How Big Tech failed us in coronavirus pandemic

None of the Big Tech companies or tycoons appears to be playing a meaningful role in the testing, spread, cure, or eradication of the virus or even in contact tracing so far, says Prosenjit Datta.

All illustrations: Dominic Xavier/Rediff.com

 

Though we are at most six months into what promises to be a very long pandemic, it is clear that Big Tech has gained enormously because of the spread of the disease, without offering any real solutions about how to contain or treat it.

Amazon, Microsoft, Google, Facebook and the other Silicon Valley giants and tech companies around the world have all been big winners after countries went into lockdown, offices implemented work from home (WFH) and social distancing, and consumers were stuck at home for days together because of the virus.

At the same time, none of the Big Tech companies or tycoons appears to be playing a meaningful role in the testing, spread, cure, or eradication of the virus or even in contact tracing so far.

Their vaunted tech tools have been unable to accelerate the search for a cure and even their contributions for research in the field of a vaccine or a cure have been modest compared with the billions they have gained since the virus started spreading.

Most of their efforts have been on the periphery, largely confined to relief operations and information dissemination.

The sole exception is perhaps Bill Gates, whose Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is now the biggest funder of the World Health Organization (WHO) and who is investing in a Covid-19 Therapeutics Accelerator and also in facilities to mass produce the vaccine so that poorer countries are not denied access after the discovery.

The technology companies have been big beneficiaries of the virus because they had the solutions for work and entertainment at home.

Their founders have become wealthier after the pandemic struck while ordinary people have got poorer.

Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and Jeff Bezos of Amazon have each seen over $30 billion added to their wealth between mid-March and mid-May.

Sergei Brin and Larry Page of Google had each added $14 billion to their net worth, while Microsoft co-founder Gates had seen an addition of $8 billion to his net worth.

Elon Musk (Tesla) and Larry Ellison (Oracle) have gained several billions each.

This, at a time when the global economy is headed for a recession and unemployment in every country is going up.

Possibly the biggest gainer from the disruption has been Amazon.

Its retail…

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