Facebook Messenger Tackles Coronavirus From Two Angles

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Facebook Messenger has now announced a two-part approach to provide assistance during coronavirus pandemic and future outbreaks. One initiative addresses the need for governments and officials to communicate with the population at large. The other is geared toward preventative and assistive measures for end users going forward.

The first of the two initiatives won't necessarily be the most impactful but will be more immediate. Namely, Facebook has partnered with its developer community to offer free services to government and UN health agencies. That's being done in a bid to help those bodies 'scale their response' to the continuing COVID-19 and coronavirus pandemic.

The end goal is to keep the general population informed and connected where government resources are slim.

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Messenger will connect government health organizations and UN health agencies to developers who are offering cost-free services. Those developers will assist the given organizations in finding the most effective way to share timely, accurate, official coronavirus information rapidly. That includes the development of response and conversation automation. But it also includes live help via chats for citizens — among other solutions.

Facebook also provides a couple of examples of how its new partnership and initiative are already being put to use. Not only has Argentina's Ministry of Health teamed up with Botmaker.com to launch a new 24-hour question and answer Messenger 'experience'. UNICEF and Pakistan's Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations & Coordination (NHSRC) are using Messenger to keep people informed as well.

Facebook is challenging developers to actively find coronavirus solutions

The second initiative put forward by Facebook Messenger on coronavirus may be more far-reaching. Partnering with hackathon provider Devpost, the company is asking developers globally to take part in a Messenger-specific hackathon online. That will center around building solutions to confront social distancing, education, and other key issues surrounding COVID-19.

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Those solutions can be global or localized and participants will be given special access to Messenger-related content. For instance, the company is giving free access to Facebook Live tutorials provided by product experts. But it's also giving access to a wide range of additional support materials. The company says any interested developers will want to subscribe to the Facebook for Developers newsletter for updates.

Now, winning participants will be given invitations to attend F8 2021, following the shutdown of this year's Facebook developer conference. That will not only include flights and accommodations. Facebook is also offering the chance to take part in the F8 hackathon for winners. But the biggest prize may be that winners will receive mentoring from Facebook's engineers to build out their proposed solutions.

Looking beyond coronavirus

The proposed Messenger-based solution-building exercise will undoubtedly prove useful to address ongoing issues associated with coronavirus. But it could also pave the way for more useful responses to future crises going forward since it is building a network between governing bodies and developers. In effect, it lays the groundwork for future solutions.

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Since Messenger is among the most used messaging platforms around, if not the most used of those apps, the added benefit is greater too. By putting forward one of the world's best messengers, Facebook is offering a wide-reaching platform that can more quickly reach a wider audience. That makes any solutions built there more likely to have a lasting impact well beyond coronavirus.