IBM and city of Markham launch virtual assistant for COVID-19 questions

Residents can ask questions like: "Are parks and trails closed?"

IBM is partnering with the city of Markham to offer an online and telephone virtual agent for questions related to COVID-19.

The AI-powered virtual assistant will offer 24-hour service for residents looking for information related to the virus.

Residents can ask the assistant questions like: “What are the symptoms of COVID-19?” and “Where can I get tested for COVID-19 in Markham?”

The information that the assistant provides includes information collected from the city of Markham website and public health authorities, such as the Public Health Agency of Canada, Ontario Ministry of Health and York Region Public Health.

IBM noted that no personal user information is collected during the process. The online virtual agent can be accessed through the city’s website.

“Serving our community has always been a priority for the city of Markham, and providing up to date information is even more critical during this public health emergency,” said Markham Mayor Frank Scarpitti, in a press release.

IBM is offering its “Watson Assistant for Citizens” virtual assistant to governments, healthcare and academic institutions through the IBM public cloud for free for 90 days. Markham joins cities in the USA, Greece, Poland and Spain, which have adopted their own versions of the assistant.

With the rampant spread of misinformation around the virus, a tool like this can be useful for people looking for accurate location-specific information about COVID-19.

Image credit: IBM Canada

Source: IBM Canada