With several thousand employees across 11 locations in India, and many more employees in other countries with families in India, Microsoft is acutely aware of the devastation sweeping the country during a second wave of coronavirus infections.
NPR reported Tuesday that India now has more than 20 million reported coronavirus infections and nearly 3.5 million people who are actively being treated for COVID-19. CBS News reported that the disease has killed 120 people an hour on average over the last two weeks.
As images of burning funeral pyres are being broadcast around the world, the country’s health system is in a state of collapse due to hospital bed shortages and lack of lifesaving supplies.
Taking action: In a blog post Wednesday, Kate Behncken, head of Microsoft Philanthropies, laid out what the Redmond, Wash.-based tech giant is doing to take care of its employees in India and help address urgent needs in the broader community.
Behncken said Microsoft Philanthropies is focused on ways it can use its technology, resources, and voice to help, and she listed four immediate steps being taken:
- Launching Global Task Force on Pandemic Response: Along with a number of other companies, Microsoft is helping the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable launch the Global Task Force on Pandemic Response. The public-private partnership is designed to provide India with critical medical supplies, vaccines, oxygen and other life-saving assistance. Microsoft President Brad Smith is serving on the steering committee for the group.
- Addressing oxygen shortage: As part of the above task force, and through a significant financial donation from Microsoft Philanthropies, Microsoft joined with other companies to purchase 1,000 much needed ventilators for hospitals in India. The company is also working to provide 25,000 oxygen concentration devices to healthcare facilities in India.
- Financial support for nonprofits: Through the Microsoft Philanthropies employee giving program, employees in the U.S and around the world have stepped up to help and contributed over $2.8 million for organizations working on the ground in India. Every dollar contributed by employees to relief organizations will be matched by Microsoft.
- Tech and tech-support help: Recognizing the need for technology tools that enable remote work, collaboration, and communication including across government and organizations working to respond to the pandemic, Microsoft is ensuring every commercial and government organization in India has free access to the full capabilities of Microsoft Teams as they respond to changing conditions on the ground.
Messages from top tech leaders: Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella expressed his grief in a tweet on April 25.
I am heartbroken by the current situation in India. I’m grateful the U.S. government is mobilizing to help. Microsoft will continue to use its voice, resources, and technology to aid relief efforts, and support the purchase of critical oxygen concentration devices.
— Satya Nadella (@satyanadella) April 26, 2021
Amazon Web Services CEO Andy Jassy tweeted Wednesday that Amazon is also part of the U.S. Chamber’s Global Task Force.
Amazon has joined The Global Task Force led by @USChamber to help source and deliver medical equipment to India. 1000 ventilators are on their way to local hospitals in India with the first 100 arriving today. The challenges in India will take continued focus–more help is on way https://t.co/5JAZegAjqp
— Andy Jassy (@ajassy) May 5, 2021
Seattle-area community response: Other members of Seattle’s large, tech-heavy, Indian-American community have also been mobilizing in different ways to try to help with the crisis.
The Seattle Times reported on Monday about efforts being led by Lalita Uppala, executive director of the Bellevue, Wash.-based Indian American Community Services, and Uma Raghavan, the tech entrepreneur and executive who previously founded Seattle startup Integris. The Times said Raghavan compiled contact information and links to services in India and directed people toward places to donate money and personal protective equipment.
Microsoft software engineer Prarthana Sannamani was also spurred into action and built a COVID Resources India website. The site directs people to social network tools that search for ventilators, hospital beds, oxygen and other needs in various Indian cities, the Times reported.
Watching COVID-19 infections increase in India initially filled Sannamani with a sense of helplessness and got her thinking about how she might help.
“You see it but you’re so disconnected,” Sannamani told the Times about her sense of helplessness. “It’s definitely a strange feeling. I wish I was there to do something in person.”