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.

  • Philippine Nonprofit Builds for the Future with Enhanced Technology Capabilities

    Established in 2003, Gawad Kalinga (GK), which translates as ‘to give care’ in the Filipino language, is an organization dedicated to a wide range of nonprofit and community work — working towards the goal of alleviating poverty for five million families across the Philippines by 2024.

    Having experienced unprecedented growth in its operations over the past few years, GK started collaborating with Microsoft Philippines in 2008 to bolster its information technology (IT) infrastructure in order to keep up with the evolving needs of local communities. Through Microsoft’s software grant programme, GK has been utilising tools such as Microsoft SharePoint® and ProjectTM software to improve data management, communications and project tracking across its various departments.

    Issa Cuevas-Santos, Director for Systems and IT at Gawad Kalinga, said, “We have been able to utilise SharePoint to facilitate better team collaboration among our own employees and volunteer base, providing them with systems and tools that simplify work processes and improve efficiency. With SharePoint operating as our ‘mobile office’ across disparate locations, we are also able to keep track of our critical files and documents, share information and manage our schedules more efficiently.”

    Another example of how GK has been able to utilise the latest technology is the development of its social mobilisation platform. The website — which is built on a Microsoft platform — serves to connect its volunteers and communities around the world while generating significant cost savings in terms of communication expenses.

    Microsoft technology is also integral to the development of GK Unity, a web-based software which is the operational support system and database for GK communities and its global funding partners. GK Unity incorporates key workflow features for the organisation to manage partner pledges, needs matching, programme tracking, as well as a directory of key personnel and partners.

    Equally significant to the success of its nonprofit work, the integration between GK Unity and GK1World has also made it easier for funding partners to have a better view of the transformation and social impact in communities that GK serves.

    Ms Cuevas-Santos said, “Technology has a big role to play in terms of improving how we share useful information and best practices with GK-related communities. As we engage more partners and increase the scale of our work, robust IT systems will play a bigger role in allowing us to earn the trust and respect of our volunteers and funding partners through sharing the impact of our community work in a more immediate and transparent manner.”

  • 3 Easy Steps to Creating a Skype in the Classroom Lesson

    This article was originally posted on 6 July 2013 on Skype’s Social Good Blog by Andrew Schmidt.

    Even with a summer break, a teacher’s work is truly never done as the next school year is only a few months away.

    Teachers, in your time off for the summer, you’re likely already exploring your lesson plans for next year. Why not try incorporating an interactive Skype video call lesson in your plans? Sign up for Skype in the classroom and follow these three easy steps to help you run successful Skype lessons for your class:

    Registering for a lesson

    First things first, to find a Skype lesson search for something specific, like ‘mountains’ or ‘multiplication’, or visit our collections for some inspiration. When you’ve found the Skype lesson you’re interested in, click ‘Register for this lesson’ on the right.

    Selecting a time slot

    Once registered for a lesson, you may be able to select a time slot. You can select as many of these slots as you’re able to take part in. If there are no time slots, then the lesson owner probably doesn’t have a specific time in mind. You can leave a comment suggesting the time that would work for you.

    Organizing your lesson

    If you’ve selected a time slot, you will receive an email confirming your time. You’ll still need to message the person holding the lesson, or add them on Skype, to finish arranging your lesson. If there are no time slots set, then you can just send a message from the lesson page to set up a time for your Skype call.

    It’s really that simple! Enjoy your break, and have fun getting ready for your students to return refreshed and ready for Skype in the classroom lessons!

    Have questions about how to use Skype in your classroom? Ask away by reaching out to us on Facebook or Twitter.

  • Imagine Cup: Championing Student Innovators

    Many people know Microsoft as a world-leading global corporation. But at its heart, Microsoft is a student startup founded by a couple of passionate young innovators with an idea. Students are often vanguards for the future of technology – and with the right tools and support, they have the potential to create innovations that can redefine our lives. It’s in that spirit that Microsoft launched the Imagine Cup student technology competition in 2003.

    Now in its eleventh year, the Imagine Cup Worldwide Finals are underway this week in St. Petersburg, Russia. The finals event is the culmination of a year of hard work, with more than 300 students from 71 countries advancing to the finals from local, regional and online competitions. We are thrilled to see these student technologists and entrepreneurs take center stage as they demonstrate their amazing ideas brought to life through software.

    Today’s students are digital natives who easily see beyond a single technology or app to envision how software, hardware and the cloud can work together in new and inventive ways. More than a third of this year’s Worldwide Finalists are using Windows, Windows Phone and Windows Azure together across platforms and devices. Following on the heels of Build, there are even more ways that developers can use an integrated devices and services platform across Windows.

    I hope you’ll join us at 7:30 a.m. PT on Thursday, 11 July, at www.imaginecup.com to see the winners of this year’s competition announced by Matt Smith, of BBC’s Dr. Who, via live streaming.

    We wish the best of luck to all competitors, and encourage students with the next big idea to go to www.dreamspark.com to download the tools to get started, and consider signing up to participate in the next Imagine Cup global competition!

    This is an excerpt from a post by Steve Guggenheimer, Corporate Vice President of Developer Platform & Evangelism at Microsoft. The full story was originally published on The Official Microsoft Blog.

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