Special Feature
Part of a ZDNet Special Feature: Coronavirus: Business and technology in a pandemic

IBM forms Watson Assistant for Citizens to handle COVID-19 queries

IBM is offering the set of Watson services for free for at least 90 days.

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IBM said it is offering a bundle of Watson services so government agencies, academic institutions and health care organizations can handle the crush of COVID-19 calls.

Big Blue said it will package Watson Assistant, IBM Research's natural language processing technology and Watson Discovery to form IBM Watson Assistant for Citizens. The Watson suite is available free for at least 90 days and available via online and phone formats.

According to IBM, wait times for COVID-19 related queries are exceeding two hours. The use of artificial intelligence via Watson may be able to speed up responses to common COVID-19 questions.

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Watson Assistant for Citizens, available on IBM's public cloud, ingests data from various sources such as the US Centers for Disease Control & Prevention and local authorities such as states, cities and school districts.

According to IBM, Watson Assistant for Citizens is available in English and Spanish and 11 other languages. The Watson service also has 15 pre-trained COVID-19 intents.

The Watson services are available in the US and have been used in Czech Republic, Finland, Greece, Italy, Poland, Spain and UK.

Some of the organizations using Watson Assistant for Citizens include the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, County of Ostego in New York, City of Austin in Texas, the UK National Health Service Wales and Polish Ministry of Health.

IBM has also rolled out supercomputing resources to analyze COVID-19 as well as mapping tools from The Weather Company to track the virus.