December, 2012

  • Microsoft Adds the Cherokee Language to Windows 8

    Editor’s note: Today we’re announcing support for the Cherokee language in Windows 8 as part of the Microsoft Local Language Program. The availability is a testament to the Cherokee Nation and their continued commitment to strengthen their language and sustain their culture for future generations.

    By Carla Hurd, Senior Program Manager, Microsoft Local Language Program

    When your speaker base is shrinking and your culture as you know it will be lost forever, what do you do? The Cherokee Nation is no stranger to the concept of language preservation. They have been a leader and exemplary example to all. This wasn’t always the case: a survey taken more than a decade ago found there were no Cherokees under the age of 40 considered conversational. Today, they have a speaker base of about 16,000. They knew that in order to sustain their language and culture for future generations, that’s exactly who they needed to start with – future generations.

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    When a language declines it usually starts with younger generations; they do not speak the language, then their children don’t speak the language, and so on. Before you know it, a small group of elders are the last speakers, and then the language goes extinct. This is not the case with Cherokee. The Cherokee Nation took action. As a result in 2001, they invested in Cherokee language immersion schools starting with preschool. This provided an environment for their children to be exposed to the language and culture while using it as part of their everyday activities, including technology. In the school, there is no English allowed; only Cherokee is spoken. Those children who first started in the immersion charter school are now in 7th grade, still continuing their Cherokee education and embracing their culture.

    Today technology is deeply integrated into our everyday lives – if that technology is not provided in the user’s native tongue, then they will use whatever language is accessible to them. That is why Microsoft believed it was important to work with the Cherokee Nation Language Team on creating access to our products in their language.

    The journey began over three years ago and as a result, we are pleased to provide a Language Interface Pack (LIP) for Windows in the Cherokee Language. This LIP translates and displays most of the commonly used user interface of Windows into Cherokee. Part of the process presented challenges as there were many terms which did not exist in the Cherokee language. When terminology did not exist, the translation team had to rely on elders or ancient texts for reference in order to assist in creating a new word as required for the translation. In addition, a new modern sans-serif user interface font Gadugi - the Cherokee word for “working together” - was developed to allow the localization and maintain the Windows 8 design style. This font supplements the more traditional Plantagenet Cherokee font that’s been part of Windows since Windows Vista.

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    The Windows 8 settings screen in Cherokee

     

    More about the Microsoft Local Language Program

    The Microsoft Local Language Program provides people access to technology in a familiar language while respecting linguistic and cultural distinctions. The program bridges the gap to technology through language and culture as well as empowers individuals in local communities to create economic opportunities, build IT skills, enhance education outcomes, and sustain their local language and culture for future generations.

    For more information on the Microsoft Local Language Program please visit http://microsoft.com/LLP.

  • Imagine Cup Grants – supporting social innovation by young entrepreneurs

    Today at the Social Innovation Summit students from Germany, Australia, Egypt, Uganda and Ukraine are taking the next step in bringing their smart ideas for addressing real social issues to market. They are winners of the second annual Imagine Cup Grants, a three-year, $3 million competitive grant program that is part of our YouthSpark initiative and provides funding and support to help them transform their technology project into a business or social enterprise.

    So what problems are this year’s winners solving?

    • Team Graphmasters from Germany have created an innovative traffic navigation system called nunav which reduces vehicle carbon emissions by intelligently routing vehicles based on traffic and weather conditions, reducing congestion and fuel costs and addressing traffic jams. Team video: http://bit.ly/RWjVN6

     

    • Australian Team StethoCloud have developed a mobile-hybrid stethoscope using Windows Phone that detects childhood pneumonia at early stages. The user is able to transmit diagnostic information into a cloud service, reproducing the diagnostic capability of a trained medical doctor. Team video: http://bit.ly/PWCcKy

     

    • Team Vivid hails from Egypt and has created a mobile app that helps healthcare providers access patient electronic medical records through a secure cloud-based storage system. Team video: http://bit.ly/T4PJAt

     

    • From Uganda Team Cipher256 has built a mobile application that aids health workers as they assist expectant mothers. The algorithm analyses fetal heart sounds to determine the fetal heart rate (beats per minute) and the age and position of the fetus and then records these readings to the cloud. Team video: http://bit.ly/Us89qS

     

    • Team QuadSquad from Ukraine has produced Enable Talk which gives people with hearing difficulties a better way to communicate by transforming sign language into a form of verbal communication by creating a mobile device that continuously recognizes sign language phonemes. Team video: http://bit.ly/UIDx4E

     

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      All the grant winners were finalists in this year’s Imagine Cup, the world’s most prestigious student technology competition which brings together student innovators from all over the world. The Imagine Cup Grants program helps the winning students turn their ideas into reality by creating a business or social enterprise.

      Christian Brüggemann from Team Graphmasters explains how the Imagine Cup and the grants program work together:

      “The Imagine Cup was the catalyst for our team to create nunav…  (The Imagine Cup Grants) give us the opportunity to expand our project and bring it to market. As mobile phone adoption becomes more prevalent around the world, it presents a perfect way for nunav to help fight traffic and carbon emissions.”

      In addition to the cash awards totaling $325,000, the grant packages include software, cloud computing services, solution provider support, premium Microsoft BizSpark account benefits and access to local resources such as Microsoft Innovation Centers. We will also connect grant recipients with our network of investors, nongovernmental organization partners and business partners and will work with the grant recipients to tailor individual support as needed depending on the progress each team has made so far with its project.

      The grants winners battled against 40 other Imagine Cup teams who applied for the grants. They were chosen by a judging panel of industry experts with knowledge spanning 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:

       

      You can follow the Social Innovation Summit on Twitter at #SIS12.

      Read more about the winning teams here.

       

       

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      Team Graphmasters nunav applications (Screenshot courtesy of Team Graphmasters)

       

      More information and resources on Microsoft YouthSpark and Imagine Cup:

      The Imagine Cup Grants are part of Microsoft YouthSpark, a global initiative that aims to create opportunities for 300 million youth in more than 100 countries during the next three years. This companywide initiative includes Citizenship and other company programs — both new and enhanced — that empower youth to imagine and realize their full potential by connecting them with greater opportunities for education, employment and entrepreneurship. Find out more at: http://www.microsoft.com/youthspark.

      This year marks the 11th year of Imagine Cup, which will be celebrated at the worldwide finals in St. Petersburg, Russia, July 8–12, 2013. Students ages 16 and older are eligible to register and compete in Imagine Cup 2013 by visiting the Imagine Cup website at http://www.imaginecup.com. A full list of competitions and challenges are listed at http://imaginecup.com/main/compete. In the past decade, more than 1.65 million students from 190 countries have registered to compete for cash and other prizes.

      You can read about last year’s grant recipients here.

    • Guest Post: Microsoft and British Council – the odd couple

      By: Simon Gammell, Director West Coast, British Council, Los Angeles

      The closing keynote of the Microsoft PiL Global Forum, delivered Saturday night in Prague by Microsoft’s Vice President of World Wide Public Sector, Laura Ipsen, featured strongly Microsoft’s burgeoning partnership with the British Council. Since announcing our Education Alliance Agreement at last year’s forum in Washington DC, British Council and Microsoft have built and delivered the pioneering Badiliko project in Africa - which has seen 90 digital hubs built in schools, with 3000 teachers trained in how to make the best use of the equipment in the classroom. This has greatly improved the learning experience of over 100,000 African students, giving them access to ICT for the first time and helping them to acquire the 21st century skills they need. And now we are set to take the experience of that project and go to scale, in Africa and all round the world, working together with additional partners such as World Vision to transform education and create a digital future for all children. The ambition is great and the sky is the limit.

      The next stage in our partnership is Spark A Child’s Digital Future, beginning in Kenya and scaling across sub-Saharan Africa and beyond over the next five years. In collaboration with World Vision and Intel, Microsoft and British Council will link underprivileged African youth with more than one million potential donors in the United States alone to help improve digital skills development and help children succeed while securing economic growth in a global world.

      The British Council is a venerable British institution, a charity founded 80 years ago by Royal Charter with the mission to build trust and dialogue between the peoples of the world, and create opportunities for everyone to lead safer and more prosperous lives. We call this International Cultural Relations. We run programs in over 100 countries, in three verticals: Education, the Arts and English language teaching and learning . At first glance the British Council may look like a strange partner for an American high tech superbrand – Downton Abbey meets Batman perhaps - but a couple of years ago we found each other, worked out the synergy and now we get on famously.

      Microsoft and British Council share a passionate belief in the urgent need for radical innovation in education to better provide all children with the skills they need for life and employment in our 21st Century global village - both technical skills such as competence with IT and ability to speak English, and soft skills such as creative thinking, collaboration and inter-cultural awareness. This transformation will be powered by the mainstreaming of IT in schools throughout the world - not only deploying devices, but also ensuring that teachers are trained to use IT to support innovative, student-centered learning . By combining our different business cultures, knowledge sets, resources and networks, we can support this vital change at far greater pace and scale than we could if operating alone.

      We’re British, we’re actually quite cool, and we’re delighted to be working with the superheroes of Redmond to make the world a better place . It’s going to be an exhilarating ride over the next few years!

    • YouthSpark in action: Adrian Ordoñez Tostega

      By Megan West, Citizenship & Public Affairs, Microsoft

      Adrian Ordoñez Tostega spent the past few months in the Seattle area volunteering with a local nonprofit focused on helping immigrant families learn relevant technology skills to improve their employability. Adrian, who hails from Mexico, is a member of the Innovate for Good program and we had the opportunity to catch up with him last week.

      He has created Tech4Kids which aims to teach children in primary school the basics of computer programming through videogames and robotics, and builds familiarity and trust with technology at a young age. Adrian hopes that by introducing technology through these channels at a younger age, students will have more options as they look for college programs or employment later in life.

      Adrian is passionate about using his computer science skills and knowledge to make a difference in the world. This passion, paired with the help of Innovate for Good and the Sprout e-course, has taken Tech4Kids from a mere concept, to a viable venture with a business plan and funding goals. Adrian is prepping to launch Tech4Kids in his hometown of Veracruz, Mexico after he graduates from University in June.

      Supporting Adrian’s work is a great example of how Innovate for Good provides a global community enabling youth to collaborate, inspire and support each other while using technology to make a difference in their communities. As part of its goal to provide members with resources and information on building and maintain a social venture, Innovate for Good offers the nine week Sprout e-course.

      Innovate for Good is part of Microsoft YouthSpark and is operated in partnership with TakingITGlobal, who through the Sprout-e course takes participants through each step of the venture development process with a high level of interaction and one-on-one mentoring.

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    • Microsoft Citizenship: 2012 in Photos

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      During the World Economic Forum in January, we hosted a roundtable discussion with experts from around the globe to discuss the challenges facing young people around the world.

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      Also during the World Economic Forum, representatives of the first teams to win Imagine Cup Grants met with Microsoft Founder and Chairman Bill Gates to discuss their projects. Left to right: Francisco Perez from Ecuador, Dominik Tomičević from Croatia, Bill Gates, Mohammad Lu’ay Alazzam from Jordan, and Jason Mitsuyuki Wakizaka from the United States.

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      Mohammad Lu’ay Alazzam from Team OaSys, based in Jordan, discussed their project with Bill. 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.

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      In January, Skype showcased their Disaster Response platform.

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      In March we held our first Innovate for Good event on our campus in Redmond, Washington. Microsoft Innovate for Good, a Microsoft YouthSpark program, is a global community enabling youth to collaborate, inspire and support each other while using technology to make a difference in their communities.

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      Some of the Microsoft Citizenship team participating in the #CSRChat on Twitter in April.

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      In April, Innovate for Good visits Egypt.

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      James Rooney shows a Windows tablet at the Microsoft Citizenship booth at the 2012 Nonprofit Technology Conference in San Francisco in April.

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      In May, Innovate for Good reached Singapore.

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      And then Innovate for Good moved on to Brussels.

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      In June we made the Local Impact Map available to nonprofits.

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      In August we partnered with National Journal and The Atlantic to host town halls at the Republican and Democratic National Conventions focused on discussing the issues facing America’s young and emerging workforce.

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      In June, we held an Innovate For Good event in Beijing.

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      On September 20th we announced Microsoft YouthSpark, our companywide initiative to create opportunities for 300 million young people around the world over the next three years. You can find out more about Microsoft YouthSpark here.

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      In September we hosted an engaging panel at the Mashable Social Good Summit in New York, focused on helping close the opportunity divide among the world’s young people. Along with Lori Harnick, General Manager or Citizenship & Public Affairs at Microsoft were Mari Kuraishi, co-founder and president of GlobalGiving Foundation, Microsoft Researcher danah boyd, and Mary Mwende and Anthony Carmona, two inspirational young people whose diverse, personal experiences illustrate how together we can help youth succeed.

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      On September 27th Microsoft launched a detailed whitepaper documenting ideas for a National Talent Strategy that would help secure U.S. competitiveness and economic growth at an event at the Brookings Institution.

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      In September, 5,000 Microsoft employees volunteered for this year’s United Way Day of Caring, supporting over 200 projects. Here’s some of the Citizenship team hard at work.

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      October is the month of Giving at Microsoft when our people in the United States show their passion and commitment to the nonprofits and community groups they support. The first large scale event is traditionally the 5K run – this year over just under 3,000 people ran, jogged and strolled along the course raising money for their chosen nonprofit. The youngest participant was Mackenzie Croswell who was just 4 weeks old. Here's Mom (Lorna Croswell) and Mackenzie at the start line (Thanks to Mackenzie’s dad John Croswell for sharing).

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      The Cats of Microsoft calendar is just one, albeit a popular one, of thousands of innovative ways Microsoft employees raise funds during our month of Giving every October.

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      In October we had a special event with Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and Chairman and Founder Bill Gates to commemorate Microsoft’s 30th Employee Giving Campaign during a special town hall event. It included the announcement that Microsoft employees have raised $1 billion in cash since 1983 for more than 31,000 nonprofits and community organizations in the U.S. and around the world.

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      In October, we released our 2012 Citizenship Report.

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      Also in October, Windows 8 launched around the world, and it’s now available to nonprofits via the Microsoft software donations program.

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      In November, as part of Microsoft YouthSpark, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer with U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron along with Luke Hennerley, David Robertson, Cheyenne Brown, Ben Freeman and Charlie Gilbert announced Get On outside 10 Downing Street. Get On aims to help 300,000 unemployed young people in the UK.

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      Also during November, as part of the launch of YouthSpark in Argentina, Microsoft's Brad Smith met with the board of Argentinean nonprofit Fundacion Equidad to witness the great work it is doing providing IT skills and job placement for youth. He also met with beneficiaries Florencia Ordoñez, Jonathan Quaranta, and Marcos Bogarin. The YouthSpark grant to Fundacion Equidad will support 5,000 beneficiaries in Argentina.

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      In what will hopefully become a new tradition, November 25th was the very first Giving Tuesday.

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      In December, the the second annual Imagine Cup Grant winners were announced at the Social Innovation Summit in Mountain View, California. The teams, which came from Germany, Australia, Egypt, Uganda and Ukraine, spent the week meeting advisors, venture capitalists and social entrepreneurs, while still managing to fit in some sightseeing in San Francisco and Seattle.

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      In December, we announced that Windows 8 is now available in the Cherokee language.

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