Government’s WhatsApp chatbot to become a one-stop-destination to access slew of official documents

Chennai: The government’s WhatsApp chatbot, launched last year to book vaccination slots and download vaccination certificates, will become a one-stop-destination for accessing a slew of official documents.

This would mean that downloading driving licence, income tax certificate or PAN card will be instant for citizens on WhatsApp.

According to officials, the pilot project has already been started for testing.

The service is expected to be formally launched in the next few weeks.

The WhatsApp chatbot interface will provide access to documents stored on a citizen’s DigiLocker.

Two officials familiar with the discussion told ET that the government has renamed the MyGov Corona Helpdesk to MyGov Helpdesk.

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A senior government official told ET on condition of anonymity, “The interface will have an option to unlock DigiLocker services. “When you select the DigiLocker option, it will be authenticated with your Aadhaar and OTP and will inform you about the documents available.”

The interface will ask for OTP and mobile number to which the certificate is linked and will provide the same immediately.

“It takes around 30 seconds to get the certificate,” the official said.

The official said that at present around 100 million people use DigiLocker and it has also become the National Academy Depository with access to all the certificates of class 10th and 12th.

“In future, it will also become a health locker with all health documents,” said the person.

About 80 million people have accessed the MyGov Corona Helpdesk for information related to COVID-19 and around 32 million have downloaded the COVID-19 vaccination certificate through WhatsApp chatbot so far.

Amit Ranjan, one of the architects of the national DigiLocker project, said that the prevalence, convenience and usage of WhatsApp will reduce entry barriers and make DigiLocker accessible to more people.

“Sometimes, people have problems signing in, forgetting their password, etc. So, this could be a way to address some of those problems as well. This will make it accessible to a wider cross section of people,” he said.

WhatsApp did not comment when contacted.

When vaccination details of passengers are sought, it is a cumbersome process – especially for the elderly – to log on to government portals and download certificates.

The WhatsApp chatbot is a conversational interface and since the instant messaging platform is used by over 500 million Indians, access to these documents becomes easy.

Currently, the interface is available in English and Hindi, but there are plans to introduce more regional language versions in partnership with states.

The official said that around 14 states have enabled a similar chatbot in regional languages, but the central service is available only in English and Hindi.

ET had reported last month that several states have adopted WhatsApp chatbots for citizen services.

Many other use cases have also made it into WhatsApp chatbots.

These include the National Commission for Women’s 24×7 helpline for pregnant mothers, West Bengal’s chatbot for citizens and farmers to access services like ration cards, register complaints and get information on paddy procurement, and Mumbai Municipal Corporation’s MyBMC citizens. Assistance for providing administrative services to and tourists.

More than 400,000 Common Service Centers (CSCs) also use the WhatsApp chatbot, which can be programmed to respond in multiple local languages, including Hindi and English.

Ranjan says that it is quite safe in terms of security.

“With any app on a mobile phone there is a risk of carrying things in your mobile phone. I don’t think it’s any different. So, it doesn’t introduce any new safety factors.”

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