What is Big Tech Contributing to Fight COVID-19?
In the ongoing global crusade against COVID-19, everyone has a part to play. As the situation intensifies, the private sector has also been rallying to help governments and healthcare organizations cope with the situation, and U.S. tech companies are no exception.
With a combined market capitalization of over $4.7 trillion, the “FAAMG” Five—Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, and Alphabet (Google)—wield immense influence on the economy, as well as the potential to impact lives during this challenging time.
The Biggest Moves by Big Tech
In today’s data visualization, we look at the financial contributions being made by Big Tech giants in response to the pandemic. The main categories that these actions fall into are:
- Small businesses: Grants and ad credits
- Media/News: Fact-checking and grants for local news
- Healthcare: COVID-19 research and frontline support
- Relief Efforts: Public safety and non-profit donations
What is each company pledging in financial efforts to relieve the strain on those affected most by the ongoing crisis?
Many people rely on Google to find reliable news and resources during the pandemic. Google’s parent company, Alphabet, has focused its financial support towards small businesses and healthcare researchers, mainly through offering millions of dollars in advertising credits.
|Small Businesses||$340M||Google ad credits for small businesses|
|$200M||Investment fund for NGOs and financial institutions to help small businesses|
|$20M||Ad credits for NGOs and financial institutions to help small businesses|
|$15M||Cash grants to non-profits to help small businesses|
|Media/News||$6.5M||Funding offered to Google News Initiative to support media outlets and fact-checkers|
|Healthcare||$250M||Ad grants for WHO and 100+ global government agencies|
|$20M||Google Cloud credits for researchers and academic institutions|
|Relief Efforts||$5M||Donations matched for COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund, co-created by the UN Foundation and the WHO|
Google has also promised to ramp up the production of 3 million masks for the CDC Foundation. In addition, Google has partnered with Apple to create a secure and private contact-tracing tool to aid public health authorities.
Facebook is another massive platform through which information—and misinformation—spreads quickly and easily. Especially in times of crisis, the spread of poorly-vetted information can have a severe impact on our health and well-being.
To try and combat this, the company is allocating funds towards fact-checking, as well as supporting local media outlets.
|Small Businesses||$100M||Small Business Grants Program, for up to 30,000 businesses in over 30 countries|
|Media/News||$75M||Marketing to help publishers worldwide with declining ad revenues|
|$25M||Facebook Journalism Project towards emergency grant funding for local news|
|$2M||Grants and donations to fact-checking organizations e.g. International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN)|
|$1M||Grants for local news|
|Healthcare||$25M||Support for front line healthcare workers|
|Relief Efforts||$10M||Donations matched to the CDC Foundation|
|$10M||Donations matched for COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund, co-created by the UN Foundation and the WHO|
Facebook and Alphabet will together match up to $15 million in donations to the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund, which has raised over $127 million to date.
During this unprecedented era of social distancing and lockdowns, the online retailer has become almost indispensable as ecommerce shoots up. Amazon has several initiatives on the go, including help to Seattle businesses and citizens, where its operations all started.
|Small Businesses||$5.5M||Neighborhood Small Business Relief Fund for over 400 Seattle small businesses|
|$1M||COVID-19 Response Fund, providing rapid-response grants to local businesses and vulnerable communities|
|Healthcare||$20M||Amazon Web Services (AWS) Diagnostic Development Initiative to speed up COVID-19 research|
|Relief Efforts||$30M||£24.5M (US$30M) provided to European non-profit and Red Cross organizations|
|$25M||Amazon Relief Fund, dedicated to support independent delivery service partners and drivers|
|$10M||Amazon Literary Partnership, an emergency initiative for artists and writers|
|$5M||Total donated in devices globally for healthcare workers and education efforts|
|$1M||Donations matched to the non-profit Mary's Place|
|$1M||Towards emergency response efforts in Washington, D.C.|
In addition, Amazon donated 800 laptops to public schools in the Seattle area, and has raised workers’ hourly and overtime pay. In early April, CEO Jeff Bezos also donated $100 million to Feeding America, a non-profit food bank.
Technology is playing an immense role in tracking COVID-19 and the progress we’re making to end it. As a result, Microsoft is directing its financial efforts towards its AI for Health program.
|Healthcare||$20M||AI for Health initiative commitment to focus on front-lines of research|
|China-specific Relief||$6.5M||¥46M (US$6.5M) donated in cash and tech support for China’s fight against the virus|
|Relief Efforts||$1M||COVID-19 Response Fund, providing rapid-response grants to local businesses and vulnerable communities|
On top of these, Bill Gates officially stepped off the board of Microsoft in mid-March to focus on philanthropic efforts. The Gates Foundation has poured $100 million into funding for coronavirus research, and plans to pump billions more dollars into research in the coming weeks, to speed up vaccine development and manufacturing.
Finally, Apple is putting all its donations towards supporting public relief efforts, both in China and other affected parts of the world.
|Relief Efforts||$15M||Donations committed to global response efforts|
|China-specific Relief||$7M||¥50M (US$7M) donated to China’s long-term public health recovery efforts|
Further, Apple has donated 20 million masks to health workers, and aims to manufacture 1 million face shields per week.
Together, Microsoft and Apple contributed $2 million to the Seattle-based COVID-19 Response Fund, which has racked up $15.7 million in total donations to-date.
How the $1.25B Breaks Down
Looking at the information another way, how much money is flowing towards the various contribution categories?
Small businesses are the biggest beneficiaries of Big Tech’s economic relief, and understandably so—they are one of the most affected entities in the crisis. Healthcare research is also getting a boost, with funds focused on advancing potential treatments and vaccines in the pipeline, and supporting healthcare workers in the trenches of the pandemic.
|Category||Company Breakdown||Total Amount|
|Small Business||Alphabet: $575M|
|Media/ News||Facebook: $103M|
|Relief Efforts||Amazon: $72M|
|China-specific Relief||Apple: $7M|
As a majority of work and socializing migrates online, Big Tech has the most to benefit from the current situation. Their positive efforts to lend a helping hand may well be a strategy for uplifting their poor reputation in the media—but is it enough?
Some might argue that for these Big Tech companies, $1.25 billion is just a drop in the bucket. In fact, other Silicon Valley players are single-handedly matching these contributions, such as Twitter’s CEO Jack Dorsey who pledged $1 billion of his own equity towards relief efforts and education.
However, that’s also not to imply that these financial efforts are the only actions taken by the five companies in question. Many of them are building critical educational and data-driven technological solutions to help mitigate the COVID-19 situation as it unfolds.
It also goes without saying that the applications they’ve created are helping us remain connected and supported—making life in lockdown a little bit easier.
All data as of Apr 12, 2020. Many thanks to our community who sent in requests for this content.
The Top Downloaded Apps in 2022
Six of the top 10 most downloaded apps in Q1 2022 were social media apps, and four of them are owned by Meta.
The Top Downloaded Apps in 2022
Whether they’re providing a service like ride-sharing or acting as a mere source of entertainment, mobile apps have become an integral part of many peoples’ day-to-day lives.
But which apps are most popular among users?
This graphic uses data from a recent report by Sensor Tower to show the top 10 most downloaded apps around the world in Q1 2022 from the Google Play and Apple App Store.
Social Reigns Supreme
According to the report, total app downloads reached 36.9 billion in Q1 2022, a 1.4% increase compared to Q1 2021.
A majority of the top 10 most downloaded apps were social media platforms, with Meta and ByteDance owning six of the top 10.
|2||Photo and video|
|7||Snapchat||Photo and video|
|9||CapCut||Photo and video|
Meta’s four platforms on the list are Instagram, Facebook, WhatsApp, and Messenger, while ByteDance owns TikTok and video-editing platform CapCut.
Just outside the top 10 are Zoom and WhatsApp Business (yet another Meta-owned app).
TikTok’s Winding Road to the Top
In Q1 2021, TikTok exceeded 3.5 billion all-time downloads, becoming the fifth app (and the first non-Meta app) to reach this milestone. This is impressive considering the app has been banned in India as of June 2020. Prior to the ban, India accounted for 30% of TikTok’s downloads.
India’s not the only country that’s banned the use of TikTok. Pakistan has blocked TikTok multiple times because of concerns over “inappropriate” content. However, it’s worth noting that the bans in Pakistan only lasted a few days before being lifted, and currently, Pakistanis are able to access the platform.
Top 10 Highest Grossing Apps
TikTok isn’t just the most downloaded app in the world—it’s also the highest-grossing non-game app, based on Q1 2022 revenue from the App Store and Google Play:
|2||YouTube||Photo and video|
TikTok generated an impressive $821 million in consumer spending in the last quarter. The video-sharing platform was the top-grossing app on the App Store, and the second-highest-grossing on Google Play, coming just after Google One.
While none of Meta’s platforms made it onto the top 10 list for gross revenue, these platforms make a ton of money that doesn’t necessarily flow through app stores. In 2021, Meta generated more than $117.9 billion in revenue, with over 97% of that coming from ads.
Growth’s on the Horizon
The pandemic had a massive impact on the app market.
In 2020, app spending on things like premium access, in-app purchases, and subscriptions surged by 30% year-over-year to reach $111 billion.
And while COVID-19 restrictions are easing in most places around the world, app spending isn’t likely to taper off anytime soon. By 2025, spending is expected to grow to $270 billion.
Synthetic Biology: The $3.6 Trillion Science Changing Life as We Know It
The field of synthetic biology could solve problems in a wide range of industries, from medicine to agriculture—here’s how.
How Synthetic Biology Could Change Life as we Know it
Synthetic biology (synbio) is a field of science that redesigns organisms in an effort to enhance and support human life. According to one projection, this rapidly growing field of science is expected to reach $28.8 billion in global revenue by 2026.
Although it has the potential to transform many aspects of society, things could go horribly wrong if synbio is used for malicious or unethical reasons. This infographic explores the opportunities and potential risks that this budding field of science has to offer.
What is Synthetic Biology?
We’ve covered the basics of synbio in previous work, but as a refresher, here’s a quick explanation of what synbio is and how it works.
Synbio is an area of scientific research that involves editing and redesigning different biological components and systems in various organisms.
It’s like genetic engineering but done at a more granular level—while genetic engineering transfers ready-made genetic material between organisms, synbio can build new genetic material from scratch.
The Opportunities of Synbio
This field of science has a plethora of real-world applications that could transform our everyday lives. A study by McKinsey found over 400 potential uses for synbio, which were broken down into four main categories:
- Human health and performance
- Agriculture and food
- Consumer products and services
- Materials and energy production
If those potential uses become reality in the coming years, they could have a direct economic impact of up to $3.6 trillion per year by 2030-2040.
1. Human Health and Performance
The medical and health sector is predicted to be significantly influenced by synbio, with an economic impact of up to $1.3 trillion each year by 2030-2040.
Synbio has a wide range of medical applications. For instance, it can be used to manipulate biological pathways in yeast to produce an anti-malaria treatment.
It could also enhance gene therapy. Using synbio techniques, the British biotech company Touchlight Genetics is working on a way to build synthetic DNA without the use of bacteria, which would be a game-changer for the field of gene therapy.
2. Agriculture and Food
Synbio has the potential to make a big splash in the agricultural sector as well—up to $1.2 trillion per year by as early as 2030.
One example of this is synbio’s role in cellular agriculture, which is when meat is created from cells directly. The cost of creating lab-grown meat has decreased significantly in recent years, and because of this, various startups around the world are beginning to develop a variety of cell-based meat products.
3. Consumer Products and Services
Using synthetic biology, products could be tailored to suit an individual’s unique needs. This would be useful in fields such as genetic ancestry testing, gene therapy, and age-related skin procedures.
By 2030-2040, synthetic biology could have an economic impact on consumer products and services to the tune of up to $800 billion per year.
4. Materials and Energy Production
Synbio could also be used to boost efficiency in clean energy and biofuel production. For instance, microalgae are currently being “reprogrammed” to produce clean energy in an economically feasible way.
This, along with other material and energy improvements through synbio methods, could have a direct economic impact of up to $300 billion each year.
The Potential Risks of Synbio
While the potential economic and societal benefits of synthetic biology are vast, there are a number of risks to be aware of as well:
- Unintended biological consequences: Making tweaks to any biological system can have ripple effects across entire ecosystems or species. When any sort of lifeform is manipulated, things don’t always go according to plan.
- Moral issues: How far we’re comfortable going with synbio depends on our values. Certain synbio applications, such as embryo editing, are controversial. If these types of applications become mainstream, they could have massive societal implications, with the potential to increase polarization within communities.
- Unequal access: Innovation and progress in synbio is happening faster in wealthier countries than it is in developing ones. If this trend continues, access to these types of technology may not be equal worldwide. We’ve already witnessed this type of access gap during the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines, where a majority of vaccines have been administered in rich countries.
- Bioweaponry: Synbio could be used to recreate viruses, or manipulate bacteria to make it more dangerous, if used with ill intent.
According to a group of scientists at the University of Edinburgh, communication between the public, synthetic biologists, and political decision-makers is crucial so that these societal and environmental risks can be mitigated.
Balancing Risk and Reward
Despite the risks involved, innovation in synbio is happening at a rapid pace.
By 2030, most people will have likely eaten, worn, or been treated by a product created by synthetic biology, according to synthetic biologist Christopher A. Voigt.
Our choices today will dictate the future of synbio, and how we navigate through this space will have a massive impact on our future—for better, or for worse.
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