August, 2012

  • Microsoft Thailand Signs Education Alliance Agreement with Bangkok Governor

    On 12 June, Microsoft Thailand held a showcase event to kick off the Education Alliance Agreement between Microsoft and Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA). 

    Microsoft together with its partners, showcased Windows 8 on convertible Acer Iconia Tablet. Bangkok Governor M.R. Sukhumbhand Paribatra, and Deputy Governor Taya Teepsuwan, were able to gain first-hand experience on the best of what the Windows 8 tablet can do for education. Children from Naluang School were proud to show off what they could do with the tablet - eagerly showing all the Windows 8 apps, Microsoft education software, and even small details like the two-side cameras on the tablet.

    Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) has an initiative to pilot a tablet PC project with Grade 4 students in four different solutions (Apple iPad, 7”Android Tablet, Convertible PC, and Windows 8 Tablet) in four schools.

    Microsoft Partners in Learning worked together with our partners to implement a pilot classroom with Windows 8 Tablet at Naluang School. We received very positive feedback from students and teachers as well as guests and members of the press at the showcase. This is a strategic project with an opportunity to drive adoption of Windows 8 and the use of technology in teaching and learning for 340,000 students in 436 schools.

    This three year education alliance is part of Microsoft Thailand’s National Plan initiative which aligns with the Thai government’s national priority on human resource development.

    Follow this story at Shape the Future's Facebook page.

  • Kinect for Xbox 360 is for Everybody

    At Microsoft, we believe that interactive entertainment should be enjoyed by as many people as possible. We recognize that each person has unique abilities and not all users will be able to play all of the titles available for Kinect for Xbox 360 because of the inherent physical nature of the gameplay. A number of titles available for Kinect for Xbox 360 can be played by users with various physical and sensory impairments.

    Currently, the ability for Kinect to work with seated users is largely dependent on the actual game itself, as some games are more accommodating of seated gameplay than others. A few Kinect game titles currently available that work while seated include:

    In addition to the games above, you may want to try a title called Happy Action Theater, which is a game that can be downloaded through the Xbox Live Arcade and features several scenes in which users are featured in various environments, such as a room full of pop-able balloons or a dance club in which each player can take his or her turn in the spotlight.

    You may also have some success with some of the games within Kinect Fun Labs. Depending upon your range of motion, you may also be able to play some of the games within Kinect Sports 2, as well. I would suggest downloading the demos of any of these titles that might interest you, so that you may try them out and confirm that you are able to use them before purchasing them.

    There are unique challenges for the Kinect tracking system while a user is seated.  Here are some tips that may improve your ability to use Kinect for Xbox 360 while seated in your wheelchair:

    • Smaller wheelchairs (basic hospital-style chairs or racing chairs) work best with Kinect.
    • Shiny surfaces can cause minor problems for the Kinect infrared camera, so you may want to consider covering any reflective surfaces on the chair.
    • Ideally, the Kinect sensor should be positioned at seated chest level or slightly higher for best recognition when seated; do not have the sensor lower than seated chest level.
    • If there are any armrests on the chair that are large and protruding, try repositioning these arms out of the sensor’s view, as the sensor may mistake them for another set of arms.
    • Be sure that the room in which you are playing has adequate lighting.

    In an effort to continually improve the Kinect experience, we actively seek feedback from the accessibility community on how we can improve our Kinect and Xbox technology for all users. We continue to use this feedback as we work on future versions of Kinect technology. We have made technical improvements since Kinect technology was first released, broadening our gameplay to include some players who were previously unable to enjoy Kinect. As new technologies like Kinect for Xbox 360 become available, improvements based on feedback can be made with each new edition released.

    More information on Kinect and access can be found here. And, for more on Microsoft and accessibility, please go here.

    Please direct inquiries to our Xbox Accessibility Information email alias at xaccess@microsoft.com

  • Real Impact for a Better Tomorrow

    Technology has long been a catalyst for progress on key societal challenges around the world. The advent of cloud computing creates vast new opportunities to accelerate that progress, empowering new innovators, unleashing local economic competitiveness and extending opportunity around the world. Microsoft and its partners work closely with governments, organizations and citizens to help them fully harness the power of the cloud computing era with flexible solutions, programs and partnerships to meet local needs. The objective isn’t innovation for innovation's sake, but innovation that enables people to make a Real Impact for a Better Tomorrow in their communities, countries and around the world.

  • Bridging the Digital Divide for Hong Kong’s Underprivileged Youth

    The Church of United Brethren in Christ Social Service Division becomes the first local nonprofit organisation in Hong Kong to use Microsoft Multipoint Server for IT training.

    The Church of the United Brethren (CUBC) launched its social service division in 1984 in Hong Kong. With 70 full-time staff and 3,000 volunteers, the division provides support, development and education services to young people and their families, regardless of their faith, who face financial, social or educational challenges, helping them realise their potential. It also helps unemployed youth, and runs a Cyber Youth counselling support service.


    CUBC’s social service division has helped over 10,000 deprived individuals through educational and counselling programmes that are designed to increase skills, knowledge and just as importantly their sense of self-worth and confidence. Programmes are run from a number of service centres, some of which are set up inside Hong Kong’s disadvantaged communities. There are programmes for children with learning difficulties and leadership training for bright kids – all designed to unlock individual career potential and give them equal opportunities.

    BUSINESS NEEDS

    For CUBC, much of their teaching is either computer based or it’s about equipping young people with IT skills including social media. The organisation also relies on IT for student enrolment, course planning and to promote training activities.

    At the heart of each CUBC service centre is a computer room with up to 16 computers. However, lack of IT resources meant that computer rooms were in constant demand, and unable to offer as much access as required. Despite the fact that running and maintenance costs were increasing CUBC was challenged to scale up their programmes as many youth were looking to them to level the playing field.

    SOLUTION

    CUBC needed an efficient solution that would allow it to stretch its limited resources and cost effectively run IT training that would continue to enhance the computer knowledge and skills of growing numbers of low-income families and individuals. The solution - a Chinese version of Microsoft’s Multipoint Server operating system - was tailor-made for CUBC. A simple cost-effective way for more students and teachers to gain access to the latest technology, Microsoft Multipoint Server is designed to allow a single computer to support multiple users at the same time, each working independently using their own monitor, keyboard and mouse and with a familiar Windows computing experience. In support Microsoft also donated software such as Microsoft Office Professional 2010.

    RESULTS

    Along with improving learning and helping students prepare to compete in a digital economy, the Microsoft Multipoint Server and software system has allowed CUBC to stretch its budget, create a more attractive learning environment and better manage its operating costs. Cost savings include over 60 percent on hardware, energy and maintenance, and the same amount in efficiency improvements for IT technicians in software management, hardware maintenance and daily operations.

    Both staff and volunteers are happier and more productive because the new system is simply making it easier to manage and less time intensive to prepare for new courses and teaching programmes. With Microsoft’s donation, there were no extra costs involved in upgrading computer accessories such as keyboard, mouse and extended power cables.

    COMMUNITY IMPACT

    CUBC is the first non profit organisation in Hong Kong to introduce the Multipoint Server and it is already realising that as well as better engaging with students and empowering its volunteer, it can scale up to meet the growing needs of underprivileged youth without increasing costs or investing in more assets.

    With Microsoft’s Multipoint Server, CUBC can effectively triple the number of Windows computers without increasing budget – and that means it can provide more people with what may be their only access to a computer and help them cross the digital gap. CUBC has already been able to double the number of classes per session – and that is just the beginning.

    “We are a small NGO with limited resources but this system helps us tailor-make computer facilities (hardware and software) to meet the needs of local users. The Microsoft system has helped us provide more access to the most vulnerable in our society, to offer more services with less manpower and less cost. We can reach more people, run more classes and develop more programmes like cyber counselling and education. We want to bridge the digital gap between the poor and the well off and help them to have equal learning opportunities,” said Wong Sau Wa, service coordinator of social service division, CUBC.

    The Multipoint Sever solution adopted by CUBC underpins a successful pilot that Microsoft plans to share among its Community Technology Learning Centers (CTLC), a network of 47 centres that Microsoft Hong Kong launched in partnership with a number of nonprofits in 2003. To date, close to 600,000 people have benefited from the IT access and training from these centres, and the use of Multipoint Server will help multiply the effect.

    Project at a glance

    ORGANISATION

    The Church of United Brethren in Christ Social Service Division

    BUSINESS NEED

    An efficient and cost-effective IT suite to provide 21st century access to information technology for underprivileged youth

    SOLUTION

    Microsoft Multipoint Server OS (Chinese version), Microsoft Office Professional 2010

    RESULT

    Cost saving of 60 percent on hardware, energy and maintenance; Better and safer teaching environment

    COMMUNITY IMPACT

    Number of classes doubled so more people will benefit from the classes

    Scope for developing more and better programmes such as cyber counselling and education

     

  • Ensuring the Health of Mothers and Babies in India

    Due to the lack of awareness about mother and child care practices, India has one of the world’s worst infant and maternal mortality rates. At the same time, India also has one of the fastest growing mobile telephony markets, where the technology has become available to the most economically and socially marginalised communities. These factors have led to an initiative to deliver health information through mobile technology for an uncommon purpose: delivering actionable health information right to a mother’s hand.

    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 provide critical reproductive and child health related information services to pregnant and lactating women, their families and health workers through mobile phones, using localised SMSs in Hindi. The content is predetermined and pre-vetted – providing the kind of knowledge that these women need to not only ensure better healthcare for themselves, but also to ensure that their babies get the best possible start in life.

    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 mobilisation drive, women were registered for the MHSM service manually on a Content Management System (CMS), along with details of the pregnancy including any complications. Thereafter, mothers would receive at least two customised messages every week with medical advice and reminders on pre 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 families of the targeted women to better support 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 customised health information, allowing them to monitor the mothers and babies 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, a program participant.

    Upon the successful implementation of phase I, the team plans to scale the project across India and provide the SMSs in multiple languages through partnerships with health departments of central and state governments. In the second phase, pre-recorded voice messages are being looked at, so that more women and families can access this service. Finally, a system of automatic registration will be introduced at a later stage.

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