The day to day operations of NGOs can be challenging, especially when disasters strike. To help NGOs improve operations, Microsoft hosted a series of workshops under the Connecting Communities forum aimed at building their Information Technology (IT) capabilities. The most recent forum took place in Christchurch on 29 February and was co-organized by the Social Development Partners. Over 100 NGO representatives attended.
One by one, participants take the stage to share real life IT lessons.
At the forum, cloud technology was a key motif, and discussed as the way forward for NGOs. When the 2010 earthquake destabilized Christchurch’s telecommunications infrastructure, NGOs such as the Children Cancer Foundation (CCF) suffered. Luckily, the CCF was already operating on a cloud platform prior to the earthquake and had experience using Microsoft® SharePoint® Online, Microsoft® Exchange Online and Microsoft® Lync®. With access to the web, they were able to tap on these Microsoft technologies to add virtual offices to their network of 22 branches, and continue to assist families from remote locations.
Other NGOs like the Citizens’ Advice Bureau (CAB), an organization that helps promote positive social change among citizens, also benefited from the cloud. The CAB had recently completed New Zealand’s largest Customer Relationship Management (CRM) deployment. However, it had two of its Christchurch bureaus red-stickered after the major earthquake –flagged as architecturally unsound buildings that needed to be checked by engineers first before staff could work there again. To remedy this, the CAB redirected calls from that location to other bureaus all within a matter of days. This would not have been possible without the use of cloud computing.
A similar story took place at the Christchurch Women’s Refuge. With just 10 full-time staff, all they had was an in-house server, hardware and various software versions of Microsoft® Office with no remote email access or shared calendars. Their building was red-stickered, and the only way to revive operations was to go back to the danger zone to retrieve the physical equipment and set up temporary offices. However, sporadic power shortages disrupted work productivity. And to Christine Wallace, the Office Manager at the Christchurch Women’s Refuge, this was a sign to switch to a more accessible IT infrastructure. She shared, “We are now considering other major projects such as moving our database to the cloud, collaborating and data-sharing with partners and moving to a paperless office scenario.”
With the help of cloud computing, these organizations were transformed from being offline to optimized. For the non-profit sector, the benefits cannot be more important as human lives are at stake.
“We are now considering other major projects such as moving our database to the cloud, collaborating and data-sharing with partners and moving to a paperless office scenario.”- Christine Wallace, Office Manager at the Christchurch Women’s Refuge
On 27 January, Microsoft Singapore, together with the Institute of Technical Education (ITE), launched the Authorized Prometric Testing Centre (APTC) for Microsoft certification, making ITE the first Post-Secondary Education Institution to host the facility. The APTC was officially opened at the ITE College East by Ms Jessica Tan, Managing Director, Microsoft Singapore, and Mr Bruce Poh, Director and CEO, ITE.
Mr Sukhdev Singh, Regional Sales Director, Microsoft Learning, Microsoft Asia Pacific; Mr Bruce Poh, Director and CEO, ITE; Ms Jessica Tan, Managing Director, Microsoft Singapore.
The APTC will be open to ITE students and the public to take the globally-recognized Microsoft certification. At the facility, ITE will train students to be certified in, but not limited to, Windows Server 2008 or Windows 7 certification exam. With the certification and training to build overall IT skills and capabilities, graduates can look forward to improving their employability and furthering their careers in fields such as network management, software development and systems engineering.
In addition to this, the certification will also enhance prospects of students to gain admission into local polytechnics to higher-level academic qualifications. Through the APTC, ITE will offer shorter and job-focused curriculum to meet the immediate needs of working adults seeking to upgrade their skills set. The shortened timeframe to attain the certification will enable graduates to achieve market relevant skills in a shorter time, which is a critical factor in enhancing employability in an economy that is already showing signs of a slowdown.
“For many years, Microsoft Singapore has been deeply committed to contributing to Singapore’s talent development and capacity building. By aligning these initiatives with the need for inclusive growth, we are delighted to partner with ITE to address the future employability potential of its students. We believe this long term commitment will contribute to developing a quality workforce, which will in turn be the catalyst to drive the future global competitiveness of Singapore,” said Ms Tan.
Also at the opening ceremony, Microsoft presented ITE with a cheque for S$10,000 to provide assistance to needy students to get certified with any Microsoft professional exam. It is estimated that more than 80 students will benefit from this contribution over the next 12 months. In addition, these students will also be able to purchase the Microsoft Office suite of applications at a heavily discounted price.
The APTC was established as part of the wider Education Alliance Agreement (EAA) signed between Microsoft and ITE in 2009. ITE was the first EAA partner in Singapore, joining more than 6,000 Microsoft IT Academies worldwide that provide curriculum and IT skills training to students so they can reach their academic and career potential.
Under the ITE-Microsoft Education Alliance Agreement, Microsoft will also offer internship opportunities to eligible ITE students. By doing so, students would have the opportunity to turn their knowledge and skills into actual work experience in the industry.
For ITE Alumni with the passion for entrepreneurship, Microsoft, under its Microsoft BizSpark program, would also provide software, support and visibility to help them start their business.
“ITE’s partnership with Microsoft has enabled us to leverage on an industry leader’s technology and capabilities to enhance our curriculum and improve our skills training, so that when our students graduate, their skills are relevant, they are demanded by industry and are able to add value to their employers,” said Mr Poh.
“ITE’s partnership with Microsoft has enabled us to leverage on an industry leader’s technology and capabilities to enhance our curriculum and improve our skills training, so that when our students graduate, their skills are relevant, they are demanded by industry and are able to add value to their employers.” - Mr Bruce Poh, Director and CEO, ITE
Microsoft Singapore Newscenter: http://microsoftsgnews.com/?p=439
The Royal New Zealand Plunket Society took advantage of a software and services grant from Microsoft Corporation and deployed Microsoft® Office 365 in order to improve its work processes. A non-profit organization recognized by the New Zealand Charities Commission, Plunket offers wellness support, childcare information and car seat rentals to families with children under five years old.
In the past, Plunket had access to a video conference tool that was underutilized as its staff found it difficult to use. As a result, managers were required to travel to centralized meetings from one of Plunket’s offices collectively, spending many hours and thousands of dollars on air travel annually. Moreover, Plunket faced the challenge of communicating effectively with parents, small businesses, its 1,500 frontline staff and thousands of volunteers.
After looking into cloud computing, Plunket decided to try Microsoft Office 365, a set of cloud-based applications that includes online enterprise-class email and collaboration capabilities. By leveraging Microsoft Office 365, Plunket was able to deploy nearly 700 licenses cost-effectively.
“We need to keep costs at a minimum while maximizing the level of security. The aim is to ensure that our staff and volunteers have the technology that supports their ability to help New Zealand’s children and families,” said Craig Le Quesne, General Manager of Information and Communications Technology, The Royal New Zealand Plunket Society.
Microsoft Lync® Online, the Office 365 suite’s web-based conferencing tool, proved to be the most useful tool for Plunket as it enabled staff or volunteers to communicate more effectively via video from virtually anywhere, helping to save on travel expenses.
“Being able to meet virtually allows us to accomplish so much more, and helps to keep our overhead low at the same time. With more time and money, we can now further develop Plunket’s support and volunteer programs, and empower our community to drive positive change,” said Le Quesne.
Plunket is currently leveraging both Microsoft SharePoint® Server and Lync Online to provide frontline staff with a new application called PlunketPlus. This centralized system allows nurses to record and access client information more efficiently, which aligns with Plunket’s plan to eliminate multiple, paper-based records.
“Being able to meet virtually allows us to accomplish so much more, and helps to keep our overhead low at the same time. With more time and money, we can now further develop Plunket’s support and volunteer programs, and empower our community to drive positive change.” - Craig Le Quesne, General Manager of Information and Communications Technology, The Royal New Zealand Plunket Society
Innovative educators and education leaders from 19 countries attended the 8th Microsoft Partners in Learning (Asia and Pacific) Forum, from 20 to 22 March. Held in Auckland, New Zealand, they were given the opportunity to learn, share and connect with their fellow peers from around the region.
Paul Muckleston, Managing Director, Microsoft New Zealand, opened the conference by speaking of how Microsoft’s initiatives are committed to improving the education levels among youths. It was followed by key sessions on utilizing technology to supplement today’s education. Despite facing tough but familiar challenges such as staff training and limited resources, many educators shared their experience on how they transformed the learning environment in their schools using information and communication technology (ICT) and other inventive practices.
Paul Muckleston spoke about Microsoft’s commitment to improve youth’s education levels.
During her presentation, Shirley Duthie, principal of The Hong Kong Institute of Education Jockey Club Primary School, mentioned the importance of using e-learning in her school, but faced a common challenge of limited resources while implementing the technology. She realized that demonstrating the success of using such technology internally first would improve its credibility and provide her with more resources eventually. The school is now employing Kinect™ and OneNote®-shared documents, and Duthie hopes to conduct textbook-free classes next year.
Similarly, the principal of Botony Downs Secondary College, Mike Leach, explained that the use of OneNote is very prevalent during teacher-and-student collaboration, teacher-to-teacher collaboration and executive-to-teacher collaboration. The school hopes to achieve a more effective “one-to-one” style of teaching in the future. Meanwhile, they utilize portable devices in classes, even allowing students to use their own on the school network. Placing great importance on ICT to improve student results and achievement, this is a regular agenda item at the weekly senior leadership meetings.
“It is very important to recognize our best educators, as they are the role models and the North Star that all other educators should follow. The Partners in Learning Forum provides the opportunity for the world’s best educators to come together to share ideas and best practices,” said Mark East, Worldwide General Manager of the Education Industry Group at Microsoft.
Partners in Learning is a global educational program by Microsoft, committed to transforming education systems worldwide. It provides members with access to educational experts, helps them to discover, share and scale best practices, create knowledge and collaborative communities, and understand how technology can progress their teaching and learning practices.
“The Partners in Learning Forum provides the opportunity for the world’s best educators to come together to share ideas and best practices.”- Mark East, Worldwide General Manager of the Education Industry Group, Microsoft
As part of Microsoft’s drive to help empower the next generation of thinkers and leaders, Microsoft has come on board as the main sponsor of the world’s largest change movement by students – the Design for Change (DFC) School Challenge 2011, in Singapore last September.
Running in its second year, the DFC School Challenge showcased 80 participating teams from over 30 Singapore schools. Winners of the DFC Challenge in Singapore were selected by a local panel of judges from the Singapore Children’s Society, IDEO, Ashoka Singapore, the National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre, the United Nations Association of Singapore, Microsoft Singapore and the Ministry of Education.
Winning social projects were showcased at SoCh’s annual children’s event – the Be the Change exposition on 12th November 2011, and helped to promote children’s awareness and involvement in various social and environmental issues. The DFC Singapore Challenge and the Be the Change exposition are both run by SoCh in Action – a registered social enterprise, since launching in 2010.
“Students are the future leaders of society and business. Design for Change is the first time we are supporting a competition for primary to secondary school students with similar intent. We are pleased to partner with inspirational organizations such as SoCh in Action, to encourage students to take the lead and be part of the change,” said Ms Verdayne Nunis, Central Marketing and Public Relations Group Manager for Microsoft Singapore. “The program is in line with Microsoft’s global effort to encourage our employees, customers, partners and community at large, to think ahead, and be what’s next.”
Besides sponsorship at the DFC School Challenge, Microsoft Singapore also presented a special award to the team with the most creative presentation using Microsoft software applications, aptly titled the ‘Tools for Change Award’.
The Central Community Development Council (CDC), through its Mayor’s Imagine Fund, which supports innovative initiatives or projects that champion social causes, also leant its support for the Be the Change exposition.
“Through our Mayor’s Imagine Fund, Central Singapore CDC is happy to support initiatives such as the Be the Change exposition where the young are encouraged to be the catalysts for making impactful and positive changes to the community they live in. We hope to promote a greater sense of active citizenry among younger Singaporeans, so as to encourage them to take more ownership of our community,” said Mr Mark Tan, General Manager of Central Singapore CDC.
“Students are the future leaders of society and business. Design for Change is the first time we are supporting a competition for primary to secondary school students with similar intent. We are pleased to partner with inspirational organizations such as SoCh in Action, to encourage students to take the lead and be part of the change.” - Verdayne Nunis, Central Marketing and Public Relations Group Manager, Microsoft Singapore
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