Google and Microsoft pledge to help India in fight against COVID

Google is putting up £13 million in funding and Microsoft will support the purchase of critical oxygen concentration devices

The heads of Google and Microsoft have announced that they will help to fight the growing coronavirus crisis in India.

Google announced that it’s putting up 135 Crore INR (£13 million) in new funding for India, including two grants from Google’s philanthropic arm Google.org. The first is to GiveIndia to provide cash assistance to families hit hardest by the crisis, and the second will go to UNICEF to help get urgent medical supplies to where they're needed most.

This will also include donations from Google’s employees, with over 900 members of staff donating 3.7 Crore INR (£359 million). The funding contains a further 112 Crore INR (£10m) increased Ad Grant support for public health information campaigns, helping audiences with messages focused on how to stay safe and facts about vaccines.

“Devastated to see the worsening Covid crisis in India,” wrote Sundar Pichai, the CEO of Google and Alphabet.

Furthermore, Satya Nadella, the CEO of Microsoft, also pledged to support India.

“Microsoft will continue to use its voice, resources, and technology to aid relief efforts, and support the purchase of critical oxygen concentration devices,” he said in a tweet. He also thanked the US government for mobilising to help.

India and South Africa were the two countries who tabled a motion at the World Trade Organization (WTO) in October 2020 to allow members to temporarily waive the application of some rules that are part of a global intellectual property treaty until widespread vaccination is in place globally, according to the NGO Human Rights Watch.

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Over 100 governments now back the proposal, but a handful of high-income countries are blocking it, including the US, UK, the EU, Japan and Australia.

This isn’t the first time that big tech companies are getting involved in contributing to fighting the virus. In January, Salesforce, Oracle and Microsoft committed to creating a digital vaccine certification system to help identify people who have had the COVID-19 vaccination. The group is called the Vaccination Credential Initiative (VCI) and were developing a tool that can be stored on mobile devices and easily accessed by apps.

Plus, in April 2020 the NHS started working with Apple and Google to build a contact tracing app designed to track the movements of the population when the restrictions put in place were lifted. The software was to allow for users to declare whether or not they have COVID-19 symptoms and determine if they had been in touch with anyone. 

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