Special Feature
Part of a ZDNet Special Feature: Coronavirus: Business and technology in a pandemic

Intel pledges $50m to help fight COVID-19

The chip giant ups its efforts, and other tech giants have too, in the face of the global pandemic.

Intel has pledged an additional $50 million in a pandemic response technology initiative, hoping to combat COVID-19.

Included in the chip giant's initiative is accelerating access to technology at the point of patient care, speeding scientific research, and ensuring access to online learning for students. It comes in addition to prior announcements of $10 million in donations that are being used to support local communities.

"The world faces an enormous challenge in fighting COVID-19. Intel is committed to accelerating access to technology that can combat the current pandemic and enable new technology and scientific discovery that better prepares society for future crises," CEO Bob Swan said.

"We hope that by sharing our expertise, resources, and technology, we can help to accelerate work that saves lives and expand access to critical services around the world during this challenging time."

Read also: Coronavirus: From startups to supercomputers, how tech is trying to help tackle COVID-19

Approximately $40 million will fund the Intel COVID-19 Response and Readiness and Online Learning initiatives, which will provide funding to accelerate customer and partner advances in diagnosis, treatment, and vaccine development, leveraging technologies such as artificial intelligence, high-performance computing, and edge-to-cloud service delivery.

It also aims to help healthcare and life sciences manufacturers increase the availability of technology and solutions used by hospitals to diagnose and treat COVID-19.

The Intel Online Learning Initiative will support education-focused nonprofit organisations and business partners to provide students that are without access to technology, with devices and online learning resources.

Intel has also allocated up to $10 million for an innovation fund that would support requests from external partners and employee-led relief projects.

Following Dell Technologies funding materials including surgical masks, protective clothing, and eye protectors for hospitals in China, to the value of $284,000, and delivering an in-kind IT infrastructure donation valued at 6 million yuan ($853,000) to the Hubei Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in China, the company has also set aside another $3 million in funds and in-kind technology donations to "help meet the greatest needs of communities and the front-line organisations working to treat and contain COVID-19 around the world".

Michael and Susan Dell have also dedicated $100 million through the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation to support global initiatives related to COVID-19.

San Francisco's largest private employer Salesforce has said it has 2,200 open positions and is prioritising the hiring of employees' friends and family members who have lost jobs due to coronavirus.

The company has also provided personal protective equipment to healthcare workers in New York to aid the city's fight against COVID-19, as well as a handful of other measures highlighted by CEO Marc Beinoff on his twitter account.

"Landed NYC! Congrats to the salesforce PPE team for landing in NYC tonight this National Cargo 747 FULL of PPE incl goggles, face shields, & protective suits donated to New York State & @NYgovcuomo. Special thank you to partners @AlibabaGroup @alibaba_cloud & CEO Daniel Zhang," Beinoff tweeted.

See also: Join the battle against COVID-19 coronavirus using your computer

It followed Apple donating 1.9 million masks to the state of New York, with more on the way.

As one of the initiatives underway by Microsoft, the company has partnered with an Australian university to build an "AI-infused Corona Chatbot to support students with COVID-19 queries".

The University of Sydney has used Microsoft cognitive services to build the "AI-infused bot" that has been tackling between 200 and 400 individual student inquiries daily.

Microsoft said each student is typically asking two to three questions. It said the bot provides the most appropriate answer to the question and, where necessary, directs the student to further information.

Also in Australia, the country's incumbent telco Telstra announced it will aim to bridge the online learning gap by providing 20,000 disadvantaged students and teachers across the country with internet access to educational content to support their online learning.

The Department of Education and Training in Victoria is one of the first to take up Telstra's offer and will be ready to go at the start of Term 2, the telco said.

The company has also been working with national, state, and territory education leaders to roll out equipment, connectivity, and digital platforms, such as Cisco WebEx or Microsoft Teams, to enable virtual classrooms.

It follows Telstra pausing job cuts for six months and making all home broadband plans unlimited in response to coronavirus.