November, 2012

  • Technology and the Māori Language Awards 2012

    This article was written by Waldo Kuipers, Corporate Affairs Manager, Microsoft New Zealand Limited, and was originally published on the New Zealand Microsoft GovTech blog.

    The Māori Language Awards 2012 were held on Friday last week in Tauranga, an inspiring event that celebrated the contributions of 30 individuals and organisations who have contributed to te reo Māori through their work. I attended the event with my colleague, Anne Taylor, who has supported Microsoft's investment in te reo Māori since 2004.

    Microsoft has collaborated with language experts to bring te reo Māori to WindowsOffice and Internet Explorer. All it takes to add a te reo Māori user interface to these products is installing the free downloads for each product. We encourage everyone to try it.

    We are honoured to be recognised for this investment through the awards. We would like to take a moment to acknowledge all those who have been involved with this work, and thank them for it. This work has only been possible because of your passion and dedication:

    • Haami Piripi, Huhana Rokx, Sharon Armstrong, Lee Smith, Te Haumihiata Mason, Te Taka Keegan, Tom Roa, Roger Lewis, Wareko Te Āngina, Eva Mahara, Hohepa MacDougall, John Moorfield and Dave Moskovitz,
    • Te Taurawhiri I Te Reo Māori,
    • Te Whare Wānanga o Waikato and Te Whare Wānanga o Otāgo,
    • School Principal Laura Hawksworth and students at Toku Mapihi Maurea Kura Kaupapa Maori,
    • Parekura Horomia, David Cunliffe and John Tamihere, and
    • many others who have worked on the projects.

     The work that these people have made possible for three generations of products (from Windows XP onwards) includes:

    • a Māori keyboard layout to offer easier access to macrons,
    • around 2,000 technology-related terms expressed in te reo Māori for the first time, such as co-processor (hoatukatuka); de-fragmentation (whakatōpūnga); progress indicator (tōtohu kaunuku); cascading menu (tahua hūkere); interrupt request (tono haukati); network adapter (whāurutau whatunga); router (pouara); identifier (pūtāutu); and adapter (pūurutau),
    • nearly 100,000 phrases translated into te reo Māori, and
    • an electronic Māori dictionary to provide spelling suggestions in Microsoft Office.

    The award therefore represents the dedicated hard work of many people working together to a common objective.

    Although I am not fluent, I was determined to do my best to deliver my speech in te reo. I know that my pronunciation was far from perfect, so just in case I was not easy to understand I have attached my full speech notes below.

    I would also like to acknowledge the work by the other finalists in the ICT category: Vodafone NZ and Hika Group were finalists for the work they did to launch the Hika smartphone app that translates common phrases between English and te reo, and Dennis J Gray was a finalist for the Māori language keyboard he has developed, which includes dedicated keys for the macrons that are used to write in te reo.

    Thank you to Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori and all of the other supporters and sponsors for making this fantastic event possible.

    Māori Language Awards 2012 event photo by Alick Saunders. With thanks to Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori.

  • Lessons from Fruit Ninja Developer Dojo

    By Dony Sukardi

    Editor’s Note: Fruit Ninja Developer Dojo was a 2 day seminar organized by Microsoft Singapore and e27. This session gave local game developers a rare opportunity to learn about game development practices and marketing techniques from the founders of Halfbrick Studios, the makers of one of the world's leading casual games - Fruit Ninja - which is played by millions around the world and is available on Microsoft platforms such as Windows 8 and Xbox Kinect. 

    The Fruit Ninja #DevDojo proved to be a great evening with interaction amongst the participants, sharing their passion on game development. Everybody, including me, was looking forward to getting to know the success story of Halfbrick and its famous game with more than 300 million downloads: Fruit Ninja.

    At Microsoft Singapore Auditorium, Shainiel Deo, Chief Executive Officer of Halfbrick, took the stage to give an opening speech where he shared two main points on how to be successful in the industry. First, nail what you’re trying to do. You ought to try to be the best and carefully pick your team. Second, make sure that with every product you build, you learn something from it.

    Fruit Ninja might be the game that made Halfbrick known to the world, however, it wasn’t at all their first game. In fact, it was the 15th ever since the company was established in 2001. There is progression and refinement from one product to the next.

    The opportunity is here again, even bigger than ever, with the release of Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 (WP8). With the very same base code (with very minimum tweaks for WP8), you can now target tablets, laptops, desktops and mobile phones.

    Shainiel then passed the baton to Phil Larsen, Chief Marketing Officer of Halfbrick, to present some of Halfbrick’s marketing strategies. The best game marketing starts with the game. Believe in your game when you market it to the public.

    He also stressed that we needn’t be 100% innovative. Many times, developers crack their heads trying to come up with something totally new. That is not to say that new innovation is not important. We can also build on existing concepts and add fresh twists to them.

    Highlighting the necessity of getting universal, he advises to reach out to as many players as possible, hence targeting different platforms. Such can also be achieved by getting partnerships with other companies while staying true to the gameplay.

    Several marketing techniques that contributed to the success of Fruit Ninja were game trailers posted on YouTube that generated millions of views and taglines such as “Ninjas hate Fruits”, and bringing the game to people by organizing Fruit Ninja Master, a competition to find the best Fruit Ninja in Australia.

    Phil also brought attention to the games by branding them to increase relevance. Recognizing the effort that Microsoft has put into marketing Kinect for Xbox360, Halfbrick decided to name the Fruit Ninja’s title for Xbox360 as Fruit Ninja Kinect. These things might seem insignificant, however, without knowing it, we buy into them, contributing to the overall success of a product.

    For developers who are releasing a title and don’t know what to do, he advise them to try finding a mentor, which has proven to be beneficial. Phil summed up his presentation by reminding us that huge successes are possible. We ought to make every single point of contact count and there is no one secret to be successful.

    Phil Larsen, CMO of Halfbrick greeted the audience and introduced Fruit Ninja Dev Dojo.

    After a short break, it was time for a technology talk by Richard McKinny, Chief Technology Officer of Halfbrick. Richard demoed Fruit Ninja and Jetpack Joyride on Windows 8. He praised the features that Windows 8 has to offer, starting with Snapped View. It is not immediately apparent on what to do with snapped view for games. Many developers might do nothing more than just place a splash screen or screen saver on that space, waiting for the user to come back to the game, if ever.

    Thinking that Microsoft has added Snapped View for a purpose, the team thought of a brilliant idea. Realizing that players of Fruit Ninja love fruits, the team decided to give an unlimited supply of fruits on a conveyor belt. So, if you’re working on your Word document and feel bored or stressed, you can slash the fruits on the side of the screen.

    And there are Live Tiles, which might be regarded as normal icons on your Start screen. Halfbrick did not know what they were for at first, but soon fell in love with them. Live Tiles provide re-engagement with users. Halfbrick implemented them on their Windows 8 games: on Fruit Ninja by showing stats on a vertically rotating tile, and on Jetpack Joyride by showing current game missions.

    Social is built into the very core of Windows 8. Game developers can code what they want the user to share on different parts of the games by using the default share functionality. In Jetpack Joyride for example, players can share their points or screenshots of the game.

    After elaborating on the awesome features of Windows 8, Richard moved on to discuss some game development technologies. With so many platforms to target these days, game developers should try to create their own game engine and avoid platform specific implementations for things that can be done in a cross platform way.

    To read the full story click here. To read more posts like this visit http://spiffy.sg/.

    Dony is a developer, designer and tech enthusiast. He loves gadgets, simple-clean-yet-sophisticated stuff and great food.

  • Microsoft Singapore Raises Funds to Help Young People Overcome Disadvantages

    The Children-At-Risk Empowerment (CARE) Association of Singapore is one of six selected beneficiaries of the Dollar Matching programme recently launched by Microsoft Singapore this year to increase its fundraising support to nonprofit groups in Singapore.

    Established in 1997, CARE Singapore is a registered charity and a youth development agency that provides school-based social work services, especially in reaching out to youth at risk of academic failure, behavioural problems and delinquency. CARE's work is funded by government grants and donations from corporations or individuals. Donations made by Microsoft and its employees will contribute significantly to enriching the lives of more than 1,000 young people.

    Microsoft will match the donated sum made by its Singapore employees (up to SGD500 per employee) to support various CARE projects, which are designed to motivate, inspire and redirect at-risk children toward positive life choices. Microsoft’s donations to CARE Singapore are coordinated by Ammado, one of Microsoft’s global nonprofit partners.

    “Microsoft Singapore employees are committed to supporting CARE Singapore in impacting the lives of young people in Singapore. Youth development is a core focus of Microsoft’s community outreach and philanthropy programmes worldwide, and we want to support our Singapore employees in raising funds to sustain CARE projects,” said Yun Seong Yong, General Manager, Microsoft Asia Pacific Operations Centre.

    The donation programme will go toward opening up more opportunities for CARE beneficiaries, such as secondary school student JY (not her real name), to develop and achieve their full potential. Abandoned by her parents since she was one, JY resorted to self-mutilation to cope with her emotional problems. The support she received through the CARE programme has helped JY to become more emotionally resilient and adopt a more positive attitude toward life.

    Adelyn Poh, Co-founder and Director of Enterprise at CARE Singapore, said, “In the past few years, CARE Singapore has been able to expand our youth development services, thanks to the generous support of our corporate sponsors such as Microsoft. Donations made by the Microsoft Singapore employees will enable our
    team to continue helping at-risk children gain confidence and overcome the social or economic disadvantages they face.”

  • Webinar :: Five Social Media Best Practices for NGOs in South Asia

    The Social Web has dramatically changed how non-governmental organizations communicate with supporters, donors and volunteers. Even though a large percentage of NGOs in South Asia now regularly use social media in their online fundraising and communications campaigns, few social media practitioners in the NGO sector have been properly trained on how to best utilize sites such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr. Many organizations are making simple mistakes that are draining their social media Return on Investment (ROI) – the good news, however, is that these mistakes can be easily fixed.

     

    This webinar begins with laying a foundation for understanding the role of social media in the context of Web 1.0 (The Broadcast Web), Web 2.0 (The Social Web), and Web 3.0 (The Mobile Web), and then moves on to highlight five of the most useful best practices for managing and maintaining social media campaigns. The webinar then closes with an exploration of social media ROI, and introduces a simple system on how to track and report on results.

    Date: Wednesday, 12 December 2012

    Time: 11:00 am – 12:00 pm (Indian Standard Time)

    Cost: Free

    Presented By: Heather Mansfield @ Nonprofit Tech 2.0

    REGISTER NOW

    Please Note: This webinar is sponsored by Microsoft Citizenship Asia Pacific. To be alerted of future webinars offered free to NGOs, please subscribe to the Microsoft Citizenship Tech4Good e-Newsletter.

  • Opening New Career Paths for Rural Residents in India

    Microsoft has been collaborating with the Aga Khan Rural Support Programme (AKRSP) India since 2005 to set up Community Based Technology Learning Centres (CTLCs) across the states of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Bihar, providing underprivileged people with better access to Information Technology (IT) training.

    Training provided at the CTLC has improved the lives of many individuals, such as Sangeetaben Ramanbhai Vasava

    The collaboration is part of Microsoft's Community Technology Skills Programme, which was launched in India in August 2004 as Project Jyoti. As part of the initiative, Microsoft India partners with non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to support various programmes aimed at empowering under-served individuals through the use of IT. The establishment of more than 1,400 CTLCs, in partnership with 14 NGOs in 27 Indian states, is one of the cornerstones of Project Jyoti’s success.

    More than 450,000 people have been trained at the CTLCs — out of which, more than 300,000 people have been placed in jobs or were helped to start their own enterprise through the initiative. At the CTLCs, rural residents are equipped with IT and non-IT related skills to secure employment in urban areas, thus helping to narrow both the digital divide and the technology skills gap between urban and rural residents.

    The growing number of people who have benefited from the services of the CTLCs established by Microsoft and AKRSP India illustrate the positive impact on marginalised communities across the three Indian states.

    Having personally gained from CTLC services, Yatin Kumar is eager to spread the word about the importance of computer skills to villagers

    “Computer training from the CTLC has helped me make a decent earning,” said Yatin Kumar, an employee with the Union Bank of India in Bihar. “I was toiling as a labourer until I enrolled in computer courses with the CTLC. Today, my life has changed and improved significantly, and I am helping to spread the word about the benefits of computers.”

    Sangeetaben Ramanbhai Vasava is another rural resident whose life has been enriched after joining a computer course at the CTLC. A widow in need of financial support to raise her two children, Ms Sangeetaben was recruited as a part-time IT trainer at a CTLC in Gujarat state and later secured a stable job at the International Rural Education & Cultural Association (INRECA).

    "The CTLC has given a new life to me and my children, helping me to find a means of livelihood when I needed it most," Ms Sangeetaben said. "I hope the Centre will continue to help people like me for years to come." 

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