Coronavirus: COVID-19 & the Global Tech Industry

14 March 2020

As Chancellor Rishi Sunak unveiled a £30bn package to boost the economy yesterday in the Budget discussion in the parliament, you would expect this to be the major talk between all businesses worldwide. Nonetheless, it is not. It has been a tumultuous week to say the least globally with the spread of COVID-19 (a strain of Corona-virus) and its effects worldwide. The virus has already infected over 175000 people worldwide and is highly likely to spread further. China and other countries are demonstrating that spread of the virus can be slowed and impact reduced through the use of universally applicable actions. Some of those are working across society to identify people who are sick, bringing them to care, following up on contacts, shutting down all businesses, applying social distancing measures, preparing hospitals and clinics to manage a surge in patient numbers and training health workers.

As the virus has now officially been recognised as a Pandemic by the World Health Organisation (WHO) its impact is starting to become apparent not only on our health but business itself. The tech sector – like most other sectors – has not been able to avoid COVID-19, with companies closing stores, offices, and factories in China, Italy, Iran, Korea and may more countries. What is more a number of high profile tech giants (such as Apple, Tesla, Google and Facebook) have all employed special measures.  Facebook has already announced the closure of their London offices as a company employee who visited the offices on 27.02, had previously visited Asia.

Furthermore, major industry events like the Geneva Motor Show, Google I/O, Facebook’s F8 and Mobile World Congress continue to be postponed because of the outbreak. The E3 gaming show, which was originally planned for June 9 in Los Angeles, was added to that list this week.

What is more, as a lot of the products or components for products tend to be manufactured in China experts are also warning customers and businesses to expect shortages for a variety of Tech gadgets and items. Facebook announced in a statement that they have temporarily ceased taking orders for their latest Oculus Quest VR headset, citing the outbreak for the delay. “[Like] other companies we’re expecting some additional impact to our hardware production due to the Corona-virus. We’re taking precautions to ensure the safety of our employees, manufacturing partners and customers, and are monitoring the situation closely. We are working to restore availability as soon as possible”. Some of Tesla’s Model 3 Deliveries have also been delayed.

Whilst we all await to hear a positive turn in the events taking place due to the virus, The White House has now initiated a meeting with some of the largest Tech companies in the world to ask for help. Michael Kratsios convened representatives to prepare and plan a response to the worsening global coronavirus pandemic. The meeting is said to have already taken place (with video-calls and other such means) and its main goal was to act as an initial brainstorming session for tech and the White House on coordinating against coronavirus misinformation. It is hoped it will potentially aid in the analysis of relevant new medical research and help the federal government to track travellers and other complex data-driven tasks via the Tech Giants’ applications and capabilities.

The virus has also had an unforgiving effect on financial markets worldwide as we all brace for the outbreak to reach its peak worldwide. Major tech companies have been very proactive when it comes to shielding their interests and protecting their own workforces from the coronavirus epidemic, even as governments are not as robust in their response.

Google has already prompted all its North American employees to work from home, expanding its previous guidance for Washington state-based workers. Although it is hard to find positives in this global health crisis, it has once again demonstrated the need for Tech companies (and not only) to be at the forefront when it comes to such occurrences. A BBC show last year (Contagion) already demonstrated how Government – Tech – Universities can work together to predict and prepare for such viral outbreaks and it is now evident the above should be a key practice for all countries. In addition, the need for social distancing has once again highlighted the need for companies to employ modern practices and platforms in order to be able to offer their employees the ability for remote working.

As a company, we are already working with a number of companies looking to urgently modernise their infrastructure to better adjust to the current situation. We urge everyone to follow all government directives and instructions and advise all our partners and clients to employ “remote working” practices in the next few weeks to minimise the risk of exposure.

Has your company been directly affected by Corona-virus COVID-19? Are you perhaps unable to work from home and the outbreak is rapidly diminishing your work?

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