ICMR to leverage IBM’s virtual agent Watson to enable rapid response to Covid-19 testing facilities

Mumbai | Updated on May 04, 2020 Published on May 04, 2020

The government agencies will leverage IBM’s AI-enabled Watson virtual agent (called Watson Assistant) on its portal.   -  V Raju

Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), Department of Health Research, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India, have collaborated with tech giant IBM on a virtual assistant to bolster Rapid Response to India’s Frontline Testing Facilities on Covid-19.

The government agencies will leverage IBM’s AI-enabled Watson virtual agent (called Watson Assistant) on its portal. The bot will respond to specific queries of front line staff and data entry operators from various testing and diagnostic facilities across the country on Covid-19.

The AI assistant has been deployed on protected pages of the ICMR website. These pages can only be accessed by authorized personnel who are involved with sample collection and testing in hospitals and diagnostic labs, the company said.

“Technology continues to play a significant role in India’s fight against Covid-19, and it is crucial to evaluate and leverage the most effective solutions to support these initiatives. The deployment of IBM’s chatbot AI platform is aimed to help ICMR effectively manage the process of capturing data relating to Covid-19,” said Shri. Gopalakrishnan S., Additional Secretary, Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, Government of India.

The bot will respond to queries related to “nature and process of data to be captured by test labs, how to record inventory of test kits & reagents, the process of reporting to various Government agencies and references to the latest guidance, in addition to responding to queries on Covid-19 in general,” it said.

These queries will be divided into categories such as Governance, Logistics, Data entry and sharing, Staff Training & Testing, among others. For more complex questions, the pre-defined contact information of ICMR has been provided.

Professor Balram Bhargava, Director General, Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) said, “While India has been able to manage Covid-19 to a certain extent, the challenge still continues to minimize further. It is critical to remain focused on testing, diagnosis and treatment to lower the growth curve. With the number of on-field testing teams expanding across the nation as part of India’s Covid-19 measures, this collaboration with IBM will help automate responses from the field & facilitate access to accurate & updated data on Covid-19 diagnostics & reporting. This will help augment our teams' response time and allow them to concentrate on priorities like developing & updating testing & treatment protocols and guidance for Covid-19.”

Sandip Patel, General Manager, IBM India/South Asia said, “As India rises to meet the challenge of Covid-19, it is crucial to enable government bodies such as ICMR to utilize data and capabilities effectively for rapid detection and treatment.”

The AI-enabled virtual agent will be able to comprehend and respond to common queries from approved testing facilities for Covid-19 across India in English and Hindi.

Watson is also likely to help in on-boarding new data entry operators and staff of diagnostic centres, as authorities expand the Covid-19 test network across the country.

Published on May 04, 2020

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