Bringing communities closer as the COVID-19 crisis continues
Previously, I shared some of the ways Amazon Web Services (AWS) customers are helping healthcare professionals and business owners meet urgent needs during the COVID-19 crisis. As we all continue to do our part to maintain social distancing and slow the spread of infection, AWS customers are also supporting local communities, where their actions are critical to safeguarding people's well-being and sense of connection to their neighbors. These organizations are innovating in the cloud to help ease some of the strain associated with social distancing and provide services that keep local communities vibrant, healthy, and engaged. Here are some of their stories.
The need to continue social distancing has challenged many local businesses to adjust how they operate. It’s also created new opportunities for those that have learned to adapt. AWS powers a number of organizations that are facilitating high-volume takeout and delivery of essential items while providing job opportunities to people who might otherwise be out of work.
Instacart, together with more than 25,000 local retail partner stores across North America, is helping Americans reliably get their groceries and household essentials at a time when some feel their risk of infection makes it unsafe to leave the house. Instacart has more than doubled the size of the paid shopper community it employs to reach 500,000 shoppers, and plans to bring on an additional 250,000 shoppers.
To provide safe services during the COVID-19 pandemic, Instacart has introduced more than 15 product and safety features such as "Leave at My Door" delivery and mobile checkout for shoppers. Powered by AWS, Instacart has seen order volume grow more than 500 percent year-over-year in 2020.
Behind the scenes, Instacart is working closely with AWS to tune and scale its cloud architecture. These updates ensure customers can continue to rely on the service, and help Instacart continue to provide a safe, flexible, and immediate earnings opportunity for paid shoppers.
At a time when so many people are depending on the dedication and expertise of front-line workers, we can't forget that those workers also need help coping with the stress of the pandemic and managing their own lives. The company Happytal has created a new platform in an effort to support healthcare professionals who test and treat COVID-19 patients around the clock.
In normal times, Happytal runs a concierge service for hospital patients in France. During the COVID-19 crisis, it is also working to improve quality of life for healthcare professionals. With technical support from AWS, Happytal developed a new web platform called "Happyhéros" specifically for doctors and nurses to easily access local services such as daycare, grocery shopping, meal delivery, transportation, and hotel accommodations.
Happyhéros includes companies that offer their services at reduced cost (or even for free) during this period and those that provide priority access to healthcare professionals and other caregivers. In addition, anyone can use the platform to leave messages of thanks and support to caregivers to boost their morale.
COVID-19 has made it harder for people to interact in the same ways they used to. In response, organizations around the world are using AWS to come up with alternatives to help communities sustain bonds while practicing social distancing. They're enabling people to rekindle personal and faith connections online and helping community members pitch in to support others.
Although many neighbors are finding ways to spend time with each other during the pandemic—sharing socially distanced get-togethers in driveways and parks or celebrating birthdays with drive-by parades—other prized aspects of community life like yard sales and play dates are harder to recreate. In Germany, AWS customer Nebenan.de is trying to make those activities easier, providing a platform to help neighbors connect on shared interests, help out with tasks, and buy, sell, or donate goods.
Using Nebenan.de, neighbors can volunteer to take care of gardens for senior citizens, extend a virtual hand to individuals who are isolated, or sign up for a virtual game night with nearby families.
Religious services are a fundamental part of many communities, offering neighbors regular opportunities to connect with each other and spend time rekindling their faith. While necessary precautions from the pandemic have caused places of worship to temporarily close their doors, many congregations are turning to online services.
AWS customer Kerkdienstgemist.nl in The Netherlands streams live and recorded church services to connect congregations across the country. This gives people access to content from nearly 1,600 churches and offers more than 130,000 recorded services on demand for no fee.
Emergencies can bring out the best in humanity, and the pandemic has been no exception as people look for ways to help those in need while following social distancing guidelines. AWS customers have put together events and mechanisms to raise funds for charities, heighten awareness for causes, show support for people working on the front-lines, and volunteer their talents to help with COVID-19 response.
The stress of disrupted school years, scrapped summer plans, and fewer opportunities to visit with friends can make families anxious. For many young people, time spent on social networks offers an outlet to not only learn about current events like the pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement, but also add their voices to the response.
Snap Inc.'s Snapchat platform lets people express themselves using photos, videos, and augmented reality lenses. These features allow Snapchat users to get creative in the way they maintain social and emotional connections with close friends while practicing social distancing.
Snap has rapidly scaled its platform on AWS over the past few months to stay ahead of surging user demand. "Snapchatters" are finding important information on the platform—including content from media and public health organizations on how to remain safe, as well as opportunities to donate to COVID-19 relief efforts such as the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund for the World Health Organization.
Snapchat has also added a new feature called "Here For You," a collection of safety resources from local experts that appear when users search for certain topics. Some of these topics include depression, stress, grief, suicidal thoughts, and bullying, as well as anxiety related to COVID-19.
The societal impacts of the pandemic are compounded when people forced out of work require assistance, but discover that many critical support services are having difficulty meeting current needs. For instance, thousands of food pantries, shelters, and nonprofits are currently experiencing volunteer shortages. In response, social impact company, VOMO, has made its AWS-powered volunteer management platform free and accessible to any organization mobilizing volunteers during the COVID-19 crisis.
Using VOMO's technology, organizations can coordinate volunteering efforts and issue calls for assistance to a national volunteer registry. The VOMO network includes more than 1,000 organizations.
Communities are stronger when all of their members thrive. Several AWS customers are running applications and services to address the physical and mental health care needs of individuals. These companies are providing advice on ways to support others and sharing ideas to help bring neighbors closer together.
Parents juggling work, family, and schooling obligations can feel especially stressed and sometimes unprepared to keep their families afloat. Visual discovery engine, Pinterest, has become an online haven for many parents by providing ideas for people around the world to stay active.
Pinterest's "Stay Safe, Stay Inspired" collection of content blends instructions for do-it-yourself masks with information and guidance from the World Health Organization and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The feature also offers at-home workouts, recipes, self-care tips, activities for toddlers, and more.
Pinterest has identified trends in how "Pinners" seek to remain active and creative as they stay safe at home, including hosting virtual sleepovers, rejuvenating outdoor spaces, and setting up chalk obstacle courses. Throughout the pandemic, Pinterest has scaled its platform on AWS to meet the demands of record audience engagement.
WE CARE Community Services
The disruption and uncertainty of the past several months has left many people feeling anxious and disconnected, without an idea of where to turn for help. For addicts especially, the temporary closure of support services can put their mental health at risk at a time when they urgently need support. In Singapore, the volunteer-staffed addiction recovery center WE CARE Community Services is helping people connect with counselors remotely via video chat while in-person sessions are limited. The center uses Amazon Connect—AWS's cloud-based contact center technology—to scale its services.
WE CARE provided 900 hours of counseling sessions between January and May 2020, double the amount from the same period the previous year. Moving forward, WE CARE plans to continue leveraging Amazon Connect to extend its services to people who cannot travel to the center for counseling.
The past several months have been anything but normal, but our common desire for human connection has remained unchanged as we navigate the situation in which we live. Here at AWS, it's an honor to help our customers provide tools that keep neighborly bonds strong, help local businesses get through this time of hardship, and empower individuals to remain healthy and positive.