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Verizon bails on RSA: How the coronavirus is disrupting tech conferences worldwide


Verizon is the latest to withdraw from the RSA conference in San Francisco as tech trade shows around the globe are impacted by novel coronavirus (COVID-19). Here’s what you need to know.

Coronavirus: How companies can handle employee travel
CDC defines exposure risk for airplane travelers, and firms encourage working from home for people who have been traveling in China.

It started last week when GSMA cancelled Mobile World Congress in Barcelona after a massive exodus of exhibitors. Then, Facebook pulled out of its Global Marketing Summit scheduled for San Francisco early next month. Now, there are daily announcements of companies pulling out of conferences or trade shows being postponed or cancelled. 

The cancellations are due to fear of novel coronavirus (COVID-19). There are almost 75,000 people infected with the new coronavirus and it’s killed more than 2,100. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued new advisories for travelers going to Hong Kong and Japan and recommends that travelers avoid all nonessential travel to China. The CDC has now confirmed 34 cases of novel coronavirus in the US, including 21 cases among repatriated individuals, as well as 13 US cases. The latest case in the US is an individual in Humboldt County, Calif.

SEE: Coronavirus having major effect on tech industry beyond supply chain delays (free PDF) (TechRepublic)  

No one wants to be around large groups of people with the risk of transmitting the coronavirus a real possibility or, at the very least, a real fear. As a result, trade shows are cancelling as major exhibitors are pulling out. Here’s the latest roundup. 

Tech conferences that have cancelled

GSMA, which produces MWC, announced on February 12 that it was cancelling the event in Barcelona. It was scheduled to take place Feb. 24-27 in Barcelona and normally attracts more than 100,000 visitors and is the largest show in the world focusing on mobile devices. 

“With due regard to the safe and healthy environment in Barcelona and the host country today, the GSMA has cancelled MWC Barcelona 2020 because the global concern regarding the coronavirus outbreak, travel concern and other circumstances, make it impossible for the GSMA to hold the event,” said John Hoffman, CEO of GSMA Limited, in a press statement. The show was cancelled after tech giants such as LG, Sony, Nvidia, ZTE, Ericsson, Amazon and Intel pulled out of the show.Cisco Systems cancelled Cisco Live Melbourne, scheduled for March 3-6 in Melbourne, Australia, saying in a statement, “Due to ongoing concerns about the current outbreak of Coronavirus, Cisco has made the difficult decision to cancel Cisco Live Melbourne…Our customers, partners and employees are our top priority and we strongly believe this is the right decision given the current circumstances. Our thoughts are with those directly impacted by this situation.”

Facebook cancelled a Global Marketing Summit slated for San Francisco on March 9-12. In a statement, the company said, “Out of an abundance of caution, we canceled our Global Marketing Summit due to evolving public health risks related to coronavirus.”

SEE: Coronavirus kills MWC, IBM withdraws from RSA: What about Kaspersky’s Security Analyst Summit? (ZDNet)

Tech conferences with exhibitors pulling out

RSA, which runs from Feb. 24-28 in San Francisco, is still scheduled to take place. But IBM, AT&T and Verizon have withdrawn, citing concerns over the coronavirus. In all, fourteen companies, including six from China, have opted out of the event due to coronavirus concerns, according to ZDNet’s Natalie Gagliordi.

There are more than 40,000 people expected in the San Francisco Bay area this weekend for the start of RSA, but Verizon’s cancellation today leaves the event’s future in question if additional exhibitors bail on the show.

IBM posted on Twitter, “The health of IBMers is our primary concern as we continue to monitor upcoming events and travel relative to Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19).” AT&T cancelled yesterday. Verizon is the latest to cancel plans to attend RSA, announcing today that they will not exhibit at the show.

RSA has added several new health and safety measures as a result of the coronavirus risk, such as wiping down shuttle bus arm rests and registration counters. 

The Game Developers Conference, scheduled for March 16-20 in San Francisco, will continue as planned, but the approximately 10 exhibitors from China have all cancelled, and so have all China-based attendees. Facebook has also pulled out of the conference. There will be enhanced cleaning measures in place to protect the health of attendees.

Tech conferences that have changed formats

Salesforce World Tour Sydney has gone from an in-person conference to an online-only event on March 4. “Nothing is more important than the health and safety of our stakeholders. Over the last few months, we have been closely monitoring the evolving situation with the COVID-19 Coronavirus outbreak to ensure we are taking every precaution to look after our customers, partners, and employees,” the company posted on its website. “After careful consideration of our stakeholders and reflection on our values, we’ve decided to change the format of our World Tour in person event on Wednesday 4 March to be an online experience.” 

Tech conferences that have been postponed

EmTech Asia has been postponed from March 24-36 in Singapore, to August 4-5. The organizers of the international technology summit said they decided to postpone the event due to concerns over the coronavirus.

Black Hat Asia, originally scheduled for March 31 to April 3 in Singapore, has been postponed until September 29-October 2. The website has a notice, “After careful consideration of the health and safety of our attendees and partners, we have made the difficult decision to postpone Black Hat Asia 2020 due to the coronavirus outbreak. We understand the inconvenience this may cause and will follow up directly with all of those who are scheduled to attend and exhibit to determine appropriate next steps.”

Tech conferences with no changes, yet

SXSW, in Austin, Texas from March 13-22, is still on as scheduled. The conference include various programming tracks including music, art, film and technology. The conference organizers have included links to coronavirus information for attendees with questions.  

This list will be updated as new information is available.

This article was updated on February 21, 2020.

Also see 

Corona Virus In Red Background - Microbiology And Virology Concept - 3d Rendering

Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto



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