July, 2013

  • Making a Real Difference in the Lives of People: Janakie Karunaratne

    This is part of a series highlighting the valuable work that Microsoft’s Community Affairs Managers are doing in Asia. This piece was contributed by Nikolay Premyanov and Jason Jun Sik Eum, two student interns who spent time with the Microsoft Area HQ Citizenship team in July 2013.

    Janakie Karunaratne has been at Microsoft Sri Lanka for more than seven years fulfilling her role as Community Affairs Manager with enthusiasm and dedication. Initially, Janakie worked in sales at a telco, but ever since she started managing Microsoft’s social initiatives she has never looked back, finding her role fulfilling and important. In her own words, “We are one people – all of us have a responsibility to care for and share information between each other, therefore a large firm like Microsoft, through its corporate citizenship programme, has the responsibility to pro-actively share its immense knowledge among the community in order to improve lives.”

    Janakie manages projects all over Sri Lanka, in cooperation with the government, other private sector companies, or Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) – and sometimes all three. One of her main initiatives is setting up workshops that teach information technology (IT) skills to young people, raising their employability and giving them opportunities to fulfill their ambitions, changing not only their own lives, but also their family’s lives as well.

    Sri Lanka has suffered through a long civil war that recently ended and there is much rebuilding to do; not only physical but also the mental rebuilding of young people. To help in this sphere, Microsoft Sri Lanka cooperates with HSBC to empower young adults who have been affected by the war to help them become the leaders of the future, as well as providing them with the means to rebuild their lives.

    The company is helping NGOs run their own social initiatives by providing them with up to date IT solutions and the means by which they can improve their services to people in need. This provides a huge benefit to NGOs and serves to show the importance of IT to any organization in modern times. One such initiative is the work done with Sri Lanka’s foreign employment bureau to teach important skills to workers leaving to other countries, which improves their employability and makes them more likely to send back money to Sri Lanka, further improving their family’s lives.

    According to Janakie, the most successful initiative has been GAMATA IT; Sinhalese for ‘IT for the village’. This is a programme that aims to bring technology to remote villages and teach the local populations how to use IT, giving them the power to improve their own lives. This programme is run in conjunction with the ministry of education, an NGO and 2 private sector firms. This is one of the largest initiatives supported by Microsoft Sri Lanka, touching the lives of many.

    It is this aspect that Janakie finds the most enjoyable and fulfilling in her job: touching the lives of many and making a real difference in communities. Even if she never meets the individuals personally, she knows that the work she and Microsoft are doing will improve opportunities across the country. The work provides the right amount of challenge coupled with the need for her to think of ideas and solutions that the company can implement to continue reaching members of the community. In her eyes, a perfect job.

  • Sichuan Earthquake Relief Efforts Aided by Microsoft China Donations

    Microsoft China pledged RMB 1 million (USD162,000) worth of donations and 1,000 emergency relief packages in response to the 7.0-magnitude earthquake that struck Ya’an city in Sichuan province in April, which caused at least 192 deaths and left more than 11,000 people injured.

    In aid of the relief operations in Sichuan, senior Microsoft China executives — including Ralph Haupter, Vice President and CEO of Microsoft Greater China Region, and Ya-Qin Zhang, Vice President and Chairman of Microsoft Asia-Pacific R&D Group, and David Chen, Vice President and General Manager of Legal and Corporate Affairs — convened within hours after the earthquake struck to initiate an emergency response programme and support first responder organisations.

    The first batch of relief packages provided by Microsoft reached the main disaster area in Ya’an in less than 10 hours after the earthquake, while the pledged donations were delivered via the nonprofit groups YouCheng Foundation and One Foundation. Microsoft’s contributions were recognised by several senior government officials in Sichuan.

    “We were focused on putting together a quick response to deliver critical aid effectively to the Sichuan Ya’an earthquake relief efforts. Our thoughts are with the victims and the affected families, and Microsoft will continue to contribute to helping the Chinese government and humanitarian workers rebuild the affected communities in Sichuan after the earthquake,” said Mr Haupter.

    During the Sichuan earthquake, Microsoft also played a leading role in offering local nonprofits technical assistance on disaster relief monitoring, while helping to provide updated information and drive awareness of the relief efforts via the MSN and Bing platforms.

    Microsoft China has been encouraging its employees to help raise funds and support the charity organisations involved with the ongoing relief efforts in the disaster-stricken communities — by 8 May, 408 Microsoft China employees and vendors had donated a total of RMB 329,221 (USD53,334) through the employee individual donation programme.

    Members of the Microsoft Shanghai (MSSH) Music Club initiated a concert to further encourage local staff to donate and continue supporting the online employee donation programme. The concert was held on 8 May, and the MSSH Music Club members put together the programme and rehearsed the musical performances over the span of only one week. The fundraising concert attracted more than 100 employees.

    “Our goal is to provide financial aid as well as our love and care to make a difference to the lives of the people in Ya’an who were affected by the earthquake,” said Jolie Zheng, the Founder and Chairwoman of the MSSH Music Club.

  • Indonesia Imagine Cup Team is Worldwide Runner-up in the Games Competition

    Solite Studio, Indonesia’s National Winner, has been announced as the Worldwide Runner-up for the Games Competition at Imagine Cup 2013 with their ‘Save the Hamster’ project!

    Built on the Windows® Phone platform, ‘Save the Hamster’ is a game app that serves as a learning tool for young people to exercise their mental arithmetic skills in a fun and engaging manner.

    Coming from a virtually unknown campus, Universitas Trunojoyo Madura, the team was considered the underdogs in the local competition. They came, they saw and then won against much more experienced Indonesian teams from award-league campuses such as ITB and IT Telkom. And now they have taken the world stage and flown Indonesia’s flag proudly for all the world to see!

    This win was not a surprise. A lot of people at the worldwide finals in St Petersburg, Russia, said that Team Solite Studio’s presentation was one of the few where the audience gave several rounds of applause. Judges were surprised to know that Save the Hamsters had been downloaded 30,000 times in just two weeks (20,000 times on Windows Phone and 10,000 on Windows 8). A lot of Microsoft employees came to the booth, played the game and then returned with other people due to the cute and fun game.

    Judges from other categories came over to the booth just to check on this “cute game that people have been talking about”. And, Team Solite Studio even received a few “please call me” invitations from venture capitalists during the Public Exhibition.

    “Several people told us that they are willing to bet that Solite Studio would be on the stage during the Awards Night, and they were correct! A 1st place winner would have been fantastic, but Worldwide Runner-up is also an amazing achievement!” exclaimed Irving Hutagalung of Microsoft Indonesia’s Developer and Platform Group who attended the finals with the winning team.

    It has been an amazing journey for Solite Studio - congratulations!

  • Surface: The Perfect Device for Students

    Florida student Chris Lamb uses his Surface RT on campus to take notes in class, tutor friends, read textbooks, share files with a thumb drive and play around with apps. He used to use many devices throughout the day, but with Surface he only needs one.

  • Technology Capacity Building for Nonprofits in Vietnam

    In May, Microsoft Vietnam hosted more than 100 non-governmental organisation (NGO) representatives, including those from a number of youth-focused social enterprises in the country, at its second NGO Connection Day held in Hanoi.

    “Cloud computing is changing the way NGOs work and communicate through technology networks. The second NGO Connection Day provided the participants with ample opportunities to learn from industry experts, share knowledge and discuss best practices – and the event would not have been possible if these organisations weren’t willing to share their knowledge and experience with others in the sector,” said Nguyen Thu Hue, Director of Vietnet ICT, one of the event participants.

    The event was aimed at providing NGOs with deeper insights into how emerging information technology (IT) trends are shaping the future of the nonprofit sector, as well as introducing the participants to a wide array of Microsoft offerings such as Office 365®, ExchangeTM, SharePoint®, Lync® and Windows® 8 to address their operational challenges. Key topics discussed during NGO Connection Day in Hanoi included cloud computing developments, the use of social media to improve community outreach, mobility trends and Big Data.

    Another highlight of NGO Connection Day was the official launch of the TechSoup Asia programme in Vietnam, which helps nonprofits in the country gain easier access to Microsoft products and other technology platforms to build their information technology (IT) capacity. At the event, the participating NGOs were provided with information about how to register.

    “The challenges faced by NGOs working in Vietnam are similar to those of others around the world. The TechSoup programme will provide NGOs in Vietnam with the necessary IT resources to support the effective use of technology to address social challenges,” said Mike Yeaton, Vice President, TechSoup Asia.  

    Vu Minh Tri, Country Manager of Microsoft Vietnam, said, “This NGO Connection Day event marked the official launch of TechSoup Asia in Vietnam, reinforcing our shared purpose of enabling improved access to relevant and affordable technology. Microsoft will further expand on our efforts to help NGOs and businesses alike acquire various technology resources and build technology capacity for the nonprofit sector in Vietnam.”

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