Youth & Opportunity
Engineering , Math
By James Rooney, senior manager, Technology for Good @jamesroo
At its core, technology is empowering. Technology helps us explore outer space and discover medical breakthroughs. It brings educational tools to areas that lack resources and access, and helps us respond quickly to natural disasters across the globe. As we have seen firsthand as part of our ongoing Solutions for Good program, nonprofit organizations have deep knowledge of the issues they are trying to solve and they know how to apply technology innovation to power solutions. What they may lack is the funding to bring those ideas fully to life. That’s where Microsoft steps in.
In October 2013, we released our first Solutions for Good Request for Proposals (RFP) to select nonprofits, asking them to submit ideas for technology projects that addressed complex social issues. Three winning projects were selected by Microsoft business leaders across various teams, including Disaster Response, Citizenship and Public Affairs, Skype, and experts on civic engagement from Microsoft Research. The winners will receive a mix of cash grants, software donations and Azure support, designed to address the various stages of bringing a technology solution to life:
Choosing only three winners was not an easy task, though we had no doubt when we launched this project that all the proposals we received would inspire us with their potential for positive impact. Ultimately, we selected projects that had a clear go-forward plan and leveraged various pieces of the Microsoft technology ecosystem, including Azure, Microsoft Translator, Windows Phone 8, Microsoft .NET, Skype, SharePoint, a variety of server software, and Microsoft Office for project management
The winners of Microsoft’s first Solutions for Good RFP are:
As STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) education gains traction, there is a segment of the population that is often excluded from participating – the print-disabled and visually-impaired. Many e-books and websites replace mathematical equations with images, which aren’t optimized for those individuals. So these individuals are often unable to pursue STEM degrees as this can limit their choices and rob the world of their potential contribution to those fields of study and work. Benetech’s MathMLCloud cloud-based service will automatically create descriptions of these mathematical images and equations to level the playing field for students and adult learners with disabilities. This app is being developed for Windows 8.
When disaster strikes, finding and deploying skilled volunteers is one of the most critical and yet challenging issues. In the immediate aftermath, there is generally an influx of good will and people wanting to help those in need, but often organizations have a hard time identifying potential volunteers with specific skills needed most. This can cause a delay in providing the necessary relief to those most impacted by the disaster. Caravan Studios’ 4Bells mobile app will geo-locate skilled volunteers and match them with the needs of nonprofit organizations. Local volunteers can pre-register their skills – such as first aid or construction – so they can be deployed quickly in times of crisis. This app will be available initially for Windows Phone, with cross-platform availability planned for a later phase.
Humanitarian support runs into many barriers, not the least being language. Relief workers flock to areas in distress to help those in need – only to face communication challenges because they don’t speak the local language. Providing critical health, safety, and transportation information can be difficult if not impossible. In order to share accurate information between crisis-affected communities and international aid organizations, Translators Without Borders will create Words of Relief. The Azure-based service is designed to facilitate machine translation and will also provide real-time translation via Skype.
If your nonprofit is interested in participating in future Solutions for Good RFPs or you’re wondering how you can access technology resources to support your mission, keep an eye on this blog for upcoming opportunities or visit our Technology for Good site.
By Kari Sherrodd, senior manager, Citizenship and Public Affairs
March 8 is International Women’s Day, a global day since the early 1900’s to mark the economic, political and social achievements of women. Microsoft is proud to celebrate International Women’s Day across our offices around the world. Microsoft News Center also shares the stories of five inspiring women from Microsoft, and how they hope to motivate and encourage more girls to explore careers in technology.
As part of the Microsoft YouthSpark initiative to create opportunities for young people through education, employment and entrepreneurship, Microsoft hopes to inspire and empower more girls to realize their potential and follow their dreams. To learn more about International Women’s Day, visit www.internationalwomensday.com.
By Dan Sytman, senior manager, Citizenship and Public Affairs
In a post today on the Microsoft Green Blog, Director of Environmental Sustainability Josh Henretig reports that Microsoft’s supply chain for hardware and packaging received a certification from the International Organization for Standardization, which “provides practical tools for companies and organizations looking to identify and control their environmental impact and constantly improve their environmental performance.” Though Microsoft has a longstanding commitment to supply chain sustainability, including a strict Supplier Code of Conduct that requires Microsoft suppliers to demonstrate social and environmental responsibility, this level of certification represents a new commitment to minimizing the environmental footprint of our hardware and packaging. Learn more on the Microsoft Green Blog.
By Steve Lippman, Director, Corporate Citizenship
One of the great benefits of working for Microsoft is the wide range of authors, researchers, and policymakers who come to our campus to speak. This week we had the opportunity to hear from Alice Korngold, a well-known blogger and author who writes on topics of sustainability, corporate social responsibility, and corporate governance. (In fact, The Guardian newspaper named her among the 30 most influential sustainability voices in America.)
Alice recently has written the book A Better World, Inc.: How Companies Profit by Solving Global Problems…Where Governments Cannot. She had a wide ranging discussion on that theme with Dan Bross, Microsoft’s senior director of Corporate Citizenship.
In their conversation, Alice pointed out that businesses have the scale and resources to make transformational change addressing global problems in ways that most Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs) do not. She also observed that NGOs and businesses are not only increasingly collaborating, they are converging in some of their characteristics. She see many NGOs becoming increasingly businesslike and some leading companies becoming more oriented towards social missions.
Indeed, Alice noted that while Microsoft is a for-profit company, our corporate mission statement to “help people and businesses throughout the world realize their full potential” could easily be the mission statement of an NGO. She believes that the most successful corporate citizenship initiatives are those which are tied to a company’s mission and enable them to grow their business and profitability. She was unapologetic in saying that good corporate citizenship should help companies’ business interests as well as societal needs, since those are the efforts that will be sustained and expanded over the long term. She cited Microsoft’s CityNext initiative to provide cities with technology solutions that increase their competitiveness and sustainability as a good example of aligning business and social interests.
Finally, Alice talked about the passion of so many corporate responsibility practitioners she met while researching her book. She consistently saw their excitement in working collaboratively to tackle big societal challenges with other companies, NGOs, and governments. That fit with the overall theme of Alice’s talk that there is a growing sense of shared responsibility among business for building a better world….and that building that better world also results in better business for companies.
By Kari Sherrodd, Senior Manager, Citizenship and Public Affairs
Today we celebrate UNESCO’s International Mother Language Day by announcing the release of the Language Toolbox, a collection of free tools and resources related to Microsoft language technologies, and the addition of Welsh to our Microsoft Translator family. Microsoft has a longstanding commitment to using technology to bridge communication barriers through our Local Language Program, an offering of Microsoft YouthSpark.
Microsoft Local Language Program’s Carla Hurd shares more information on the Microsoft on the Issues blog.
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