Urges US firms to help with their expertise, cash and resources in a coordinated way.
Witnessing the “heartbreaking” Covid-19 crisis in India amid a deadly second wave, Google’s Indian American CEO Sundar Pichai would like other US companies to also come forward to help in a coordinated way.
“India deserves our attention right now,” Pichai told CNN Wednesday discussing how his company is responding and what others can similarly do to lend support.
Pichai, who became head of Google’s parent company Alphabet in 2019, and Microsoft’s Indian American CEO Satya Nadella publicly pledged Monday to help battle the surge of coronavirus cases.
“The situation there is dire, and it’s been heartbreaking to see. I think the worst is yet to come,” he said on witnessing the unfolding crisis in India from afar.”
“Being here, seeing the attention here, I realize at the highest levels from President (Joe) Biden, Secretary (of State Antony) Blinken — there’s been focus on seeing how we can help India and the other countries being affected.”
“From our side, we really focused on providing the most helpful information,” he said noting there are 600 million people connected to the internet and they’re looking for information about vaccine and testing.
“So working with the Ministry of Health in India, making sure we can get the right information on the ground has been a big focus for us.”
“As for us partnering with NGOs and public health organizations to get the messaging out,” Pichai said, “It’s important that people are able to stay home and mask and stay safe. So we’re helping get the message out in partnership.”
Other companies can similarly take their expertise where they “can and being ready to help in a coordinated way is going to be helpful,” he said. “The second, it’s very possible to provide cash and other resources to organizations on the ground I think can make a big difference.”
Asked about vaccine supply and a possible intellectual property waiver, Pichai said he was more involved in the conversations around providing raw materials, supply access so India can begin manufacturing its vaccines.
READ: Sundar Pichai, Satya Nadella rushing aid to covid-hit India (April 26, 2021)
“I’m not familiar enough around the issues around IP to weigh in on them” he said. “I was encouraged by the AstraZeneca doses to India.
“This pandemic will involve us tackling it globally. The US, we’re very fortunate. We need to work hard to make sure we can get access to vaccine supply around the world as soon as possible,” Pichai said.
On Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s handling of the pandemic, Pichai said, “If you look around the world, Covid has been humbling in the sense that, when you think you’re on top of it, there can be a surge back.”
“I think encouraging good public safety measures and paying attention to crisis is the only thing you can do in the short term. That’s the effort I’m seeing,” he said adding, “As a company, we stand by ready to help.”
Commenting on recent take-down requests from the Modi government over critical pandemic posts on Twitter, Facebook, Pichai said, “Normally we do comply with local laws, particularly in democratic countries which through their norms and processes have passed laws.”
“I think one of India’s strengths is a deeply rooted democratic tradition, based in freedom of expression and allowing for diversity of viewpoints,” he said. “That’s a strength.”
“We haven’t had any requests,” Pichai said, In the past we’ve been able to work constructively with governments around the world, and we’ll continue that approach here.”
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