual agent is currently handling up to 50,000 users per day.
As it continues to serve Indian citizens, MyGov Saathi’s AI engine will in the next phase be upgraded to evolve from the menu model to engage in actual intuitive conversations with users. This will make it even easier for users to find answers and safeguard their own health.
"The government of India's 'AI for All' focus recognizes the potential of AI-based technologies in providing citizen services, and MyGov Saathi brings this potential to life by combining data and analytics, natural language processing and conversational AI capabilities."