Microsoft Citizenship Asia Pacific

  • Celebrities Call Out for #WeSpeakCode

    We Speak Code. Do you? As part of Microsoft's global YouthSpark Initiative, and with celebrities around Asia showing their support for more young people to learn to code in school, we are proud to present a Week of Code to encourage everyone to try their first Hour of Code at It's easy, fun and addictive. What are you waiting for? Learn to speak Code now.

    Celebrity endorsers include (in order of appearance):

    • Andrea Chong, Singaporean fashion blogger

    • John-son Oei, Malaysian entrepreneur, CEO of EPIC Collaborative, EPIC Homes founder and YouthSpark Star

    • Nazril Idrus, Malaysian entrepreneur, trainer and media personality

    • Sazzy Falak, Malaysian actress, host and singer

    • Deborah Henry, Former Miss Malaysia (both Universe and World), singer, actress, model and TV host

    • Dr Jia Jia & Big Bro, Singaporean YouTube personalities

    • Eunice Olsen, former Miss Singapore and politician

    • Yang Berhormat Tuan Haji Khairy Jamaluddin Abu Bakar, Minister of Youth and Sports Malaysia

    • Freda Liu, Producer and radio presenter at BFM 89.9 The Business Station

    • The Sam Willows, Singaporean band

    • Stephanie Sun, International singer

    • Christian Bautista, Filipino singer

    • Bathiya and Santhush, Sri Lankan boy band

    • Kumar Sangakkara, Sri Lankan international cricketer

    • Christian Sugiona, Indonesian singer

    • Suzy, South Korean singer from girl group miss A

    • Cesar Cernuda, Area Vice President of Microsoft Asia Pacific

    • Bill Gates, founder, technology advisor and board member of Microsoft Corporation

    • Clair Deevy, Community Affairs Lead of Microsoft Asia Pacific

    • Laureen Uy, Filipino fashion and travel blogger

    • Daphne Iking, Malaysian TV host, emcee, model and actress

    • Aanantha, Malaysian DJ, host, actor and musician

  • FINAL Day: Vote Now for Asia’s Change-Makers! Voting Closes on April 22!

    Microsoft YouthSpark Challenge for Change is a global contest that encourages young people who are passionate about social causes to submit their ideas on how they can spark social good in their communities, college campuses or throughout the world, using the new Windows and Office. Five grand prize winners will receive a volunteer travel experience to the Amazon, US$2,500 cash to kick-start their projects and a Microsoft technology bundle including Windows Phone 8, Xbox One and Surface 2 (or equivalent device).

    Following the global launch of Microsoft YouthSpark Challenge for Change contest last month, we are excited to announce the 20 finalists who our judges have selected from entries from more than 50 countries around the world. 

    Among the finalists, we have young people from Asia Pacific, including two students from the Philippines and one from Sri Lanka! Now we’re asking you to help make these three inspiring change-makers grand prize winners and our newest YouthSpark Ambassadors.

    Today is your last chance! Vote today, April 22, for the project that inspires you the most. To help you out, each of the 20 finalists created a video sharing more about themselves and their projects. Watch their videos and cast your vote on Facebook today! We’ll announce the winners on May 1, so check back then to see if your favorite project won! Remember to vote TODAY and spread the word about #youthspark. 

    Meet the Finalists
    Below are highlights from the three finalists representing Asia Pacific. To learn more about all 20 finalists and their projects, visit the Microsoft Citizenship blog post that links to videos created by each of them to share more about themselves and their projects. 

    imageDominic Co (Diliman, Quezon City, Philippines) plans to develop an online curriculum to supplement the teaching of literature by famous Filipino authors so the stories come alive and resonate with today’s high school students. View Dominic’s video here.

    imageRyan Justin Reyes (Mandaue City, Cebu, Philippines) developed SankalusuganQRX, a platform that aids with the search for loved ones after devastating natural disasters through a novel use of personal QR codes. View Ryan’s video here.

     Mohamed Iqbal Isham Mohamed (Eastern Province, Sri Lanka) created a platform that collects data on Dengue fever and provides risk alerts. View Mohamed’s video here.

  • YouthSpark #WeSpeakCode Profile: Kanika Agarwal

    As part of the Asia Pacific Week of Code, 21-27 April 2014, we are highlighting YouthSpark stars in Asia Pacific who have learned to code and have found success in school, competitions and career by understanding this language. We hope their stories will inspire you. What are you waiting for? Learn to speak Code now. #WeSpeakCode.

    imageName: Kanika Agarwal
    Country: Singapore
    Occupation: Consumer and Commercial Communications Specialist, Asia Pacific Public Relations, Microsoft Asia

    As a passionate advocate for coding, Kanika hopes to see more people equipped with programming skills, which she regards as “must-have” knowledge. She completed a Computer Engineering degree at Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Singapore, and minored in both Business Studies and Communications Studies. She currently combines her passion for technology and marketing as a Consumer and Commercial Communications Specialist at Microsoft Asia, and finds time to volunteer at several organisations.

    Can you describe some coding projects that you have done?
    I completed about 10 coding projects in university. In one project, I built a working elevator model using Java language, where I had to create an algorithm that considers all sorts of complex scenarios, including the elevator’s response when calls for different directions are made concurrently. One of my biggest projects was to programme an intelligent Line-Following Robot with sensors where the robot only followed black lines. If it came upon white lines, it would locate the shortest path to get back to a black line and continue following it.

    Share with us what you’ve been working on for the past three to six months. Was there something that was particularly exciting/rewarding for you?  
    Of the various projects I’ve done at Microsoft, the most exciting one has been an International Women’s Day project where I wrote web articles about how women in Asia are using technology to empower others.

    I’ve also embarked on several personal projects. I’m helping women entrepreneurs on digital strategies for their start-ups. In addition, I’m about to kick off an independent project on women and education; it’s called “The Unspoken Voice”, and it covers stories of underprivileged people who have been able to receive education through help. I also volunteer at aidha, an organisation that provides financial, management and computer training to foreign domestic workers in Singapore.

    More girls tend to go into the social sciences and humanities. Seeing as there is a gender imbalance in computer engineering, what were some challenges that you faced in school.

    There is an unconscious bias that men have an ‘innate’ ability to excel in coding and other STEM subjects, and I think I had internalised that to a certain extent initially. Right from the first day, I realised that I was surrounded by guys who already knew quite a lot of coding languages. I would take a full day to understand what my male classmates could get in an hour. I felt stressed, but really, all I needed was to spend more time and effort—just as my male classmates had already done before beginning university.

    The YouthSpark WeSpeakCode campaign aims to encourage young people to learn code. If you were to speak to the younger generation, what kind of advice would you give them (on coding)?
    Coding will soon become a basic need, just as how Microsoft Office knowledge has become essential at school and in the office. There is a high demand for coders by businesses, particularly start-ups. Basic coding knowledge comes in handy when you need to create customised websites, blogs or mobile apps. 

    Would you advise them on learning a specific kind of programming language?
    HTML 5 is a must for those who intend to work in a creative field. For others who wish to pursue software engineering, C++ is recommended because its gives you an idea of both C and Java.

    Seeing as how the majority of those working in coding are male, what advice would you have for other young women who wish to pursue computer science studies or jobs?
    I would say, if you love it, go for it. Women may not be able to control external factors such as recruitment practices, but they can manage their attitudes. I have seen women passing up chances because they felt intimidated by the dominance of males. They have to overcome their reservations, and give their passion a chance. If our generation doesn’t do it, who will?

    It’s a myth that women can’t code or are mediocre at it. Many women from Asia are top coders. A perfect example would be Ruchi Sanghvi, the first female engineer hired by the social-networking website Facebook and is now the Vice President of Operations at Dropbox. Don’t be afraid of taking the road less travelled.

    For a video of Kanika’s congratulatory speech at the School of Computer Engineering’s convocation ceremony, click here.

  • Safer Web-browsing for Taiwanese Children

    With our world getting more virtualised and the proliferation of new technologies providing instant mobility, it is commonplace today to see children as young as six years old clacking away on a computer or surfing the Internet with a smartphone in hand. In Taiwan, 90 percent of children aged six to 11 years have access to the Internet, and eight in every ten of them own a mobile device.

    What is worrying is the nonchalant stance that the majority of Taiwanese parents adopt when it comes to monitoring their children’s Internet behaviours, despite their concern about the possibility of exposure to adult content and Internet addiction.

    To create greater awareness of cyber-safety, Microsoft Taiwan is collaborating with the established international non-governmental organisation (NGO) ECPAT Taiwan (End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography And Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes), which is  dedicated to ending commercial sexual exploitation of children. Both organisations have joined up to launch several initiatives on cyber-safety for children, announced at the ECPAT-Microsoft Taiwan Family Cyber Safety Media Event.

    “Harmful content, such as online pornography, not only has a negative influence on children, but it also provides sexual offenders a platform to prey on children for abductions, sexual assaults and even sexual trafficking,” said Professor Yu-Quan Kao, Executive Director, ECPAT Taiwan. “It is crucial that parents are aware of the dangers that their children are potentially exposed to.”

    Vincent Shih, General Manager of Legal and Corporate Affairs, Microsoft Taiwan, also cautioned that these risks will get increasingly complex due to the rapid development of the Internet in the coming years.

    A Microsoft-ECPAT initiative titled “4G” (Time Guardian, History Guardian, Web Guardian and Rating Guardian) enables parents to use free Microsoft tools to ensure a safe web browsing experience for their children.

    The organisations also developed a set of guidelines, the “5-Have-to-Do Solution”, proposing parents take the following actions:

    • Set limits and regulations on Internet access and digital devices for children
    • Teach children not to reveal personal information online
    • Install parental controls, cyber safety settings or an Internet filter service
    • Educate children on proper use of Internet and online communication etiquette
    • Help children choose appropriate content to read and games to play

    Microsoft and ECPAT Taiwan are embarking on a campaign to screen the cyber-safety education video that they co-produced, for students, teachers and parents across Taiwan.

    ECPAT and Microsoft will be working closely with original equipment manufacturers, Acer and Asus, as well as retail partners on a cross-industry collaboration promoting children’s cyber-wellness. Their efforts include posting related information on their official websites, placing family safety flyers in their stores and providing after-sales services for Windows Family Safety installation.

    “With IT deeply ingrained in our everyday lives, it is essential that we teach our children to keep themselves safe in cyberspace,” said Shih. “When we educate our children, we are also educating future generations who will lead this country.”

  • Spreading Chinese New Year Cheer, Bringing Smiles and Touching Lives in Singapore

    Observed by Chinese Singaporeans from all walks of life, the Chinese New Year is one of the most significant festivals here. While the streets come alive with decorations and families travel from home to home for visits, there are small pockets of individuals who are excluded from the celebrations. To bring cheer to those who lack the mobility or social networks to partake in the festivities, several groups of Microsoft employees based in Singapore raised their hands for volunteering activities in February at Bright Hill Evergreen Home, Kwong Wai Shiu Hospital and the Society for the Physically Disabled.

    At the Bright Hill home, laughter rang from all sides as a staff member, decked up as the jovial, rotund Cai Shen (literally “God of Fortune”, a Chinese deity believed to bring luck and wealth) stepped out to distribute candy. The laughs came harder as the Microsoft volunteers, not exactly known for their dancing talent, put up dance routines that they had painstakingly choreographed for the irreverent Korean pop song “Gangnam Style”. The group pooled donations so they could give a hong bao (a red packet that is a monetary gift given on special occasions in Chinese and other Asian societies) to every resident as they are totally dependent on public assistance.

    imageThe elderly residents of Kwong Wai Shiu Hospital were treated to a dance of another sort—a traditional Chinese lion dance. In addition to leading a group of 20 Microsoft volunteers, the Asia Pacific Operations Center Corporate Social Responsibility Committee invited a lion dance troupe from Dunman High School to perform. The residents greatly appreciated the fun as it had been a long time since they watched a traditional performance. The Microsoft volunteers then distributed 300 red packets and Mandarin oranges (an auspicious Chinese new year food) around the wards to patients and staff.

    “The hospital staff said that it’s been a long time since the patients have been so happy. I got pretty emotional and nearly cried. I guess it’s because I feel so lucky to have my family and friends, and I was also reminded that I am surrounded by opportunities to bring joy to others,” said Joseph Lee, Senior Finance Manager, Microsoft Singapore.

    Meanwhile, over 60 volunteers from the Microsoft Asia Pacific Finance Team spent time with the beneficiaries at the Society for the Physically Disabled (SPD), indulging in simple pleasures like Bingo and Sing-a-long sessions. A handful of the volunteers even picked up a skill or two from the beneficiaries who demonstrated how they pack boxes of tea bags for a living. The volunteers also distributed about 180 red packets to the beneficiaries.

    “It was important to us that the less privileged in society have someone to celebrate the festive season with,” said Toby Willson, Senior Director of Finance APAC. “Interacting with the wider society helps us gain a deeper understanding of how our work and products impact others. For instance, at SPD, we saw how Microsoft Accessibility technologies are helping service users. Company volunteering can help corporations play a positive role in creating a sustainable future for the broader community.”

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