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Google announces $18M COVID fund for India, including $15M in Ad Grants

On Monday, Google announced INR 135 crore (US$18 million) funding for India to aid its fight against COVID-19 as the number of cases in the country continue to surge. However, a significant sum of the funding — INR 112 crore ($15 million) — is offered as Google Ad Grants.

The company’s philanthropic arm, Google.org, has pledged two grants to GiveIndia and UNICEF, totalling INR 20 crore ($2.6 million). This includes INR 3.7 crore ($500,000) from an active employee contribution campaign, where over 900 Google employees have shown their support.

Google’s Ad Grant for public health information campaigns, which also makes for a big chunk of the entire funding at $15 million, will be offered to local health authorities and nonprofits. The Ad Grant can be used to run ads on Google Search, Youtube and other platforms on the Google Ads network.

While any form of help during this crisis is a boon for the people of India, Google’s announcement seems more like a PR exercise, even though it isn’t entirely that.

Google’s INR 135 crore fund grants a cumulative sum of INR 20 crore to the two aforementioned organisations working to provide on-ground support, which isn’t a bad number by any means and would go some way to resolve the crisis. But the way the company has framed the announcement — with more than 80% funds in Grant Ads — it looks and feels like a PR exercise more than anything else.

Information is arguably one of the more important pieces of the puzzle in resolving the situation in India, but the country is facing an acute shortage of medical supplies, and in such a scenario, a fund majorly geared towards addressing the shortage would’ve been better received.

The announcement also says that Google has collaborated with the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to work towards the vaccine awareness initiative.

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