The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has forced us to radically reorganize our lives — from practicing “social distancing” to working remotely to shifting whole systems of K-12 education and universities from the classroom to the internet.
Online platforms like Zoom and Skype have become basic necessities in this time.
As the rest of the stock market has tanked, losing a third of its value in the last month, the fortunes of Zoom and its founder, Eric Yuan, have soared. Zoom stock is up 42 percent and Yuan has witnessed a personal increase of $2 billion in net worth since January. In contrast, the world’s richest ten individual have had an average loss of $5.32 billion (a combined $53.2 billion).
Zoom founder Yuan is now, according to Bloomberg, ranked as one of the top 500 richest people in the world — Bloomberg placed him at 207 as of March 20 on its Billionaire Index. We can reasonably expect for his position to continue to rise as the landscape of work, and potentially education, changes within the next few years through the increased use of video for remote meetings and collaboration.
Undoubtedly, the pandemic has reminded us of the importance of both the internet and video conferencing to both our daily lives and the economy. It has allowed those with the ability to work from home to continue to remain productive and enabled us to communicate with our friends and families irrespective of their location.
The question then arises: should vital digital technologies like the internet and Zoom remain privately for-profit delivered services, or should they be brought under popular democratic control?