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U.S. Technology Companies Come Together to Help India Through New COVID Surge

U.S. Technology Companies Come Together to Help India Through New COVID Surge

Oxygen being transported to Kalamboli in order to provide oxygen for COVID-19 patients amid the surge in Coronavirus cases, in Navi Mumbai on April 26. (ANI photo)

From News Dispatches

Indian American-led tech companies Google and Microsoft, e-Commerce giant Amazon, as well as Indian tech leaders and venture capitalist Vinod Khosla are banding together to help India as it struggles through a new surge in COVID-19 cases.

The chief executives at Microsoft and Google, Satya Nadella and Sundar Pichai, respectively, April 25 pledged to support India through its latest surge in the global pandemic.

Tweeted Nadella, “I am heartbroken by the current situation in India. I’m grateful the U.S. government is mobilizing to help. Microsoft will continue to use its voice, resources, and technology to aid relief efforts, and support the purchase of critical oxygen concentration devices.”

Pichai tweeted, “Devastated to see the worsening Covid crisis in India. Google & Googlers are providing Rs 135 crore in funding to @GiveIndia, @UNICEF for medical supplies, orgs supporting high-risk communities, and grants to help spread critical information.”

Amidst the devastating second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, India reported more than 350,000 new coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours. This is the highest single-day spike registered since the onset of the pandemic, according to reports.

Pichai’s tweet also had a link to a blog where Google detailed ways to help with their efforts to fight the worsening situation.

On the blog, Sanjay Gupta, country head and VP of Google India, wrote, “Today we’re announcing $18 million in new funding for India. This includes two grants from Google.org, Google’s philanthropic arm, totaling $2.6 million.”

“The first is to GiveIndia to provide cash assistance to families hit hardest by the crisis to help with their everyday expenses. The second will go to UNICEF to help get urgent medical supplies, including oxygen and testing equipment, to where it’s needed most in India,” Gupta added.

“It also includes donations from our ongoing employee giving campaign – so far more than 900 Googlers have contributed $500,000 for organizations supporting high-risk and marginalized communities,” Gupta continued.

Gupta said that the funding also includes increased Ad Grant support for public health information campaigns. Since last year, Google helped MyGov and the World Health Organization reach audiences with messages focused on how to stay safe and facts about vaccines. The company is increasing its support with an additional $15 million in Ad Grants to local health authorities and non-profits for more language coverage options, Gupta said.

“Google is already helping India with its core information products like Search and Maps, YouTube and Ads. COVID features on Search are available in India, in English and eight Indian languages, that continue to improve localization and highlight authoritative information,” Gupta continued.

“This includes information on where to get testing and vaccines. Maps and Search surface thousands of vaccine sites. Google is also collaborating closely with the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, and with organizations like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, to support vaccine awareness initiatives,” he wrote in the blog.

On YouTube, Google is supporting the Indian government in their vaccine communication strategy. It ran a workshop for 200-plus health officials to learn how they can use YouTube to reach audiences across Indian languages with vaccine information.

Meanwhile, Khosla, the IIT Delhi alum and billionaire Silicon Valley investor who founded Khosla Ventures and co-founded Sun Microsystems, tweeted to the Indian government offering up his help. (See separate story.)

Amazon April 25 announced it will donate 10,000 oxygen concentrators and BiPAP machines to hospitals and public institutions to augment their capacity to help COVID-19 infected patients across multiple cities in India.

The first of these consignments was set to land in Mumbai April 25 and a majority of the shipping is expected to be completed by April 30, according to IANS reporting.

Amazon has joined hands with ACT Grants, Temasek Foundation, Pune Platform for COVID-19 Response and other partners to urgently airlift over 8,000 oxygen concentrators and 500 BiPAP machines from Singapore, the report said.

Additionally, Amazon India is also procuring over 1,500 oxygen concentrators and other critical medical equipment in partnership with non-profits including Swasth, Concern India and impact organizations like ACT Grants and Sattva Consulting, the IANS report added.

IANS adds that many tech leaders are stepping up to help.

“We have sourced supplies for oxygen concentrators of different sizes while we place the order using our own money. We want you to join hands in solving #OxygenShortage,” Vijay Shekhar, founder of Paytm, said in an April 25 tweet.

Foodtech platform Zomato April 21 rolled out a priority delivery feature for Covid-19 emergencies, including oxygen, CEO Deepinder Goyal said.

Several major hospitals in Delhi have repeatedly come close to running out of oxygen and have sent SOS messages. Besides Delhi, hospitals across Maharashtra, Gujarat, Haryana, and Madhya Pradesh are also facing an oxygen shortage.

Many people have also turned to social media to find oxygen or a hospital bed for their friends and family, the IANS report added.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a virtual meeting with the leading oxygen manufacturers to address the acute shortage of medical oxygen and oxygen cylinders across the country, it said.

Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and U.S. point persons for Covid-19 relief met with business leaders to discuss mobilizing the private sector to help efforts in India to fight the pandemic, according to State Department spokesperson Ned Price, IANS reported.

Blinken held a virtual meeting April 26 with leaders of American businesses, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the US-India Business Council “to discuss how the U.S. and India can leverage the expertise and capabilities of the U.S. private sector to support urgent Covid-19 relief efforts in India,” Price said.

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