Australian Government Launched New Information App and WhatsApp Chat Feature

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As social distancing laws have tightened, a coronavirus information app and WhatsApp chat functionality have been introduced by the Australian government, making telehealth services accessible nationwide.

Over the weekend, the federal government introduced a new app and WhatsApp chat feature to keep up-to-date on the COVID-19 outbreak with communications originating from Canberra.

When the App was launched, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said it offers information and services and brands it as “trusted place of advice and information that you and your family and your business can use to understand the decisions and the information that is available to everybody about what is occurring with the coronavirus.” The App also has a self-isolation registration feature, in addition to providing information and advice.

The App is available on both iOS and Android, and as of Sunday evening had already been downloaded about 482,000 times.

The government also launched a WhatsApp bot, another way of providing information on the coronavirus, with the aid of Atlassian and Facebook.

Users will need to send a message to the Australian government account on + 61 400 253 787 to communicate with it. The user would then returned a list of prompts to access official information about the virus.

“A new messaging service which enables us to talk to more and more Australians to provide direct information on a whole range of features in terms of basic health advice, updates on the measures that are being put in place by state and federal governments, and that can assist you to get to get the accurate and timely information about what is being done by governments around the country to support you as you and your family and your household and your community work through the difficult months ahead because of the coronavirus,” Morrison said.

“New technology we’ve put in place today is going to help us as a country get the messages and information we need to do the right thing to save lives and save livelihoods.”

More than 291,000 users have added the talk to their WhatsApp as of Sunday.

“Some 1.25 million messages have been sent over the course of today,” he said.

“I want to encourage every Australian — you’ve got a phone, you need the app. Go on there and make sure you download that app and go on the internet browser and get access to that WhatsApp service so you can get the messages you need to support your decisions for you and your family.”

Earlier this month, the World Health Organization (WHO) launched its WhatsApp chatbot.

Recently, WHO has expanded its knowledge to published in Arabic, English, French and Spanish.

The service can be accessed via a connection which opens a WhatsApp conversation. Users may simply type “hi”, “hola”, “salut” or “مرحبا” to trigger the chat, triggering a menu of options that may assist in answering their COVID-19 questions.

The Australian government also launched its text message campaign last week, asking nearly 36 million mobile numbers how to manage people’s health and the broader community.

“As the spread of the coronavirus increases, it’s vital every Australian understands the practical action they must take to look after themselves and help us protect those most at risk,”

Health Minister Greg Hunt, Australian Chief Medical Officer Professor Brendan Murphy and Arts Minister Paul Fletcher said in a statement.

The government has said it will continue to use text messaging as one of their modes of communication.

Mark Funk
Mark Funk is an experienced information security specialist who works with enterprises to mature and improve their enterprise security programs. Previously, he worked as a security news reporter.