How Google Cloud is helping Asia in the fight against coronavirus

Tech giant deploys solutions and services in Singapore, Vietnam and Hong Kong
Sundar Pichai (Google)

Sundar Pichai (Google)

Google Cloud is ramping up efforts to help mitigate rising coronavirus concerns across Asia through increased collaboration at public and private sector levels.

In Singapore, the technology giant worked with the government to implement an online chat bot to help answer citizens’ most common questions. This is in addition to joining forces with governments worldwide to help promote "authoritative public information" about Covid-19 through the Google Ad Grants crisis relief program.

Plans are also in place to enable productivity for thousands of remote workers and students in Vietnam and Hong Kong - where schools have been closed - through the deployment of products such as Gmail, Calendar, Drive, Classroom, Hangouts Meet and Hangouts Chat, as well as G Suite for Education.

The vendor has also rolled out free access to advanced Hangouts Meet video-conferencing capabilities to all G Suite and G Suite for Education customers globally until 1 July 2020. This is alongside adding resources to support increased demand for public live-streaming on YouTube, in response to increased interest in affected regions.

“As Covid-19 makes its way across the globe, it’s affecting our communities in different ways,” wrote Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google and Alphabet, via an internal email to employees. "Many in Europe and the Americas are just now beginning to experience what people in Asia have been confronting for weeks.

“This is an unprecedented moment. It’s important that we approach it with a sense of calm and responsibility - because we have many people counting on us. Google Cloud continues to work with federal, state and local governments to help them connect with citizens and returning travelers from impacted regions."

Pichai said Google is also providing $25 million in donated ad credit to the World Health Organisation (WHO) and government agencies, and will "provide more if there is a need throughout the year".

Furthermore, Google.org and internal Google staff have donated over $1 million to support relief efforts, which will go towards organisations working to purchase medical supplies, provide frontline workers with food and lodging, support the construction of temporary hospitals and help with long-term recovery efforts.

“Our Trust and Safety team has been working around the clock and across the globe to safeguard our users from phishing, conspiracy theories, malware and misinformation, and we are constantly on the lookout for new threats,” Pichai explained. “On YouTube, we are working to quickly remove any content that claims to prevent the coronavirus in place of seeking medical treatment.”

Meanwhile on Google Ads, the business is blocking all ads capitalising on the coronavirus outbreak, as well as blocking “tens of thousands” of ads over the last six weeks.

“We are also helping WHO and government organisations run PSA ads,” Pichai added. “Google Play also prohibits developers from capitalising on sensitive events, and our long-standing content policies strictly prohibit apps that feature medical or health-related content or functionalities that are misleading or potentially harmful.”

Internally, Pichai said the business has set up a 24-hour incident response team to “stay in sync” with the WHO, with Google leaders meeting daily to make decisions about offices globally.

“In doing so, we weigh a number of factors grounded in science, including guidance from local health departments, community transmission assessments, and our ability to continue essential work and deliver the products and services people rely on,” he said.

“We’re also trying to build resilience into our operations - and our products - by testing our own capacity to work remotely. And it is also important to think about how we can help our local communities as we make these changes.”