January, 2012

  • Meet the Imagine Cup students turned social entrepreneurs


    This week Dominik Tomičević from Croatia, Jason Mitsuyuki Wakizaka from the United States, Francisco Perez from Ecuador, and Mohammad Lu’ay Alazzam from Jordan were playing with the very latest Microsoft technology – in this case our new Microsoft Surface - in Davos, the Swiss village that hosts the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting. They were in Davos as representatives of the four teams who have been chosen as the inaugural recipients of the Microsoft Imagine Cup grants program.

    The Imagine Cup Grants program is a three-year, $3 million competitive grant program to help Imagine Cup participants take their ideas and their projects and transform them into a business or nonprofit that can bring the benefit of their technology to the communities that need it most.

    FO2_0613 (2)

    The students were in Davos to meet with Microsoft Chairman, Bill Gates and to participate in a roundtable discussion on the challenges and opportunities facing young people today. (We’ll have a report on that coming very soon.)

    The winning teams were chosen from 50 applicants that competed in the Imagine Cup 2011 Worldwide Finals last year in New York City. A judging panel of eminent industry experts from the worlds of technology, venture capitalism, software development, startup culture, and the nonprofit sector ranked each team based on specific criteria including project impact and viability, and team quality and motivation.

    The judges included: Akhtar Badshah, Senior Director of Global Community Affairs, Microsoft Corporation; Peter Cowhey, Dean: Qualcomm Endowed Chair in Communications and Technology Policy, School of International Relations and Pacific Studies: University of California, San Diego; Tim Draper, Founder and Managing Director, Draper Fisher Jurvetson; Debra Dunn, Advisor to Social Ventures, Skoll Foundation; Edward G. Happ, Global Chief Information Officer of International Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, Chairman of NetHope; Zeev Klein, General Partner, Landmark Ventures; Dan’l Lewin, Corporate Vice President: Strategic and Emerging Business Development, Microsoft Corporation; Jeff Raikes, Chief Executive Officer, Gates Foundation; and Ann Winblad, Managing Director, Hummer Winblad Venture Partners

    While the judging process was very difficult, the winning projects are fantastic, and they show the incredible potential of providing young people with the skills and the opportunity to make a difference.

    Here’s some more about the four winning teams:

    Team Apptenders from Croatia: KiDnect

    Ivan Antonic, Ivan Borko, Karmela Bresan, Dominik Tomicevic (pictured)

    KiDnect is a Kinect-based solution for on-premise and remote physical therapy for children, especially those born with Cerebral Palsy. This software has the ability to monitor a child’s exercises to ensure they are being completed correctly, and then provides statistical analysis to the therapist. Team Apptenders hopes to add multilingual interfaces in order to integrate additional sensors for limb rotation monitoring and advanced data analysis.

    Team Falcon Dev from Ecuador: SkillBox

    José Vicente Anilema Guadalupe, Gerardo Francisco Pérez Layedra, Henry Javier Paca Quinaluiza, Juan José Morales Ruiz

    SkillBox is an affordable solution to help children who are hearing impaired by translating all audio received from a teacher in a classroom into sign language. A wireless headset captures the sound, sends it to the computer and SkillBox then shows the corresponding sign for the word or phrase.  Team Falcon Dev hopes to take their first step in making SkillBox available to children by selling their technology solution to public schools in Ecuador.

    Team OaSys from Jordan: Horizon

    Hani AbuHuwaij, Mohammad Azzam, Monir Abu Hilal, Mohammad Saleh, Yousef Wadi

    Horizon is a software and hardware system that allows people who do not have use of their hands/arms to use a computer. Specifically, it tracks head movements and translates these movements into mouse movements. Users get full control of a computer and a cellphone, and can browse the internet, type and connect with ease and at a low cost. Team OaSys hopes to improve the software stack by optimizing and adding features, pilot client lab preparations and hire sub-contractors.

    Team LifeLens from the United States: LifeLens

    Tristan Gibeau, Cy Khormaee, Wilson To, Jason Wakizaka, Helena Xu

    Lifelens is an innovative point-of-care tool to diagnose malaria using an augmented Windows Phone application. The project addresses the unacceptably high child mortality rates caused by the lack of detection and availability of treatment of malarial diseases. Team Lifelens is ready to develop their project for launch. They will use the investment for distribution of their devices, subsidizing the phones and field testing.

    So what about you?

    Right now, students can register to be part of Imagine Cup 2012 and can sign up in any of eight different categories. From designing brand new technology in Software Design to building gadgets through the Kinect Fun Labs Challenge, there is something for every student to enjoy. Who knows - your team could be the next group of students Microsoft funds through the Imagine Cup Grants!


  • Skype’s Disaster Response Platform

    At the World Economic Forum in Davos this week, we’re hosting the Microsoft Vision Center a dedicated facility that not only showcases the latest technology from Microsoft and our partners, but also shows how technology is being used to address many of the world’s most pressing problems. DSC_0125

    One of the most visually interesting demonstrations at the center is an offering from Skype in partnership with emergency.lu which addresses the challenge of worldwide rapid response capacity and preparedness for humanitarian emergencies.


    Skype has worked to develop a solution designed to fill the communication gap in the first hours and days after a large-scale disaster.

    emergency.lu was launched last December at the UN Headquarters New York, and Skype is now a technical partner supporting the initiative.

    The solution provides a multi-layer communications platform consisting of satellite infrastructure and capacity; communication and coordination services; satellite ground terminals for both rapid and long-term deployment; and transportation of equipment to the disaster area within the first 12 to 20 hours.

    Skype has develop a specific low bandwidth client which is available as part of emergency.lu and can be downloaded by NGO staff on the ground. The Skype client helps them with coordination and also acts as an alert system to immediately notify experts and the staff working in the affected region.


    emergency.lu offers several benefits to the International Humanitarian and Disaster Relief Community:

    • Rapid response solution for disaster relief and humanitarian operations
    • Complementary solution to the international humanitarian tool-box
    • End-to-end services adapted to the requirements of the international humanitarian community
    • Covers entire service chain including air transport, satellite infrastructure, terminals and services such as Skype
    • Works in close coordination with the Emergency Telecommunications Cluster (ETC), the World Food Programme (WFP) and the European Union
    • Global Public Good supported by the Luxembourg Government

    You can find out more at: http://www.emergency.lu

  • Microsoft Vision Center in Davos

    This week the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2012 is taking place in Davos, Switzerland. The event attracts government, business, academic and nonprofit leaders from around the world who come together to learn, share ideas and engage in debates on the pressing economic and social issues facing countries around the world.

    This year, we are hosting the Microsoft Vision Center in Davos.  It’s a dedicated facility that showcases the latest technology from Microsoft and our partners from PCs to phones, Xbox 360, the Xbox Kinect sensor and the new Microsoft Surface. 

    We’re also giving visitors an insight into how technology is helping to address some of the most pressing global issues such as creating opportunities for youth around the world.

    There’s a range of different programs being showcased, from our work with nonprofits to provide young people with the skills they need to find employment, to the Imagine Cup, Partners in Learning, and a special Skype project we’ll be telling you more about tomorrow.

    DSC_0136 DSC_0147






  • Building a technology backbone for global health impact

    by Erik Arnold, chief information officer at PATH.

    In a conference room in Zambia, David Lubinski scribbles annotations with a stylus across a tablet computer, his movements creating red lines and boxes on the image projected on the screen behind him. His audience is Zambian health officials tasked with designing a stronger logistics management information system for their country. The participants eagerly offer improvements for how the process model should be revised to accurately depict each step for obtaining health supplies.

    Lubinski captures their real-time changes on the screen, refining the process model with their edits until the group is satisfied with what they’ve created.

    Microsoft and PATH_image_zambia slide

    For Lubinski, program advisor for health management information systems at the global health nonprofit PATH, this active collaboration is a crucial part of his job. And the tools he uses to make it happen—Microsoft PowerPoint, Visio, and Word—are equally important. They allow Lubinski and his team to be efficient advisors and consultants while staying true to PATH’s commitment to develop innovative health solutions that are affordable and appropriate for the communities it serves.

    “The real impact of having good tools is that they allow us to work the way that PATH works,” Lubinski says.

    These tools are part of a 2011 grant from Microsoft for software and licenses that cover use by PATH’s 1,000-plus staff members spread across offices in 23 countries. The grant provides a technology backbone that enables PATH to access the most up-to-date technology, improve communications among its staff, and free up precious funding to increase the organization’s impact on the health of people around the world. It builds on a 2007 grant from Microsoft that allowed PATH to connect its increasing number of country program offices and modernize its data center.

    Replacing a patchwork quilt

    Like most nongovernmental organizations, PATH has limited resources for administrative activities, says Erik Arnold, PATH’s chief information officer. The organization, headquartered in Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood, has grown dramatically in the past decade to meet global health needs ranging from improving nutrition for mothers and children to protecting millions of people against epidemic meningitis in Africa. Close to half of its staff are based in field offices in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

    As PATH expanded, it sought the least expensive IT options, Arnold explains, resulting in a patchwork quilt of technology and tools that didn’t always meet the organization’s needs. With Microsoft’s recent grant, PATH is now able to standardize its IT infrastructure across its sites and give staff like Lubinski access to core technology to boost program effectiveness.

    “Our group uses every piece of software that’s in that grant,” Lubinski says. “We could not do our work without it.”

    Lubinski and his team rely on Visio, for example, to produce sophisticated diagrams that help ministries of health in developing countries document and plan technology requirements for their countries’ health systems. With PATH’s guidance, a country determines its need for, say, improving care for newborn babies and their mothers, then builds the enterprise architecture to address that need.

    Moving to the cloud

    On the back end, PATH is using the Microsoft grant to streamline technology across its global sites and prepare to move the organization’s network infrastructure to Microsoft’s off-site hosted solutions.

    “As a nonprofit, it would be irresponsible to build a large, complex, and expensive IT organization,” Arnold says.

    In addition to the challenges that any global organization faces, PATH also contends with the realities of the sometimes-rugged conditions of the places where it works. “Forget Internet bandwidth and latency,” Arnold says. “I’m happy when our offices get consistent electricity.”

    Cloud-based solutions like Office 365 are an obvious answer, he says. They are much more cost effective and reliable than on-premise solutions, will enhance operations for staff around the world, and will allow PATH to pursue projects in some of the most remote locations in the world.

    As PATH continues to expand its reach, Microsoft’s grant will ensure the organization has the technology backbone it needs to deliver solutions that enhance and save lives. From a data center in Seattle to a conference room in Zambia or a remote village in India, Microsoft technology is playing a critical role in helping PATH transform global health through innovation.

    Microsoft and PATH_image_Erik Arnold

    Eric Arnold is the CIO at PATH, an international nonprofit organization that creates sustainable, culturally relevant solutions, enabling communities worldwide to break longstanding cycles of poor health. By collaborating with diverse public- and private-sector partners, PATH helps provide appropriate health technologies and vital strategies that change the way people think and act. PATH’s work improves global health and well-being.

    For more information, please visit www.path.org.

    Get a Microsoft software donation for your favorite nonprofit

    Every year over 40,000 nonprofits around the world receive software donations from Microsoft. Make sure your nonprofit is getting access to the latest Microsoft technology. Send them to our nonprofit donations page from more information.

  • The nonprofit productivity battle: have you tried OneNote?

    One of the primary reasons we have a software donations program is to give nonprofit organizations access to the latest Microsoft products to help them succeed with the perennial challenge of trying to do more with less.

    In a world where we’re all faced with managing ever growing volumes of information with shorter deadlines, anything that helps your productivity has to be welcomed and one of the best weapons in your arsenal should be Microsoft OneNote.  OneNote is part of the Microsoft Office family and provides a digital notebook where you can store information from across your computer (and now your phone and your Internet browser) and organize it so you can find what you need, when you need it.

    In case you haven’t used OneNote in your daily productivity battle we wanted to provide some tips, tricks and resources on how OneNote can save you time. The post below is reproduced with the kind permission of our friends over in TechSoup and below it you’ll find some additional resources, including details on how you can get OneNote and other Microsoft products for your favorite nonprofit through our software donations program.

    5 Tips and Tricks for Microsoft OneNote 2010 – courtesy of TechSoup.org

    Karen Hong is a business analyst at TechSoup.

    I confess that I am constantly writing things down – whether they be tasks, meeting notes, or ideas. In many cases, those jottings were generally lost in pages of notebooks and, dare I say, illegible handwriting. I have tried to use basic tools, like Notepad, to store notes, but that turned into an exercise of organizing multiple files with no way to easily find information or share it with others.

    Microsoft’s OneNote 2010 is a digital tool that helps people who need a better way to keep track of their notes and information by providing an easy way to collect, organize, search, and share information. OneNote allows users to create digital notebooks, each of which can be separated by multiple tabs for different topics.

    In addition to letting users easily take and keep notes in one location, OneNote has additional features that I have found to be extremely helpful. Here are my five favorites:

      Flagging tasks that integrate into Outlook. Jotting down tasks is great, but not if you can’t remember what you wrote or where you wrote them down. In OneNote, you can highlight a line of text, right-click, and flag it as an Outlook task and assign it a due date. This will automatically add the task to your Outlook Task list.

      Screenshot integration. Taking screenshots can be a laborious task that may involve taking a screen grab, cropping the image, and then copying and pasting it into a document. OneNote has an easy one-step process for taking screenshots. The Screen Clipping feature allows you to outline the exact area you want on a screen and paste it directly into your OneNote page. It also includes a date stamp of when the screenshot was taken.

      One-step email. If you use Outlook, OneNote makes it easy to email your notes to colleagues. In one step, OneNote can paste your page of notes, including any screen clippings, images, links, audio recordings, and documents you’ve attached to it, directly into an Outlook email. You simply add the recipients and send it off!

      Searchability. Perhaps one of the biggest challenges with handwritten notes is trying to find a specific line within those notes. Not a problem with OneNote – it has full search capabilities that allow users to enter search terms and quickly locate the pages that contain those terms.

      Unfiled Notes. For a quick note, OneNote’s Unfiled Note feature allows you to quickly jot down a thought, idea, or task. A OneNote icon always sits in your task bar, where you can easily open it and write a note. It then automatically posts it to the Unfiled Notes tab in OneNote for you to take future action.

        For more information about how to use OneNote, check out:

        Why not get your favorite nonprofit a donation from Microsoft?

        Every year over 40,000 nonprofits around the world receive software donations from Microsoft.  Make sure your nonprofit is getting access to the latest Microsoft technology.  Send them to our nonprofit donations page from more information.

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