Kyiv, 22 June 2020 – Businesses in Ukraine with questions related to the COVID-19 outbreak will now be able to get rapid responses thanks to a chatbot launched by the Ukrainian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (UCCI) and the United Nations Development Programme in Ukraine (UNDP).
The UNDP-developed chatbot can respond to user queries about ways for micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) to mitigate the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. It can also produce pre-filled force majeure certificates and forms based on information entered by users.
UNDP Resident Representative Dafina Gercheva said the chatbot will help to increase awareness among MSMEs about mitigation measures, strengthen their crisis resilience, and improve the existing communication mechanisms between Ukrainian businesses and service providers. “Demand for information from businesses is at an all-time high because of COVID-19,” Gercheva said. “This chatbot is an innovative solution to meeting that demand.”
The chatbot is already available for use via these links:
The COVID-19 crisis has especially affected MSMEs, which have significantly lower reserves and resilience than large businesses. The Ukrainian Chamber of Commerce and Industry has reported that up to 700,000 enterprises, which employ between 3.5 – 4 million people, have already stopped working due to the lockdown. This represents about 25 percent of all businesses and workers in Ukraine.
Small businesses in Ukraine lack information about flexible options to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 recession. Such information is currently provided by the Ukrainian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (UCCI) and its regional offices, but due to the high volume of requests coming from the MSMEs, the UCCI is unable to process all of them. In addition, business themselves know very little about available services (e.g. issue of force majeure certificates) in general. The new chatbot will help MSMEs get the information they need quickly.
"The Ukrainian Chamber of Commerce and Industry seeks to be in touch with business around the clock, and without days off,” said UCCI President Hennadii Chyzhykov. “We’ll benefit from this chatbot, which will simplify communication and the process of applying for the services provided by the UCCI, and allow our experts to save their time and attention for analysing and reviewing practical cases. The chatbot works 24/7, and allows you to quickly get legal advice on certifying force majeure, and in a few clicks you can download sample documents and apply online."
The ongoing COVID-19 crisis is challenging people, households and businesses in unprecedented ways. According to the International Labour Organization, the economic and labour crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic could increase global unemployment by almost 25 million people (7.4 million people in the middle-income countries) and the overall losses in labour income might reach US $3.4 trillion ($14.8 billion in the middle-income countries).
The Ukrainian Chamber of Commerce and Industry estimates that the MSMEs most impacted by the quarantine restrictions are those in hospitality, tourism, retail, entertainment, creative industries, and hairdressing and beauty salons. These industries all have a high proportion of women-led micro-enterprises and female employees.
As of 27 May, 33 percent of MSMEs in Ukraine have reported 50-75 percent losses of revenues due to the nationwide COVID-19 lockdown, according to a survey conducted by the European Business Association. Over 50 percent of entrepreneurs believe it will take at least 12-24 months for their business to recover from the economic impact of COVID-19.