Facebook makes advanced Workplace platform free for emergency services

Facebook is making its advanced Workplace platform available to governments and emergency services for free in a bid to help those dealing with the coronavirus.

Workplace from Facebook provides connectivity and communications tools such as video conferencing, chat, groups and safety check features, built on the back of the main social network’s site.

“We believe that we’re doing the right thing for the ecosystem and that we can be helpful with organisations that need it the most right now, which are, for us, people fighting the coronavirus every day at the frontline of the fight, in situations where they have to be both productive and connected, sometimes for the very first time,” Julien Codorniou, vice president of Workplace from Facebook, told the PA news agency.

All government organisations globally, at a national or local level, as well as emergency services, including ambulance, dispatchers and law enforcement, are eligible to claim a year’s access to the advanced tier.

Asked whether the platform would be able to handle the extra demanded, Mr Codorniou added: “We know we are leveraging an infrastructure that has been built for billions of people, on Facebook, on Instagram, on Messenger, on Workplace and WhatsApp, so believe that we can take the extra load.”

Workplace is already used to support the London Fire Brigade, as well as the government of Singapore, Oslo Kommune and Ambulance Victoria in Australia.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) is also using the service to keep relevant parties informed about Covid-19.

Coronavirus
The World Health Organisation has set up a Covid-19 Workplace group (Jonathan Brady/PA)

“Thanks to Workplace, we are able to deliver real-time, essential updates to our staff on the Covid-19 outbreak,” said Carey Kyer, lead of internal communications at WHO.

“Workplace ‘ticks the box’ on our need to communicate, engage and connect real-time with our colleagues around the world, especially during this public health emergency of international concern.

“Our Covid-19 Workplace group is the second most-followed group at WHO.

“It’s become an easy-to-access channel for our staff around the world to watch the daily press briefings, staff seminars and to find resources, while providing an open forum for staff to ask questions and receive instant feedback.”

Other tech giants, including Microsoft and Google, have opened up their platforms for free to assist businesses adopting more work-from-home conditions during the coronavirus crisis.

On Monday, Microsoft Teams appeared to struggle under the added pressure, as employees logging on across Europe suffered outage issues, affecting their ability to communicate with other members of staff.

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