Tech giants pledge billions to help fight COVID-19

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As the world responds to the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, tech companies are stepping up efforts to help contain the deadly virus, through committing free services or donating significant amounts of funds and resources to those affected.

Twitter, Facebook, Microsoft, SAP and Dell are among tech giants that have pledged their support, as the number of COVID-19 cases globally escalates to over 1.5 million, with deaths at over 88 500 and recoveries at more than 330 000, at the time of publication. SA had recorded 1 845 cases and 18 deaths by this morning.

On Tuesday, Jack Dorsey, Twitter CEO and founder of payment app Square, announced plans to donate $1 billion of his stake in Square, which is equivalent to 28% of his wealth, to help fund relief efforts related to the coronavirus pandemic.

In a series of tweets, Dorsey explained the funding will be tracked online to provide a synopsis of projects that have benefited from the donations: “I’m moving $1B of my Square equity (~28% of my wealth) to #startsmall LLC to fund global COVID-19 relief.

“After we disarm this pandemic, the focus will shift to girls’ health and education, and UBI. It will operate transparently, all flows tracked here.”

Dorsey, whose net worth is estimated at $3.3 billion, according to Forbes, explained he decided to donate from Square instead of Twitter, because he owns a bigger stake in the financial business than he does of Twitter.

As many small companies are forced to reconcile with the economic bloodbath the spread of the pandemic will have on their bottom line, larger ICT enterprises are pledging their support and filling the gaps in social community initiatives.

Microsoft and Amazon are among co-founders of the COVID-19 Response Fund, targeting hard-hit Washington State.

In collaboration with other businesses such as Alaska Airlines and the Starbucks Foundation, they have donated over $20 million to address the economic and public health needs of communities within Washington DC.

“As large corporations, we can take this step and should, but not all businesses will be able to do so,” said Microsoft president Brad Smith.

“As our community focuses on public health needs during the COVID-19 outbreak, it’s important that we also rally together to address the unmet economic needs developing around us.”

Microsoft is supporting humanitarian projects in various parts of the globe, including Africa, and has offered its Microsoft Healthcare Bot to global emergency medical services to help screen people for potential coronavirus infection and treatment.

Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook, announcedhis company will donate up to $20 million to help combat the coronavirus outbreak.

“Facebook is matching up to $10 million in donations, and 100% of funds will directly support the work to prevent, detect and respond to the outbreak around the world. We’ll also match $10 million for the Centre for Disease Control Foundation, which will launch a fundraiser in the next few weeks focused on combating the outbreak here in the US.”

Telkom, Huawei, Naspers and Vodacom are among local ICT firms that have also contributed millions in relief efforts to help fight the scourge of COVID-19 in SA.

Financial commitment relief

While financial institutions and other creditors offer various payment relief measures,Dell Technologies is offering its South African Dell Financial Services customers the opportunity to apply for financing arrangements, and delay payments for up to six months, pending credit approval.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is creating unexpected and unusual financial pressures for South African companies,” says Monique Watson at Dell Financial Services.

“We want to support local companies and the economy during this difficult period, enabling them to continue their growth and output without worrying that their modernisation investments will be undone. If we all stand together, we can overcome the damage of this pandemic.”

In addition, Dell has committed $4 million to fight the coronavirus from various aspects – from upgrading IT infrastructure in China hospitals, to funding front-line IT organisations which are dedicated to fighting the worldwide pandemic.

Google has committed $800 million to help support small businesses and governments across the globe, while software giant SAP has established a €3 million COVID-19 emergency fund aimed at providing relief to its social development partners globally.

The administrator of SA's .za domain name, the ZA Central Registry, has suspended the deletions process of domain names that are not in good standing with their annual renewal fees, to provide temporary relief to defaulting businesses.

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