AI against Covid-19 disinformation

A chatbot for crisis communication

During the COVID 19 pandemic the WienBot became an even more important information channel for crisis communication. By using artificial intelligence and interfaces to public, central data sources, continuously updated and verified information could be guaranteed.

WienBot becomes “Corona-Bot”

Particularly in times of crisis, there is an increased need for information among the population. Public services experienced a particular stress test with the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and were faced with the challenge of coordinating and communicate daily updates on the situation regarding protective measures and instructions to the citizens.

In order to relieve the burden on call centers and health advice services and to provide citizens with targeted and quick answers to their questions, the City of Vienna used its digital assistant “WienBot” to set up a “Corona-Bot” at the beginning of the corona crisis.

Answers to frequently asked questions

During the lockdown, thousands of questions on the current corona situation were automatically answered by the WienBot every day. The answers had to be tailored to the respective situation of the searchers: citizens were to be spared lengthy research on the Internet, and up-to-date and verified information had to be guaranteed.

For this purpose, the WienBot was trained with several thousand questions and technical terms on the topic of corona. The biggest effort was to prepare the complex topic in a short and simple way. In addition, all effects of the lockdown had to be incorporated into already existing answers within a very short time. Current information (e.g. from sources such as AGES – Austrian Agency for Health and Food Safety) was continuously updated via interfaces to public databases, and the answers were automatically prioritised according to relevance and urgency.

The strengths of automated communication could thus be fully exploited: questions about restricted opening hours, current guidelines and protective measures or Corona help were answered “faster than Google”, because the WienBot does not provide a list of links, but short, precise answers. With each new question, the WienBot learned independently, saving time in the search for the right answer and at the same time relieving the limited resources of public health services and hotlines.

As part of a campaign, the WienBot was placed as an interactive banner in leading Austrian online media. The widget was fully functional and answered questions about Corona or the current situation in Vienna’s public swimming pools. The topic was not chosen at random. Due to the relevant provisions in the COVID-19 relaxation regulation, customers should inform themselves online about free capacities before their visit. 

Currently, about 300,000 questions are submitted to the WienBot every month. On average 50% of the answers relate to the topic coronavirus.

The WienBot is available for download as an app (iOS/Android). It is fully integrated into the search of the service platform wien.gv.at and the City of Vienna app. In the information page about the Coronavirus, the WienBot was implemented as a widget. All questions of citizens can thus be answered on the channel of their choice.

Information about the Coronavirus

This post is also available in: German