Youth & Opportunity
Engineering , Math
By Lori Forte Harnick, general manager, Citizenship and Public Affairs
More than a thousand global education innovators are in Barcelona this week for the Microsoft in Education Global Forum. As I listen to the many conversations among teachers unfold, I’m inspired – but certainly not surprised – by their passion to make a real difference in the lives of young people around the world.
It’s not easy. Most educators and school leaders are required to do more with less funding and resources. Indeed, educators today must help young people bridge a widening opportunity divide – a gap between their current skills, education, and training and those elements that are required for a growing number of jobs and careers in the 21st century. At 75 million unemployed youth today, the average youth unemployment rate still stands at more than double the average adult unemployment rate.
That’s why we created the Microsoft YouthSpark initiative in September 2012. And, as we’ve implemented YouthSpark around the world in the past 18 months, working closely with nonprofit partners, educators, governments, parents, and of course, youth…we’ve seen a new emerging trend. More and more people and organizations are recognizing the role that computer science education – coding, computational, analytic, and problem-solving skills – can play in helping youth capture more employment and career opportunities ahead.
As I’ve visited many of our partners – whether it’s an after-school community center program in South Korea, a Catholic elementary school in El Salvador, a Saturday coding class for girls in Japan, or a high school in the U.S. where students are waking an hour earlier to attend a computer science class – I see more and more students who are eager to learn not just how to consume IT, but how to create IT. And, as I see here this week in Barcelona, their teachers and community leaders are moving quickly to tap into this enthusiasm and creatively find ways to provide computer science education to more youth through a variety of in-school and after-school programs.
Sor Carmen María, teacher at the Catholic Education Complex “Nuestra Señora del Rosario” in San Salvador, El Salvador, with some of her students. She teaches robotics to students of all ages from kindergarten through high school.
To do our part, the Microsoft YouthSpark initiative is providing young people with greater access to computer science education through a number of resources and programs, such as TEALS, Kodu Game Lab, DigiGirlz and the Imagine Cup, and through the support of Code.org, which a few months ago encouraged more than 20 million youth to try basic programming through its inaugural Hour of Code online event.
And, we’re thrilled to help…to help youth capture the opportunities that will change their lives today….and create the innovations that will change all of our lives – for the better – tomorrow. Join us!
By Karen Bergin, director, Citizenship and Public Affairs
To speak with any credibility, companies must demonstrate their commitment to human rights through actions – not just words, says Dan Bross, Senior Director, Corporate Citizenship, Microsoft on the London School of Economics and Political Science's blog. As outlined in the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, companies have a responsibility to analyze their human rights impacts and have processes in place to minimize negative impacts and to seek opportunities to advance their obligation to respect the human rights of their rights holders.
Building trust through goes beyond simply disclosing information. Multi stakeholder frameworks like the Global Reporting Initiative and the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights can be enormously helpful in advancing common approaches to complex human rights issues. However it may be possible to have too much of a good thing.
Rather than reinvent the wheel or search for the one perfect set of metrics, companies may get more done by focusing on deeper ongoing engagement with the stakeholders who matter most to them – responding quickly and thoughtfully to external inquiries and proactively seeking opportunities for stakeholder engagement. Read more here.
By Kari Sherrodd, senior manager, Citizenship and Public Affairs
Today Microsoft is announcing new prizes and opportunities available through the annual Imagine Cup competition. The top team from each category – Games, Innovation, and World Citizenship – will win not only prize money, but also a life-changing experience that will give students the chance to take real steps toward making their dreams a reality.
As part of the YouthSpark initiative, we will bring the winning team in the World Citizenship category to Microsoft global headquarters for a week of sessions curated specifically for the team and their project. With consultation and mentoring from Microsoft engineers, business development professionals, and marketers, the YouthSpark Boot Camp will give this team of students the guidance and insight they need to move their social-good project forward.
To learn more, please visit the Imagine Cup Blog.
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.
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.
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