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Chatbot Brings Together Taiwanese Students in Belgium during COVID-19 Pandemic


Late February it became clear that Europe was not going to be spared from the COVID-19 virus. In March, one country after another went into lockdown, including Belgium. This small country where the European Commission headquarters are situated has a population of just 11 million or so but it has been hit significantly harder than some of its much larger neighbors.

By April 28, Belgium had more than 47,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 7,300 deaths. France, the Netherlands, and Germany had similar infection rates but lower mortality rates.

Most Taiwanese students in Belgium were feeling alarmed and seeking information about the coronavirus, even before mid-March when it was declared a pandemic and a lockdown was announced. For this reason, the Education Division of the Taipei Representative Office in the EU and Belgium launched a Belgium Taiwan Student Information platform in early March to support students in these unprecedented troubled times.

The platform provides timely useful information from the Taiwan and Belgium governments, and students can use it to report their daily health status. They can also have preliminary consultations with PhD students who have medical qualifications. Any students who report any unusual health situation will be advised to consult their GP immediately for further medical advice.

On April 3, the platform’s health self-checker system was upgraded by incorporating the Facebook messenger chatbot app, an innovation that was designed and developed as a result of the Education Division’s joint brainstorming efforts with KU Leuven engineering students. Chen Yu-wen, director of the Education Division, hopes that this AI assisted app will help students more effectively report their daily health status and also feel more supported and united during this difficult situation.

Around the same time, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the United States worked with Microsoft to launch a Clara, a coronavirus self-checker bot, and the World Health Organization subsequently also initiated a Facebook messenger chatbot to help prevent the spread of disinformation.