Youth & Opportunity
Engineering , Math
By Steve Lippman, Director of Corporate Citizenship at Microsoft
In the recent past, we’ve blogged about our software donation program, a program that provides free software licenses to any eligible nonprofit organization. To keep things simple our eligibility guidelines track to the same criteria that the US government and other governments around the world use in deciding who is a nonprofit.
This kind of broad program – which provided $844 million in software to 40,000 organizations last year – inevitably means that from time to time we end up providing software to some group that holds policy positions different than our own. That’s because the goal of the program is to support a vibrant and healthy non-profit community, not a particular issue or point of view.
Until now, we’ve talked about this issue mostly in general terms. But a recent controversy over climate change denial advertising by a nonprofit that received software licenses under our program are prompting us to be a little more specific.
Microsoft believes climate change is a serious issue that demands immediate, worldwide attention and we are acting accordingly. We are pursuing strategies and taking actions to reduce our own impact as well as the impact of our products. In addition, Microsoft has adopted a broad policy statement on climate change that expresses support for government action to address climate change.
The Heartland Institute does not speak for Microsoft on climate change. In fact, the Heartland Institute’s position on climate change is diametrically opposed to Microsoft’s position. And we completely disagree with the group’s inflammatory and distasteful advertising campaign.
Heartland did participate in our global software donation program in 2010, as did thousands of other nonprofit organizations. It’s important to point out that hundreds of environmental and conservation groups also took advantage of the same program, and received over $13 million in free software to pursue their missions.
Again, our software donation program does not support or endorse any particular nonprofit or any particular policy views -- it supports giving all nonprofits in the world access to free software.
To learn more about Microsoft’s climate change policy statement and sustainability efforts, please visit our website.
By Frank McCosker, General Manager, Global Strategic Accounts, Worldwide Public Sector, Microsoft
Providing universal Internet connectivity, at broadband speed, is increasingly important for fostering economic and social development in Asia. That is why, this week at the Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) Annual Meeting in the Philippines, the ADB NGO Center, in partnership with Microsoft and hardware partner Adaptrum, will demonstrate innovative wireless technology that has the power to transform citizens’ lives and stimulate economic growth.
As a region, Asia-Pacific has both some of the highest and lowest broadband penetration rates in the world. Even countries like South Korea and Singapore, which have some of the highest Internet penetration rates, have had problems connecting the remaining parts of their populations in an affordable and efficient manner. For those countries yet to reach a critical mass of connected citizens, the imperative to connect to increase national competitiveness is even greater. According to a McKinsey & Company executive, a 10% increase in broadband connectivity can yield an approximate rise in GDP of .06-.07%.
With so much on the line, the importance of expanding broadband access is clear; the challenge is how to do it affordably and efficiently.
For the past several years, Microsoft Research, in collaboration with many industry and government partners, has been working on new technology sometimes referred to as “Super Wi-Fi.” What makes this technology “super” is how it actually works. The technology transmits data via unused TV channels and it does so in a way that does not disrupt existing TV broadcasts. Using this part of the spectrum has many benefits.
First, the distances covered by such technology can be anywhere between 3 and 10 times greater than those covered by existing unlicensed wireless solutions. Second, just like TV, the signal is much less impeded by obstructions like walls or buildings that tend to disrupt wireless signals. Using this spectrum non-exclusively in an unlicensed or “license-exempt” manner will enable any entity – from the largest mobile operator to a single user or village – to take advantage of this technology.
Perhaps the most appealing feature of “Super Wi-Fi” for developing countries is the ability to provide wireless solutions at a much lower cost than traditional systems. Low-powered and low-cost TV Spectrum-based wireless base-stations could connect entire villages, schools, and hospitals in impoverished rural settings, enabling much higher economic rates of return.
“Super Wi-Fi” can also help to address the increasing consumer demand for Internet-connected wireless devices in the more developed countries in the Asia-Pacific region. By leveraging the dynamic allocation of unused spectrum, the number of devices that can connect to the Internet can be drastically increased. The best news about this technology is that we should soon be seeing it reach its commercialization tipping point. Last week, in the United Kingdom where I live, the municipality of Cambridge announced the success of a large scale pilot project with over 15 participating partners. Meanwhile, in Asia, Microsoft is working with the government of Singapore and local partners on a “Super Wi-Fi” pilot to launch in the latter part of 2012.
Governments and other organizations around the world are becoming increasingly interested in “Super Wi-Fi” as a potential solution to many of the connectivity challenges facing both developed and developing countries. The demonstration at the ADB annual meeting in Manila provides another opportunity for civil society leaders to discover “Super Wi-Fi’s” potential benefits to help scale their engagement and collaboration with citizens. We are excited to be showing such powerful technology alongside the Asian Development Bank, our partner since 2007.
Universal access to broadband will be one of the most important drivers of economic growth in the coming decade. While the need is urgent, figuring out how to achieve this goal is still an enormous challenge. We don’t believe “Super Wi-Fi” will be the only solution to achieving universal broadband access, but we do believe it will be a key component as governments and organizations continue to identify new ways to connect their citizens.
Editor’s Note: Today’s young people are tomorrow’s leaders, entrepreneurs and innovators. The continuing acceleration of technology and innovation creates incredible opportunities but it also challenges us to keep up by getting the right skills, education and experiences in order to be prepared for these new jobs and opportunities. Many young people are struggling because they don’t have the experience, knowledge or connections they need to find employment. In her interview below, Binta Coudy Dé, an IT student from Senegal, observes that her peers are challenged to apply the things they learn in class to secure employment. Through working with businesses, the nonprofit community and governments, Microsoft is committed to providing opportunities for youth through technology, training, and experiences. Learn more about Binta Coudy’s point of view and her experience at this week’s International Conference on Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) in Shanghai, a global platform for knowledge sharing, reflection and debate on the changing landscape of TVET, as well as its future.
By Microsoft Citizenship Team
Binta Coudy Dé is a well-spoken 22-year-old living in Dakar, Senegal, who wants to be an entrepreneur. She’s a member of the team Cyan Girls, which won a software design award for West and Central Africa in 2011 in Microsoft’s student technology competition, Imagine Cup.
“We all wanted to do computer science for good,” she said. “And the Imagine Cup program offered the chance to use technology to solve problems. So we thought we could do something to help those who have the most complicated math in Senegal.”
That would be the rural farmers and fisherman of the West African country. Binta Coudy says they do the best that they can, but often can’t afford to eat the very food they produce – fish and rice – which is part of the country’s most popular dish.
“We tried to identify the real problems facing fisherman in Senegal and we found a company called Corex, who was trying to help,” she said. “But their work was just on paper and they had not yet incorporated technology in their project.”
Based on this idea, her team developed a project called PAGEL, which is a cloud platform designed to provide infrastructure and ecommerce support for rural farmers and fishermen. With software as a service (SAAS) combined with Windows Azure, these individuals and small businesses can better set pricing, identify markets to sell their goods and gain worldwide visibility through an online marketplace. They submitted their project and advanced all the way to the Imagine Cup Worldwide Finals 2011 in New York.
Team Cyan Girls at the Imagine Cup Worldwide Finals in New York, July 9, 2011.
But the work didn’t stop there for this team of young innovators. Binta Coudy and her team members are actively looking to make their innovations a reality. They currently have an opportunity to receive mentorship from the Dakar Information and Communication Technologies Incubator (CTIC), a business incubation center that could help PAGEL. Binta Coudy sees this as an opportunity for her to realize her dream to become an entrepreneur.
“We have a lot of things we can do in Senegal and we don’t want other people to come and do it,” she said. “We want to do it.”
Just this week, Binta Coudy attended the International Conference on Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) conference in Shanghai to share her experience with technology and the process of creating the PAGEL project. At TVET, she was part a round table on technology and skills development where she stressed that technology students are often challenged to apply things learned in IT classes to secure employment. Binta Coudy noticed that this challenge was not just specific to Senegal, and that the same thing was happening in other West African countries such as Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire. To help address the issue, Binta Coudy and other students formed a network of support groups, comprised of both students and working professionals, who together identify barriers and challenges and solve them creatively. This includes developing a better understanding of the demand for IT skills, mentoring and internship support.
She also spoke of her Imagine Cup experience which gave her a strong sense of entrepreneurial spirit, an incredibly important complement to her IT studies. More importantly, she spoke about how Imagine Cup gave her the opportunity to apply her IT skills and develop concrete examples and outputs of her learning.
At TVET, Binta Coudy is not only an advocate for entrepreneurialism, but a source of inspiration to girls around the globe to seek information technology and computer science as a career path. This is vital to securing jobs of the future, as 77 percent of jobs will require technology skills by 2020, according to a 2010 IDC study. As a woman, Binta Coudy feels her role in information technology is rare due to cultural norms. She says that strict parents of girls might not normally condone late night studying in a computer lab for a project like Imagine Cup. She herself exceled in school and finished a year earlier than her peers, earning a bachelor degree in experimental sciences at just 17. She went on to study at Ecole Supérieure Multinationale des Télécommunications (ESMT) and Ecole Supérieure Polytechnique in Dakar to complete a hybrid study of telecommunications and computer science. When she was doing her first internship in 2008, she was the youngest information technology support staff at the company.
“When you go to a company, they say girls don’t know programming,” said Binta Coudy. “It’s for men, not for girls. One day, there was a problem with a computer and when I came to fix it, a man told me ‘please call your boss because you will not touch my computer. I am sure you don’t know how to fix it.’”
Furthermore, she’s a rare example of having access to technology in early stages of life. She remembers playing solitaire on a computer at just eight years old, when she wondered about the inner workings of the computer. She thought, how is it that the computer won, and how did I come to win? Binta Coudy says that many students are not as fortunate as her to have access to technology at so young an age. Not every school has access to the internet and those students who do have access to laptops do because their parents could afford to buy them one – a rarity. And while she did have the tools available to her, she didn’t have anyone available to show her technology’s practical application.
She said the appeal of Imagine Cup for students is that they learn that they can develop an idea and have a chance to really find if their project will help people. Her hope is that events focused on championing technical and vocational training such as this week’s UNESCO International Congress on TVET will lead to an exchange of ideas among the global community and encourage more students to seek technological careers.
By Jon Fine, President and CEO, United Way of King County
It comes as no surprise to me, or to any of our partners, that Microsoft received the prestigious Summit Award for community impact last night from United Way Worldwide.
This award recognizes Microsoft for donating $100.5 million to nonprofits and educational institutions in 2011 in addition to giving $844 million in software to more than 40,000 nonprofits worldwide, including United Ways.
Of the 11,000 people who participated in United Way of King County’s Day of Caring last fall—the largest single day of volunteering in Washington state—6,000 were Microsoft employees. Day of Caring volunteers donated an estimated $1.1 million in hours on 416 projects around our communities. And last year Microsoft’s gifts in King County alone provided 1,183,512 food bank visits to our neighbors who struggle to make ends meet—a very real issue United Way spotlighted recently during Hunger Action Week. More than 1,500 people stood with us that week against hunger, which affects 13 percent of our community.
These are powerful numbers, but more important, they represent real people. People like you and me who shop at the same grocery stores we do, whose kids go to the same schools as our kids. People like Regina, a single mom who took extended time off work to care for her sick son and fell behind on rent and other basic needs. Regina, and many others like her who’ve needed support, got back on her feet with a little help from a United Way grantee program.
Microsoft’s Andrea Taylor receives the United Way Summit Award
Perhaps the most valuable thing the Microsoft community brings to our larger community is passion for innovation and approaching tough challenges in a smart and efficient way. It’s a mentality that has come to characterize the Seattle region, and it ties back directly to Microsoft’s spirit of generosity. So when something we’re doing gets a positive endorsement from the employees of Microsoft, it makes an impact that resonates throughout the community.
The Parent-Child Home Program is a perfect example of this. On the day we launched the program, Microsoft stepped forward to support it with a $1 million gift. Then follow-up donations came in from other companies and employees, as well as several Microsoft alumni. And the effects of this investment have been countless.
About 75 percent of our state’s lowest-income children are not prepared for school when they enter kindergarten. But key support such as Microsoft’s have allowed for the great success of the program—and a goal expansion from 160 families to 1,000—so we can help even more kids and parents build the skills that lead to academic success.
As evident in these and many other United Way programs and services, Microsoft’s investments of money, time and invention are making true social change. It is a commitment that’s altering the landscape of our community right now, and it’s one that will continue to have such effects well into the future.
From all of us in the nonprofit community, congratulations on Microsoft’s well-deserved Summit award. Thank you!
Microsoft has today announced that we plan to be carbon neutral across all our direct operations beginning on July 1st 2012 – the beginning of our next financial year.
Rob Bernard, Chief Environmental Strategist at Microsoft commented on the software enabled earth blog:
Today, we are announcing that we are making the commitment to become carbon neutral beginning with our Fiscal Year 2013 (which begins July 1st). This commitment will apply to our internal operations across more than 100 countries associated with our data centers, software development labs, offices and air travel. Our strategy is based on driving company-wide accountability resulting in greater efficiencies, increasing our purchase of renewable energy, improving data collection with IT, and a continued acceleration of our R&D and datacenter operations efficiency investments. The model of accountability is based on an internal carbon fee administered through our corporate finance department and cascaded globally to our business groups. This charge-back model will place a price on carbon and make the company’s business divisions responsible for the cost of offsetting the carbon emissions associated with their electricity use and air travel.
Today, we are announcing that we are making the commitment to become carbon neutral beginning with our Fiscal Year 2013 (which begins July 1st). This commitment will apply to our internal operations across more than 100 countries associated with our data centers, software development labs, offices and air travel. Our strategy is based on driving company-wide accountability resulting in greater efficiencies, increasing our purchase of renewable energy, improving data collection with IT, and a continued acceleration of our R&D and datacenter operations efficiency investments.
The model of accountability is based on an internal carbon fee administered through our corporate finance department and cascaded globally to our business groups. This charge-back model will place a price on carbon and make the company’s business divisions responsible for the cost of offsetting the carbon emissions associated with their electricity use and air travel.
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