Covidu, the Coronavirus Updates Chatbot started (27. of february) with the mission to enable people with limited / slow internet easy access to Coronavirus stats from all over the world.
What it does
Name a country, and Covidu will get you the latest Coronavirus statistics that it can get hold of. You may also subscribe to daily updates. The data source is Johns Hopkins CSSE.
How I built it
Covidu was created by Eilif Johansen (25) from Norway, as a non profit project using ManyChat and Integromat (no-code tools), I've added som screenshots showing what it looks like when building a chatbot with no-coding. This means we've not done any programming to build this chatbot. It's built using simple drag and drop systems, that we've connected to different APIs to fetch, process and serve the end user the data they requests. The reason we chose this method is that we needed to get the chatbot quickly lunched in a environment that could handle all the incoming request in a scalable way. The downside is that it starts cheap in cost, but quickly gets more expensive to operate. Thanks to Integromat (our backend partner) they have provided us with some free usage to support our mission.
Challenges I ran into
When building a chatbot that is being used by user from all over the world, one challenge we ran into was making the chatbot understand the user in every occasion. Example when it comes to country names there are numerous ways you can spell them, both in terms of misspellings and alternative ways of writing the different country names. On example is Maroc, Morroco, Moroco, Marook and Morocco! To work around this challenge we have been continuously learning the chatbot to understand that, per example all above, should return the latest statistics from Morocco. These efforts has significantly increased the user experience, making it easier for more people using the bot.
Accomplishments that I'm proud of
30th March we passed beyond 9.000 active users, including countries like Ethiopia, Guyana, Kenya, Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, France, Norway, USA, Australia, and the list goes on. 28. March Covidu helped 2.820 people within 24 hours.
Cooperating with another COVID-19 startup, we have implemented a feature in the bot that lets the user help researcher, and health authorities fighting the spread of this virus, by letting the user self-report their Coronavirus status. You may test this feature in the bot by saying "Report my status" inside the chatbot. This feature is provided by World-Citizen-Report.com, that has built a robust system with privacy in mind to handle the data.
What I learned
The simpler the language is in the bot, the easier it is to use for the user. Especially since the level of English understating varies from place to place, person to person.
We also learned that there are two Facebook Messenger Apps, one is built especially for people with low / limited internet in mind. In the Facebook Light version of the app, the buttons we had earlier in the chatbot used to navigation was not visible. For this reason we had to rebuild the entire bot to make it work for Facebook Light as well. A recommendation for other people building chatbots is to build for Facebook light first, in that case it will work for both versions instantly.
The main purpose of the bot was to enable people with limited / slow internet easy access to Coronavirus stats. Our mentor challenged us on this and how we could rebuild the chatbot with a new mission to save lifes. After reading through the feedback we had gotten from our users, we noticed a pattern people not only asking for stats, but also other things like "How to protect my family", "I feel sick...", "How can I help other people", these where questions the bot could not reply to. We learned that a way to make the bot even more useful would be to train it to answer other questions too. This is something we will prioritize working more on, starting next week.
What's next for Covidu
We are now working on translating Covidu to even more languages, starting with Arabic, French and Tagalog. We are also seeking partners / founding so that we can cover our operating costs (Manychat + Integromat) and marketing costs (facebook ads). We are also planning adding more features to make the bot even more useful based on the feedback we have gotten so far from our daily users.