The UK Government Just Enabled a WhatsApp Chatbot to Offer Coronavirus Advice

By Tom Pritchard on at

The government has never really had a good relationship with WhatsApp. It's encrypted end-to-end, naturally, and various iterations of our government have spent years trying to disable it so our messages can be snooped on. But now the government is taking advantage of the service's ubiquity, with a brand new chatbot designed to help people learn more about the coronavirus pandemic.

Provided you're a WhatsApp user, it's quite easy to subscribe. Just add the number '07860 064 422' (or+447860 064 422 if you're trapped abroad) to your contacts and send it a simple "hi" in the WhatsApp messenger.

That should subscribe you to the official updates, though at my end nothing has been sent out yet. I haven't even got a response confirming my subscription. So rude! It's not clear if there's anyone on the other side monitoring messages, so maybe don't go sending it messages about how you think [insert politician name here] is a prick.

Obviously this isn't the first time the government has used tech to try and keep people in the loop about coronavirus. One government department is working with influencers in Asia to try and tackle misinformation in hard-hit countries, while just this week mobile networks were enlisted to send out messages telling people to stay at home for the foreseeable Future.

And now we have a source of official information that can be sent to us as and when it's available. Which is good, since we can hardly hear it third hand from that guy in the pub, who thinks all this stuff is being blown out of proportion, when they're all shut. [TechCrunch]