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The Praekelt-inspired COVID-19 AI WhatsApp chatbot

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The first reported case of COVID-19 in South Africa sent everyone into a frenzy. Millions of people were searching up hand sanitizers, masks, symptoms, not forgetting the volume of fake news swarming the internet.

The Praekelt Foundation developed the COVID-19 chatbot alongside their social impact arm Turn. As a WhatsApp-based virtual helpdesk, the platform worked round the clock to assist people with COVID-19 health-based inquiries. It points them in the direction where they can find assistance.

The platform was a huge success and formed a strategic partnership with A combination of natural language understanding (NLU) run through AI platform Feersum Engine and automation has generated vital data analysis worth exploring.

Exploratory data analysis (EDA) based on topic modelling and phase clustering facilitates the analysis of conversation logs. Analyzed data has guided the South African government in decision-making.

Just as NLU and Automation are of importance, EDA is equally important when building intelligent chatbots. Praekelt’s Feersum Engine offers these services to Absa, Dstv and MTN, while relying on Whatsapp to reach the masses in their own language 24/7.

The Covid-19 chatbot is  freely available courtesy of


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