The COVID-19 flash has affected not only the health of humanity but also IT: companies transfer employees to remote work, the new iPhone is postponed, the most famous events are cancelled. And it seems that even if tomorrow the number of infected people will go down, some of these consequences may stay with us for a long time.
The struggle against coronavirus continues in Ukraine and the world. Already all Ukrainian regions are covered by COVID-19. Therefore the government is strengthening quarantine and introducing an emergency, the Ministry of Health is implementing new algorithms of action, and the number of those infected in the world is already approaching 800 thousand.
On the morning of 1 April, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country reached 645. According to the Ministry of Health, the number of fatal cases has increased to 17. 10 patients have fully recovered.
In the context of the latest news, we were wondering how the coronavirus affects the development of IT in the world, so we analyzed how big companies work in a pandemic.
What changed during the Coronavirus?
Some IT companies are directly affected by the coronavirus and adapt to it. Since Internet access is socially necessary during quarantine, Comcast and T-Mobile have improved their Internet tariff conditions. Airbnb has relaxed its cancellation policy. The Folding@Home project offers everyone to share the computing power of their computers for virus research. Google-linked biotechnology company Verily is working on a website to help determine who needs to be tested for COVID-19.
And, of course, information technology has to do with information distribution. Millions of people have turned to the Internet for it, and it depends on companies like Google, whether they can quickly find the right one. At the same time, there were many fakes, and there was a problem with combating misinformation. And because of the situation “coronavirus generates clicks” many create information noise and unnecessary panic. And here for Internet platforms, there are many difficult questions.
For example, on YouTube, there is a rule of demonetizing of clips about recent tragedies (such clips can not bring their authors advertising profits). This restricts the ability to profit from such events, and also calms advertisers (“my brand will not be associated with murder”). And this rule has been applied to coronavirus commercials. However, video-bloggers were outraged: it hits not only the “blood feuds”, but also those who want to inform people about an important topic qualitatively. What is the cute Italian grandmother, who gives useful advice, worse than any other rapper? It ended with YouTube reversing the controversial decision.
Interestingly, there has been pressure on IT companies to “filter information correctly” before, often in connection with politics. If Donald Trump is tweeting something wrong, should Twitter add a note about the incorrect information? Some people believe that the service has a social responsibility to warn of misinformation, while others say “opponents of Trump are lying too, and you’re not tagging them”. And in this situation, companies tried to get between the hammer and the anvil less: they said that we give tools to publish and search for information, and then people use them as they see fit.
Which companies work remote?
At first, Western IT companies were cautiously talking about the possibility of remote locations in the offices closest to where the virus spreads, for those employees who wanted to do so themselves. But then everything went further: “work from home” became a mandatory measure (for everyone whose position in principle this involves), interviews also went into video communication, and all these measures gradually get to Russia. And this is happening not only in startups, which are generally flexible but also in giants, which traditionally required a presence in the office.
Twitter last week said it “encourages” all its full-time employees (currently 4,900) to work from home, regardless of the particular office. And now he has made it mandatory.
Even at Apple, where secrecy is supposed to be and everything they want to do in a controlled office atmosphere, they allowed remote working, although confidentiality, in this case, prevents employees.
8allocate will also work from home.
It’s the first pandemic in an era where IT giants are in principle suited to remote locations. It’s a spontaneous giant experiment from which conclusions will be drawn later. However, the research is not quite demonstrative, because of this spontaneity problems are inevitable. When suddenly and without demand, you transfer a lot of people to a remote location, someone will be forced to work in a room with a crying child, and someone will have problems with infrastructure. However, it will be fascinating to see the results later on.
Bonus: IT companies offer online training
IT-companies are also meeting the needs of people. For example, Google provided free access to “advanced” features of Hangouts Meet to all G-Suite users, including G-Suite for Education, until July. Of course, in this “wide gesture,” it’s easy to see the marketing campaign. In essence, now many new people turn to services for “remote” activities, and if you attract them for a free period, later some of them will become paying customers. But if it helps someone to learn, then such a marketing campaign can only be happy.
But whatever the nuances, this is also a big experiment, as with remote work. Online education has been talked about for years, but it has not yet had a tremendous breakthrough. Could a situation where many people have involuntarily faced with such training contribute to this breakthrough?
While everything in the world is dangerous and gloomy, I want to end up with something more life-affirming and easy. And among the things about IT and the virus, there is. One enthusiast used machine learning and made a funny little project “Don’t Touch Ya Face”: a site that makes sure you don’t touch your face with your hands.
We strongly recommend you to stay home and wash your hands with soap. Being at home these days can save your life!