How Google Cloud is helping during COVID-19 by Thomas Kurian, CEO at Google Cloud


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We’re all in the midst of an extraordinary moment – not only for our teams, colleagues, and customers, but for the world at large. The impact of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has created many new challenges, and for many of us, has required that we adopt new ways of working.

All over the world, businesses and users depend on Google Cloud to help them stay connected and get work done. And we take this responsibility very seriously. Today, I want to share many of the ways we’re working to support businesses, government institutions, researchers and one another.

How we’re helping workers stay safe and productive

Empowering remote workers to stay connected

As more and more businesses rely on connecting an at-home workforce to maintain productivity, we’ve seen surges in the use of Google Meet, our video conferencing product, at a rate we’ve never witnessed before. Over the last few weeks, Meet’s day-over-day growth surpassed 60%, and as a result, its daily usage is more than 25 times what it was in January. Despite this growth, the demand has been well within the bounds of our network’s ability.

Because we know how critical keeping colleagues connected and engaged is for business continuity, we’ve made the advanced features in Google Meet free to all G Suite and G Suite for Education customers globally. We’ve also made Meet Hardware available in additional markets, including South Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Indonesia and South Africa, to ensure customers have the right hardware to complement their Meet solution. 

We’ve heard from a number of enterprises that G Suite has helped them make the transition to remote work. The MACIF Group, a leading French mutual insurance provider, was able to ensure business continuity and maintain the link between its employees with G Suite, already deployed to more than 8,000 employees. MACIF staff shifted from in-person meetings to more than 1,300 Google Meet video meetings daily, and the use of collaborative virtual rooms facilitated important human contact and responsiveness in an unexpected period of remote work.

Korean gaming company Netmarble told us G Suite helped them make the company-wide transition to working from home smoothly, saying, “With video conferencing through Google Meet, collaboration via Google Docs, and all data accessible on Google Drive, there's really no difference when working from the home or the office.”

Providing training opportunities to upskill employees

As people transition to remote work and learning in response to COVID-19, many are looking to build their skills and increase their knowledge while at home. To help, we’re offering our portfolio of Google Cloud learning resources, including our extensive catalog of training courses, hands-on labs on Qwiklabs, and interactive Cloud OnAir webinars at no cost until April 30. Anyone can gain cloud experience through hands-on labs no matter where they are—and learn how to prototype an app, build prediction models, and more—at their own pace. Teams can also build their skills through our on-demand courses on Pluralsight and Coursera. Our most popular learning paths, including Cloud Architecture and Data Engineering, are now available for all.

How we’re helping public sector agencies and educational institutions

Supporting government efforts to fight COVID-19

We’re working with governmental organizations around the world on projects such as developing AI-based chat technology to help overtasked agencies respond more quickly to citizen requests; bolstering government websites that get critical information to the public with free content delivery network (CDN) and load-balancing services; and providing services and tools to track the spread of the virus.

In the U.S., we are working with the White House and supporting institutions to develop new text and data mining techniques to examine the COVID-19 Open Research Dataset (CORD-19), the most extensive machine-readable coronavirus literature collection to date.

We’re also working with state agencies like the Oklahoma State Department of Health on solutions for medical staff to engage remotely with at-risk people who may have been exposed to the coronavirus. Within 48 hours, the department deployed an app that allowed medical staff to follow up directly with people who reported symptoms and direct affected citizens to testing sites. We worked with our partner MTX Group to create the app and are now deploying it with governments in Florida, New York, and many other states so they can use our tools for insights into how the virus’s spread is affecting citizens and state healthcare systems.

Internationally, we’re working with a number of governments to provide collaboration solutions and tools to track the spread of COVID-19. For example, in Spain, we’ve set up an app for the regional government in Madrid to help citizens perform self-assessments of coronavirus symptoms and offer guidance, easing the demands on the healthcare system. The Spanish national government is also planning to deploy this app across other regions in the country in the coming days. In Italy, the more than 70,000 employees working in the Veneto region’s healthcare system are relying on G Suite to maintain their high level of service and patient care during the COVID-19 crisis. This week, the Australian Government Department of Health launched its Coronavirus Australia App. Built on Google Cloud, the app offers real-time information and advice about the fast changing COVID-19 pandemic.

And in Peru, the Judiciary branch is using Google Meet to continue operating during the nation-wide quarantine. Through video conferences they are carrying out both internal meetings and also hearings. By doing this, attorneys, lawyers and judiciary clerks don’t have to physically attend court, keeping the virus from spreading, while maintaining the administration of Justice in the country.

Assisting educational institutions with content, tools, and distance learning

Educational institutions have been particularly impacted by the coronavirus, and we’re undertaking a number of initiatives to support them, ranging from providing free content and educational tools to supporting distance-learning initiatives that help educators continue teaching students who are at home.

For example, in recent weeks, we rolled out Google Classroom to more than 1.3 million students in New York City so they can continue their school year virtually at home. And we continue to provide critical infrastructure for nonprofit educational organization Khan Academy, which supported 18 million learners per month before the crisis. Since school closures began, Khan Academy is seeing record growth across all metrics: Time spent on the site is approximately 2.5 times normal, student and teacher registrations are up roughly six times from this period last year, and parent registration is up 20 times normal.

In Malaysia, where schools are closed in response to COVID-19, we’ve been hosting daily webinars for teachers, bringing them up to speed on how they can leverage Google tools to teach from home

And in Indonesia, we provided the technology infrastructure for online education services platform Ruangguru, which opened a free online school service in response to school closures in Indonesia and was tapped by more than a million learners on day one.

In Italy, we worked with the Italian Ministry of Education—the governing body accountable for millions of Italian schoolchildren—to rapidly shift students entirely to remote learning. Our teams banded together, and engineers worked around the clock to speed up the enrollment process, even making a virtual help desk available for timely activation and support. As a result, the Ministry of Education was able to help bring millions of students online in a matter of days.

How we’re helping other organizations

Supporting researchers, hospitals, and more

Healthcare is the most impacted industry during the pandemic, and technology can be a critical tool to help. We’re providing solutions for the health research community to identify new therapies and treatments; and assist hospital systems with tracking the pandemic and providing telehealth and remote-patient monitoring solutions.

In health research, we’re making several COVID-19 public datasets free to query like Johns Hopkins Center for Systems Science and Engineering COVID-19 data, the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey data, and OpenStreetMaps data. We’re also providing $20 million in Google Cloud credits to academic institutions and research organizations as they study potential therapies and vaccines, track critical data, and identify new ways to combat COVID-19. Researchers at accredited academic institutions can submit a proposal to the COVID-19 High Performance Computing Consortium, while other researchers who need Google Cloud capacity for work on COVID-19 can submit proposals directly to us.

Last week, we joined the COVID-19 Healthcare Coalition, a group of healthcare, technology, and research organizations who have come together to share resources in order to fight the virus. Coalition members include athenahealth, Mayo Clinic, University of California Health System, and others. As part of the coalition, we’re helping build a data exchange that allows coalition members to safely and securely share and analyze data—ultimately enabling many of the world’s top researchers with data to work together.

We’re also supporting hospitals in several ways. In Asia, Since the COVID-19 outbreak, more people have been turning to Doctor Anywhere’s telemedicine services, and opting for video consultations with locally-registered doctors and medication delivered to their doorstep. According to Rishik Bahri, Chief Technology Officer, Doctor Anywhere, “We’ve seen a more than 70% increase in traffic on our telehealth application since the coronavirus outbreak, and it’s more important than ever to deliver frictionless access to users and partners alike on the Doctor Anywhere app.”

In the UK, the NHS is exploring the use of G Suite to allow them to collect critical, real-time information on hospital responses to COVID-19, such as hospital occupancy levels, and accident and emergency capacity.

Helping retailers, manufacturers, and other businesses handle demand

Businesses globally are facing unprecedented challenges in terms of forecasting demand from customers and the impact of COVID-19 on their overall supply chains. To help on the demand side, we’ve activated our Black Friday/Cyber Monday Protocol for retailers and other businesses seeing exponential traffic increases—bringing professional services, technical account managers and Customer Reliability Engineering resources together to support, plan and react to user demand during these peak times.

One of Canada’s largest retailers, Loblaw, asked for our help to support an increase in traffic to its PC Express grocery delivery and pickup platform. The Google Cloud team provided them with the resources to ensure they could scale, helping people get food and other critical goods during this time. As said by Hesham Fahmy, GM at Loblaw Companies Limited, “The Google Cloud team has been a fantastic partner during this ever changing time. We truly appreciate the level of ownership, care and help Google has been providing. It is for a great cause, to make sure Canadians’ don’t have to stress about their essential needs in these uncertain times.”

German luxury fashion retailer Breuninger employs 5,000 staff and decided to temporarily close its 11 department stores and focus on its online shop only. All staff suddenly working remotely presented big challenges as their existing collaboration tools for video conferencing proved unable to deal with that sudden increase of usage. Google Cloud helped to get more than 1,100 Breuninger employees live on G Suite within 48 hours—with more employees to be added over the next few days. In addition to this, they are exploring how to interact with customers through new digital services enabled by G Suite.

Providing a stable platform for telecom, media and entertainment

Communications and entertainment companies are seeing challenges as varied as they are. While the telecommunications industry is working hard to keep people connected, the media industry has seen demand increase as people look for news and entertainment, and the video game industry has also experienced a large spike in usage as more people are staying home. We are working with some of the largest news agencies and game publishers so that people can stay informed and have some fun during this challenging time.

Telecommunications providers are leveraging our technology to deliver services as seamlessly as possible. For example, Vodafone is using GCP to analyze both network traffic and traffic prioritisation to direct bandwidth to users that need it most.

In media, we helped the broadcast team at Yahoo Finance transition 150 reporters, producers, anchors and technicians from a legacy TV studio to a 100 percent work from home model overnight. Within the span of a few hours, our team worked with them to set up a seamless eight hours of live broadcast, via Google Meet, on air from locations across the U.S. and London, providing people with critical news and information in this particularly uncertain time.

In gaming, Unity Technologies, which recently partnered with the World Health Organization (WHO) on a new #PlayApartTogether initiative, has seen player demand for online games significantly increase due to COVID-19 social distancing mandates. Despite these huge spikes in gaming activity, Unity’s Multiplay server hosting solution has so far not seen any downtime. Unity's partnership with Google Cloud has helped them ensure real-time online games stay up and running and continue to deliver great player experiences, regardless of demand surges.

Looking ahead

Although we’re all facing an extraordinary moment of uncertainty, I’m proud to report that at Google Cloud, we’re prepared—we’ve activated remote customer service agents and our enhanced support protocol for peak periods, we’ve detailed plans to manage our capacity and supply chain, and we’ve rigorously tested the resilience of our infrastructure and processes. All of these preparations have been put in place to ensure we can best support our customers during a time like this.

We’ll continue to work tirelessly on these and other initiatives to support our users, customers, and communities in this time of need. I’m so grateful to the many extraordinary Cloud Googlers that have worked so hard to provide so many capabilities for our customers.

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