May, 2012

  • Microsoft’s Commitment to Addressing Climate Change

    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.

  • Developing IT Pros of the Future in Rwanda

    By Peter Njagi, Microsoft Certified Trainer

    I have worked as a Microsoft Certified Trainer since 2004. In March 2012, I heard about a program called the NetHope Academy that was going to be launched in Rwanda. After doing some research, I learned that the NetHope Academy provides internships and training to promising youth in the developing world. The idea is to provide them with the opportunities they need so that they can begin their careers as IT professionals.

    I contacted NetHope and was invited to lead their first Academy “Boot Camp” in Rwanda. So many of these young people just can’t bridge the gap between their studies in University and the demands of the work place. I was very happy to help.

    I gratefully anticipated meeting the NetHope Academy interns and information technology (IT) mentors at the campus of Integrated Polytechnic Regional Center (IPRC) in Kicukiro, formerly known as ETO Kicukiro.  During those first days, the interns showed a lot of willingness to learn despite being a bit shy. After laying some ground rules (and a little dancing to break the ice), I saw how eager the interns were to learn, especially since this training was a different approach than what they were used to in their past institutions. The course would be more focused on practical application rather than theory, which would be a good thing for them. As we got to know each other, we realized we are all resourceful and we just need to utilize our time well.


    NetHope Academy Rwanda pauses for a group photo in Kigali, April 2012

    As Rwanda focuses its attention to the attainment of the goals as outlined in the Rwanda Vision 2020, I sincerely thank the NetHope team for considering the country in its pioneer program in Africa. It will go a long way in helping us achieve the much-needed IT skills to push the vision forward and make Rwanda the ICT hub for the region. The NetHope Academy internship program comes with a very workable course structure and with mentors who are very willing to support the interns. I am sure over the next six months we will begin to see the effect of the NetHope Academy in the Rwandan IT sector. With the knowledge of how to administer a Microsoft Windows Server 2008, the interns really will stand out in the job market. Kudos to them!

    So, thank you NetHope, its sponsors and all those who made this assignment possible. There is “program design excellence” that comes from a multidisciplinary approach, and it really shines in NetHope Academy.  This program reflects a complete, sustainable and healthy transformation in the participants.  The opposite of a quick fix, this process looks very promising for other areas of international development.

    The energy, enthusiasm, and love felt during the NetHope Academy training continues to inspire me each day and I look forward to seeing each one of the interns being on his or her feet professionally. The dedication and drive of the interns speaks highly of the NetHope selection process. The program is very well operated and managed. I could clearly see that the IT mentors – intern supervisors who addressed the class – were highly impressed with the quality of professionalism and communication shown by the interns.

    I would specifically like to mention the friendly attitude and unmatched planning and organization skills of Lisa Obradovich and Kevine Bajeneza of NetHope. Accenture’s Krista Tracy did an amazing job as well. They took care of everything and everyone with a big heart.  I’d also like to thank the interns in my class for making every day a good day and one worth living, even if it meant waking up very early in the morning and getting home very late in the evening. I knew you were giving your best and I wanted to do the same for you good people. I felt inspired by your energy and enthusiasm. Long live NetHope’s spirit of “Connect, Collaborate, Innovate!”

    When asked to give their impressions of NetHope Academy Boot Camp and Peter, interns and program directors said:

    “Because of what I learned I was able to pass the Microsoft Technical Associate certification. Now I am studying to earn my MCTS while working at my internship.” – Peruth Mukanshimiye

    “I learned a lot in Boot Camp and it has made a difference for me at my internship. One thing that Peter taught us is how to work through problems and contribute to solutions. This is something we never learned in school.” – Samuel Yesashimwe

    “This program is good for our country and for me in general because it’s helping me get my first IT job.” – Aimable Habimana

    “Peter was outstanding. He truly understands the practical skill gap and job market challenges that youth in Rwanda face. He showed amazing dedication and inspiration every day. He is so genuine and his smile lit up the room in Kigali. I would bring him back to teach every Boot Camp if we could.” – Lisa Obradovich, NetHope Program Director

  • Teacher Appreciation Day Highlights Critical Role Educators Play in Students’ Lives

    Editor’s Note: This is cross-posted from Microsoft on the Issues. Today is National Teacher Appreciation Day and we are recognizing the efforts of teachers who are inspiring the next generation of future leaders. We are actively and deeply engaged in helping provide educators with the tools they need to create opportunities for youth through technology, training, and experiences that empower them to imagine and realize their full potential.

    By Andrew Ko, General Manager, Microsoft Partners in Learning

    For many of us, there has been at least one special person who has had a significant impact on our lives, and has inspired us to reach where we are today. It may be a parent, relative or a friend, but for many, it’s a teacher. Today is Teacher Appreciation Day, a day for honoring teachers and recognizing the lasting contributions they make to our lives.


    David Squires, a teacher at Oak Valley Middle School in Commerce Township, Mich., works with student Taylor Henderson on a school project designed to help end unemployment.

    Educators are at the frontline in preparing our students to compete in a globally competitive workforce, and I am continually inspired by how today’s most innovative and inspiring teachers use current socio-economic challenges as learning opportunities for their students. David Squires from Oak Valley Middle School in Commerce Township, Mich. is one such teacher, working with his students on a project to achieve the impossible: solve unemployment.

    With Michigan’s high unemployment rate at 8.5 percent, students could relate to the problem, were aware of the causes, and had seen and often times felt the impact first hand. This connection generated student interest not only in the initial stages of the project, but also increased their desire to help solve the problem. Students were tasked with researching the issue, and developing presentations for the class, school and community that explore the issue and offer solutions to combat unemployment.

    The unemployment issue hits us all. A recent International Youth Foundation Report, commissioned by Microsoft and entitled “Opportunity for Action”, found nearly 75 million of the world’s young people, ages 15 to 24 years-old, were unemployed in 2011. Of that total, 4 million were in the U.S. The report found that education is the linchpin in changing those circumstances, noting students with higher levels of education are more likely to find work in today’s economy.

    Effective use of technology in the classroom is vital because it is so critical to students’ success. The impact technology can have is very evident in David Squires’ seventh-grade classroom. Students used a variety of technologies, including Microsoft OneNote, Excel, Skype and Movie Maker, to research, share data and ideas, and present their proposed solutions. Students also incorporated lessons from their math and social studies classes to analyze local data, graphs and discuss calculations, ratios, percentages, linear relationships and social implications of varying unemployment levels and political decisions.

    At the end of the school year, students will share their solution to unemployment with individuals, businesses, NGOs and elected officials. Through this, students get first-hand experience in civic responsibility and learning what it takes to help affect change.

    It’s that change that Microsoft is dedicated to cultivating. We are actively and deeply engaged in helping provide educators with the tools they need to be successful in engaging and inspiring the next generation of future leaders. Microsoft Partners in Learning is a 10-year, almost $500 million global initiative aimed at improving teaching and learning. Since 2003, we’ve led the way in partnering with educators, helping nearly 10 million educators, and reaching more than 200 million students in 119 countries in our first seven years alone. It is why we are so proud to support the annual Microsoft Partners in Learning Forum, which honors educators who creatively and effectively use technology in the classroom to support critical skills development and learning for today’s students. David Squires is one of 44 U.S. educators selected to compete at the 2012 Partners in Learning US Forum, taking place July 31-August 1 in Redmond, Wash., and we encourage other innovative educators to apply by May 15 so they too can celebrate, collaborate and learn from their creative peers across the country.

    We are encouraged by David’s lesson and the impact one class can have on the nation’s future. David says he hopes that by the end of the school year, his students will realize, even as middle school students, they can have a significant impact on their community and their world. That is inspirational, and we are excited to see how David’s students learn to become forces for change.

  • Technology Skills Helping Youth Make the World a Better Place

    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.

  • Cross Post: Exploring the Role of Corporate Political Donations

    Editor’s note: Today, Dan Bross, Senior Director of Corporate Citizenship at Microsoft has published an interesting look at the role of corporate political donations, particularly in the United States following the Citizens United decision.

    Bross writes:

    “Corporations have responded to the ‘Citizens United’ ruling in a variety of ways. Some have decided to ramp up their independent expenditures. Others, including Microsoft, have decided not to contribute to “527 organizations” – groups formed solely to influence elections, to which there are no upper limits on contributions…. there is growing interest in understanding how corporations are participating in the political process. That’s why Microsoft has adopted the practice of semi-annually posting all our political contributions on our public website.”

      Dan Bross (LCA) 2005 01

    You can read the full post on the Microsoft on the Issues blog.

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