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By the numbers: How COVID-19 changed tech this week

It was a good week for telemedicine and robots, a bad week for ride-hailing, and a good and bad week for Jeff Bezos.

A teacher at a computer

Only a quarter of Americans think conversations held over video-conferencing are as productive as in-person meetings, according to a recent Pew survey.

Photo: Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

They aren't all bad, just mostly bad. Here are 15 numbers that jumped out at us this week as the COVID-19 pandemic upended the technology industry.

27%

Don't mention it to the WFH enthusiasts, but that's the percentage of Americans who think the digital connections popular during the pandemic are as effective as in-person contact, per a Pew survey conducted in mid-March. The survey underscored the country's digital divide amid the outbreak, with 46% of college graduates reporting that they've used video calling or conferencing to attend a work meeting, compared to 11% of those who've never attended college.

$14 billion

That's the drop in Airbnb's internal valuation, to $26 billion, as the short-term rental company watches bookings plummet ahead of a planned IPO, according to the Financial Times.

86%, 75%

That's the reduction in visits in Manhattan and San Francisco, respectively, to shops, restaurants, theaters and other entertainment venues between January and late March. That's according to Google's new Community Mobility Reports that tap into location data — anonymously, the company says — in a bid to help policymakers. The reports can be customized by country, state and county.

33

This is the number of guests who could wait out coronavirus together as a group at Harbor, the two-month COVID-19 retreat villa envisioned by Callision CEO Jay Jideliov.

63%

That's the surge in requests for warehouse bots from Take Fetch Robotics since February, as COVID-19 accelerates the transition to automation.

$100 million

That's the amount in grants and ad buys pledged by Facebook to help battered media outlets, which have seen surging readership but plunging ad spending in recent weeks. Many news publishers nurture a tense relationship with Facebook, accusing it and Google of siphoning off digital ad revenue. New York Times media columnist Ben Smith, whose ex-employer BuzzFeed is cutting pay temporarily, handed out a harsh prescription: "The time is now to make a painful but necessary shift: Abandon most for-profit local newspapers, whose business model no longer works, and move as fast as possible to a national network of nimble new online newsrooms. That way, we can rescue the only thing worth saving about America's gutted, largely mismanaged local newspaper companies — the journalists."

50%+

This is the plunge in ride-hailing business for Uber and Lyft, compared to a year ago, according to The Information.

7%

That's how much Microsoft stock gained Monday, after it released what turned out to be a misleading statement about exploding demand for its services.

1, $100 million

That's the number of employees fired by Amazon after a strike at the company's Staten Island warehouse this week, and the amount Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos subsequently said he donated to Feeding America, a nationwide network of food banks and soup kitchens. The firing of strike organizer Chris Smalls — the company said he violated coronavirus safety precautions — attracted the attention of New York Attorney General Letitia James, who said she was considering legal options. Oh, and Vice reported that Bezos was present at a meeting during which executives discussed a PR strategy of focusing attention on Smalls, calling him "not smart or articulate."

621%

That's the increase in the use of telemedicine software in March, per Pendo.

700%, 294%

Those are the jumps in job listings for warehousing and in-store shopping, respectively, seen on ZipRecruiter, even as numerous tech companies do layoffs and furloughs, prompting concern about a broader shift to lower-paying opportunities.

0

This is how many times people actually should be touching payment screens while buying groceries at the store, say card providers who've stopped requiring signatures in recent years. The Wall Street Journal reports the problem is that some stores "actually do want signatures, viewing them as a way to improve security. And many stores just haven't updated their payment terminals."

People

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Expensify CEO David Barrett has thoughts on what it means for tech CEOs to claim they act apolitically.

Photo: Expensify

The Trump presidency ends tomorrow. It's a political change in which Expensify founder and CEO David Barrett played a brief, but explosive role.

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Amazon’s head of Alexa Trust on how Big Tech should talk about data

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Anne Toth, Amazon's director of Alexa Trust, has been working on tech privacy for decades.

Photo: Amazon

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Last August she took on a new job as the director of Alexa Trust, leading a big team tackling a big question: How do you make people feel good using a product like Alexa, which is designed to be deeply ingrained in their lives? "Alexa in your home is probably the closest sort of consumer experience or manifestation of AI in your life," she said. That comes with data questions, privacy questions, ethical questions and lots more.

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Photo: IBM Research

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Photo: Alex Tai/Getty Images

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Issie Lapowsky (@issielapowsky) is a senior reporter at Protocol, covering the intersection of technology, politics, and national affairs. Previously, she was a senior writer at Wired, where she covered the 2016 election and the Facebook beat in its aftermath. Prior to that, Issie worked as a staff writer for Inc. magazine, writing about small business and entrepreneurship. She has also worked as an on-air contributor for CBS News and taught a graduate-level course at New York University’s Center for Publishing on how tech giants have affected publishing. Email Issie.
Protocol | Enterprise

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Joe Williams is a senior reporter at Protocol covering enterprise software, including industry giants like Salesforce, Microsoft, IBM and Oracle. He previously covered emerging technology for Business Insider. Joe can be reached at JWilliams@Protocol.com. To share information confidentially, he can also be contacted on a non-work device via Signal (+1-309-265-6120) or JPW53189@protonmail.com.

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