Photo of Gabriela Asturias

Internet & web

Gabriela Asturias

Fighting misinformation about Covid-19 and identifying cases and outbreaks.

Year Honored


Latin America

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has had a worldwide impact. In Guatemala alone, more than 100,000 cases have been confirmed and deaths exceed 3,500. Given the seriousness of the situation, a new virus generates more doubts than certainties among the population, creating a breeding ground for misinformation. In a public health crisis, hoaxes and fake news can lead to deaths. 

Faced with this major problem, young Guatemalan doctor Gabriela Asturias decided to co-create ALMA, a free chatbot to answer questions about COVID-19. "It is important that people have access to a reliable source of information to understand government instructions and protective measures," she explains. Thanks to the potential of this breakthrough against the pandemic, this young woman has been chosen as one of the winners of MIT Technology Review in Spanish's  Innovators under 35 Latin America 2020.

In addition to informing the population about the virus and the measures taken, ALMA makes it possible to identify cases in real time and isolate them, locate outbreaks, and coordinate resources. "In Guatemala, there has never been a digital information infrastructure for public health. They collect information on paper and then digitize it, but we don’t know how the disease is evolving in real time. COVID-19 motivated the ambition to create a system that can provide information to the population and, in turn, collect information from the people and give it to the health authorities so that they can respond early to the crisis," explains the innovator. 

ALMA was launched with answers provided by various doctors to frequently asked questions. "It was important to provide standardized truthful information to the population," adds the innovator. But it also uses artificial intelligence algorithms to improve its answers as people use it. However, she was aware that written media is not always the best option for the Guatemalan population. That is why they have also created a network of call centers with telephone operators who answer questions over the phone and identify suspicious cases. 

Although ALMA is currently focused on COVID-19, the Guatemalan innovator's goal is to target other infectious diseases to prevent outbreaks. Therefore, she is already working with her team to provide and collect information on other infectious diseases. They are working with the United States' CDC and the Inter-American Development Bank to set up an early warning system throughout the country through the call center and a surveillance system with healthcare workers who do the necessary tests to confirm or rule out the diagnosis. 

ALMA "is particularly relevant in rural areas of Guatemala, where health services are very limited," says Enrique Galindo, Secretary of Outreach at the Institute of Biotechnology of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) and member of the Innovators under 35 Latin America 2020 jury. He highlights the system's capacity to "answer the public's doubts about various aspects of the disease."