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#TogetherAsOne Spotlight: EPAM Partners with UNICEF to Enhance App to Slow the Spread of COVID-19

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With offices all over the world, EPAM prides itself on its ability to take both a global and local—or “glocal”—mindset to its work. Because of this approach, we are dedicated to helping partners that have the same mission. That’s why we’re thrilled to partner with the United Nations Children’s Fund/Europe and Central Asia Regional Office (UNICEF ECARO) to grow its web-based chatbot HealthBuddy into a mobile app where users can access trusted information about COVID-19.

HealthBuddy combines the framework of EPAM’s customizable open source COVID Resistance app with UNICEF ECARO’s existing interactive web-based HealthBuddy chatbot app to create a one-stop destination that allows users to access trusted news sources, learn more about recommended protective and preventive behaviors, and receive exposure notifications to help public health authorities to manage the contact-tracing process as per World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines. 

“This ability to operate ‘glocally’ is something that’s not only very important to EPAM in its day-to-day work, but it’s absolutely vital to slowing the spread of COVID-19,” said Jorge Yui, Senior Manager, Financial Services Consulting, EPAM, who has led the creation of the app. “We’re proud to work with UNICEF ECARO so they can help European countries leverage HealthBuddy to contribute to the COVID-19 response.”

“UNICEF ECARO’s partnership with EPAM will allow us to be agile in meeting the specific and quickly-evolving needs of the individual countries in the region,” said Mario Mosquera-Vasquez, Regional Advisor, Communication for Development (Social Change), UNICEF ECARO. “By working with EPAM, we can help countries meet the needs of their leadership, healthcare workers and the general public.”

How Does it Work?

Currently available in nine languages (English, Greek, Italian, Kazakh, Macedonian, Portuguese, Russian, Turkish and Spanish), HealthBuddy is designed to be accessible to three major audiences – the general public, government authorities and healthcare workers. As an open source solution designed in accordance with UNICEF’s Risk Communication and Community Engagement (RCCE) response plan, HealthBuddy offers participating countries a variety of features that they can choose to include, exclude or customize.

Using HealthBuddy, the general public can receive public health messages and information, share opinions, report misinformation, ask questions from public health workers, and participate in surveys and polls to assess the secondary impact of COVID-19. This will be combined with EPAM’s exposure notification COVID Resistance app to prevent the spread of the virus while government authorities can send alerts to individuals who may have been exposed to the virus – all while adhering to GDPR. Healthcare workers can access a knowledge library to learn how to manage cases, receive alerts on new developments and monitor infected cases.

How Will it Be Implemented?

Of the 22 countries under UNICEF ECARO’s purview, six countries have adopted the app and will begin implementing many of its features in this first phase of the app’s rollout. Since it’s an open source solution, HealthBuddy can be tailored by national authorities and public health institutions in local languages to better communicate with diverse populations.

EPAM will continue to provide support to UNICEF ECARO throughout the two-year partnership. After the first phase is completed, additional countries will be able to adopt HealthBuddy to meet their unique needs. Additionally, UNICEF ECARO will continue to promote the customizable solution to their regional partners, who can use content specific to their locations. 

What Does the Future Hold for HealthBuddy?

As users voluntarily share more information with UNICEF ECARO and their countries’ governmental authorities using HealthBuddy’s polling and rumor-reporting functionalities, EPAM will be better able to help countries further customize the functionalities of the app to meet the knowledge and needs of its users.

“Using the natural language processing capabilities of the chatbot functionality will help us to collect feedback, so we are making better and more informed decisions. With this feedback mechanism, HealthBuddy can help us continue to provide relevant, up-to-date and accurate information to users, ultimately helping us to keep people safe,” said Mosquera-Vasquez.

Beyond COVID-19, Mosquera-Vasquez anticipates that HealthBuddy will be valuable to countries facing other virus outbreaks or health crises. HealthBuddy may also begin to serve as an accurate information and news source that can also help track misinformation about other socio-economic issues, helping to assuage stigma and discrimination.

The potential global and local impact of HealthBuddy, and the partnership between EPAM and UNICEF ECARO will help ensure that EPAM can continue to support our mission to act for good in the communities where we live and work. “We have a presence in many of the countries in the ECARO region where the app will roll out, and our own local networks within those countries may also help forge new connections,” explained Shamilka Samarasinha, Head of Corporate Social Responsibility, EPAM. “There are also so many areas of collaboration we can explore with UNICEF now, and I’m so proud our technology will help support their work.”

Learn more about our partnership with UNICEF ECARO here.

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