Not all news related to the pandemic is bad news
Just a couple of months ago, the term “going viral” lightly referred to the match-to-kerosene-like spread of images, videos or other content across borders and populations. Today’s news has literally gone viral, carrying coverage of the COVID-19 outbreak in an unfortunate and devastating new realization of the term. Every day, there is a deluge of information detailing the impact of the outbreak, including the havoc COVID-19 is wreaking on every person, institution, government and country on the planet. While we may now be associating “going viral” with a darker and more ominous meaning, there are some bright spots that are worth highlighting to complement TBR’s ongoing coverage of the business and technological impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Virtual tools and aid help soften a steep learning curve
After healthcare, education is perhaps the sector most immediately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic in ways that are evident to individuals and businesses alike. Access to quality education across socioeconomic and geographic groups has been a subject that has inspired a mix of outrage and hope for decades, and there has never been an easy answer. The mandate to institute virtual classrooms has raised the question of how all this can be made possible for the vast majority of global students who have no choice but to continue their education at home.
A notable example comes in the form of AT&T’s $10 million Distance Learning and Family Connections Fund in support of the education community, including parents, teachers and students. The money will also provide ways to bridge socioeconomic gaps in communities that have become isolated. Specifically, the first $1 million will support the Khan Academy, an educational platform available in more than 40 languages offering practice exercises, videos and dashboards that can be customized to each learner’s unique distance learning needs.
The mandatory pivot to digital learning has also been recognized and addressed by companies such as Logitech and Babbel. Logitech is offering free webcams and headsets to K-12 teachers who may not have the funding to support the transition to virtual learning. Babbel is ensuring that students’ language studies are minimally disrupted by offering three months of free language learning to U.S. students through mid-June.
Until recently, working from home was either an occasional break in one’s schedule or a work lifestyle provided to those who do not have easy access to an office environment. While the work-from-home model is not new and supporting solutions have long been on the market, how to quickly scale remote office environments and capabilities was never considered until very recently. To answer the need for individuals and businesses, especially small ones that may not have the rainy-day funds that larger enterprises usually possess, many collaboration, cloud and CRM providers are stepping in to make “business as usual” possible in the short term.
Google, a leading provider of services to support working environments, is offering Google Meet’s premium features for free until July 1, and Microsoft and Amazon are similarly implementing measures of their own. Zoho is another company with deep collaborative roots and the capability to support workflows of all types. Recently, Zoho announced a program that would offer free support to existing customers that otherwise could not afford it. Launched and deployed in just a matter of days, Zoho Remotely not only enables existing customers to continue their operations but also provides an attractive onboarding mechanism for future paying customers.
Cloud leaders prioritize healthcare as well as mission-critical workloads to ensure public safety
The education and healthcare industries are more frequently converging. For example, Google Cloud earmarked $20 million for medical research and academic institutions. The funds will assist researchers in both the short and long term in the pursuit of a vaccine for COVID-19 as well as the collection of ongoing clinical data to assist in the prevention of future outbreaks. This is one of the many examples in which the cloud leader has dedicated funding and resources to the dual causes of healthcare safety response and education.
Achieving balance between staving off disaster and facilitating a somewhat palatable day-to-day existence is the ongoing challenge pressuring enterprises, many of which are proving to be the backbone of modern society. As the remote working population has surged exponentially, so have the pressures placed on enterprises that support the new environment. Companies such as Microsoft and Amazon Web Services have clearly prioritized several sectors for mission-critical workload solutions, beginning with first responders, health and emergency management services, and critical government infrastructure.