The Great East Japan earthquake that happened on 11 March 2011 hit an unprecedented 9.0 on the Richter scale and damaged vital lines of communication between disaster regions, throwing the whole nation into turmoil. “We were shocked and saddened by the images and reports coming from Japan. It was a human tragedy on a massive scale," said Mr Akhtar Badshah, Senior Director, Global Community Affairs, Microsoft.
A mere day after the disaster struck, Microsoft wanted to reopen these lines of communication to help deliver support to both survivors and volunteers alike. Its long-standing relationships with Non-Profit Organizations (NPOs) helped pave the way to re-establish lines of contact for over 150,000 victims of the quake and relief personnel working to help in the disaster. The Microsoft Disaster Response team formed a response plan that was implemented in two phases: 1) focusing on providing logistical help to volunteer centers, and 2) providing logistical support to evacuation centers.
Microsoft Japan called out to the industry to participate in this relief effort and 27 partners joined the initiative. This marked the launch of the “Information and Communications Technology Caravan” or ICT Caravan. The ICT Caravan ensured that PCs arrived ready-made. This meant that the hardware, software and network requirements were already installed in Tokyo before they reached Tohoku. Approximately 3,000 PCs were delivered to volunteers and the evacuees themselves.
Two key Microsoft technologies were utilized to support the disaster relief effort; the first being Office 365 SharePoint®. This cloud-based collaboration software gave volunteers in different and remote locations an easy and reliable way to deposit, share and communicate information. The other technology utilized was Microsoft Lync™. This allowed volunteers to liaise in real-time – making the speed and extent of help more immediate, through instant messaging, voice communications and even audio, video and web conferencing.
Volunteers were very impressed with the support provided by both Microsoft and Microsoft partners. A volunteer from Tono City shared his personal sentiments, that “these personal computers were actually saving lives by helping volunteers communicate and identify evacuation centers that urgently needed food and water.” At the end of the relief exercise, the collaborative effort between the industry and NPOs helped survivors get back on their feet and reconnect with the world through the use of technology.
The ICT Caravan’s actions eventually evolved into a larger movement of industry collaboration, which was sponsored by the Japan Electronics and Information Technology Industry Association (JEITA).
“…these personal computers were actually saving lives by helping volunteers communicate and identify evacuation centers that urgently needed food and water. ” - volunteer from Tono City
For more information, please visit, http://www.microsoft.com/ja-jp/citizenship/challenge/npo/disasterrelief.aspx#1 http://www.facebook.com/ictcaravan?ref=ts
“Serving the community” was the theme of Microsoft China’s Day of Caring events that took place this year in Beijing, Guangzhou, Hong Kong and Shanghai. With close to 1000 participants, the events aimed to give back to the community through numerous activities.
In Beijing, about 830 Microsoft volunteers took part in serving the local community. Some visited migrant schools or nonprofit organizations where volunteers and residents alike participated in various activities such as designing postcards, making jewelry and writing calligraphy. More than 100 migrant children and 18 friends in wheelchairs were also invited to the Microsoft China office where they experienced the latest Microsoft inventions, interacted with Xbox 360 + Kinect™ and used Windows® 7 to practice their English. The children also learned how to take, edit and organize photos, and create PowerPoint® presentations. The wheelchair-bound friends even played Tai Chi Softball with volunteers in the MS office. Moreover, more than 1,800 participants, including 533 Microsoft staff, Executive Committee members and their families attended the following Family Day. They contributed their time and raised funds for migrant children in China.
“Through the Day of Caring, we hope to let more youths experience cutting-edge scientific and technological knowledge and nurture their passion for the world, so that they can become future leaders in innovation,” said Dr Zhang Yaqin, the Corporate Vice President of Microsoft.
At Guangzhou, a Microsoft Multimedia Library was officially opened in a rural elementary school. Furnished with computers, TV sets and more than 530 books, it attracted Microsoft staff, their families, volunteers and government leaders. Students tried their hands at the new computers, played games and learned how to create origami.
Fifty volunteers from Microsoft Hong Kong, with the support of local non-governmental organization (NGO) Hong Kong Society for Age, visited four senior citizen centers to impart basic Internet skills. The senior citizens were shown how to set up their own Hotmail® accounts and use the Microsoft Network (MSN) video chat, helping them communicate with their families through the Internet.
The event called “A Walking Egg”, held in Shanghai, made the most waves throughout the four regions. A collaborative effort between MSN China and Shanghai United Foundation, a local NGO, this was a walkathon that raised funds for children in rural areas. Out of the thousand people who attended the fund-raiser, 249 participants managed to complete the entire 50 km distance, and a total of RMB$32,016 was donated, which bought 67,270 eggs for the children. More than 40 MSN and Microsoft volunteers took part in this great event.
“Microsoft’s ‘Day of Caring’ is an important part of our corporate culture. We work closely with the government and the community, so as to promote the spirit of volunteerism and contribute to the growth of a harmonious society,” said Dr Liang Nianjian, Chairman and CEO, Microsoft Greater China Region.
“Microsoft’s ‘Day of Caring’ is an important part of our corporate culture. We work closely with the government and the community, so as to promote the spirit of volunteerism and contribute to the growth of a harmonious society.” - Dr Liang Nianjian, Chairman and CEO, Microsoft Greater China Region
For more information, please visit, http://www.microsoft.com/china/mscorp/citizenship.mspx
As part of the Maternal Health Service on Mobile (MHSM) project implemented by Datamation Foundation Trust in India, Microsoft India partnered with OneWorld South Asia (OWSA) to develop an SMS toolkit that would allow pregnant and lactating women to send and receive SMSs from a computer or laptop cost-effectively. The localized SMSs are in Hindi and contain information related to maternal and child health.
Due to several factors such as the lack of awareness about mother and child care practices, India has one of the world’s worst infant and maternal mortality rates. This has led to the initiative to deliver health information through mobile technology, which is available to most of the Indian communities.
The project commenced in two districts of Northern Indian state Uttar Pradesh and has benefitted more than 1000 pregnant and lactating women. Through an extensive community mobilization drive, women were registered for the MHSM service manually on the Content Management System (CMS), along with details such as the month of pregnancy or pregnancy complications. Thereafter, they would receive at least two customized messages every week, which provides them with medical advice and reminders on pre-natal care or post-natal care.
“The SMSs gave me useful tips such as the various vaccinations I need during the course of my pregnancy. I took all the advice seriously and managed to deliver a very healthy baby,” said Bilja, a 23 year-old beneficiary.
The health information provided by the service allowed the families of the targeted women to be in a better position to take care of the beneficiaries. An added benefit was that the health workers and officials who were part of the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) scheme were able to provide relevant, timely and customized health information, allowing them to monitor the beneficiaries more effectively.
“Prior to using this service, I felt very weak during my pregnancy. After my husband encouraged me to monitor the diet chart sent via the SMS alerts, I started to eat iron-rich food. Now, I feel more energetic and healthy,” said Mamta Devi, 29 years.
Following this pilot experience in India, the best practices from the project may be used to develop other projects in areas and countries, where high maternal mortality rates prevail.
“The SMSs gave me lots of useful tips such as the various vaccinations I need during the course of my pregnancy. I took all the advice seriously and managed to deliver a very healthy baby.”
- Bilja, Beneficiary
- Bilja, Beneficiary
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