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Tackling the world's most challenging issues

By John T. Cann, Asia Director, International Organizations Group, Microsoft on May 4, 2016

Filed under Microsoft in Government

Tackling the worlds most challenging issues

In approaching the creation of this blog series, I asked myself a fairly basic and fundamental question, why should anyone care about International Organizations (IO)?  While thinking about this question, I was reminded about an experience I had shortly after joining Microsoft, stuck in a traffic jam in Kathmandu with three colleagues in the car. We watched the symphony of chaos unfold in front of us with automobiles, lories, donkey drawn carts and every other mean of conveyance one can imagine inching their way down the crumbling streets. On the periphery were thousands of people striving to get where they were going, do business, and pretty much eek out whatever they could do to advance their lives. In a moment of sarcastic humor, one colleague proclaimed, “Wow, all these people are just screaming out for software!” Our laughter subsided into a slightly depressed realization that software really might not be that meaningful to people whose daily lives lack even the most basic necessities. The irony of course is that software and technology are not only meaningful but necessary.

For individuals, technology can provide access to knowledge and education, better employment prospects, and a thriving middle class. For businesses, it can improve productivity and competitiveness, and for public sector more efficiency, transparency, improved citizen services, and better governance.  Central to these outcomes are the International Organizations who provide the funding, technical assistance, and capacity building that enables countries to drive economic and social development and make technology accessible to citizens. International Financial Institutions such as The World Bank and Regional Development Banks, Bi-lateral Agencies such as USAID, DFID, JICA and United Nations Organizations all play a critical role. More organizations such as AIIB and The New Development Bank (BRICS) are coming on line with billions more in funding. Most people regularly don’t pay too much attention to these institutions unless there is a crisis in the world.  The surprising fact is, however, that economic development is now a $200 billion per year industry and these organizations have significant economic clout.

What does this mean for tech companies? Currently the OECD estimates that approximately 1-2% of development assistance is spent on ICT. World Bank predicts in the next five years; their ICT commitments will reach 3-5% globally. ADB’s new Strategy 2030 is expected to contain a large ICT component, departing markedly from Strategy 2020 which does not have much emphasis on technology. Similar trends are happening in most of the other players as well. In short, we are entering an era where technology is playing a larger part in global economic development. And creating business opportunities for the tech industry.

The International Organization group was created more than ten years ago with the philosophy that we could either wait for the world to develop and sell them technology, or we can engage with these institutions and shape the market. Over the years, we have done countless projects. From facilitating trade and investment in Africa, to disaster response in LATAM, to apps in Asia that address many of the most pressing issues in the region – all along espousing the company’s vision to enable every person and organization on the globe to do more.

Today we continue to drive technology trends with the IOs. For example, we are actively engaged on making technology more affordable and accessible to people through partnering with IOs and carriers to deploy bandwidth using lower cost technologies and providing low cost devices. Without access to technology, low-income citizens are cut off from many jobs and services. Innovations like Microsoft Azure and Office 365 can provide affordable access to cloud-based technology, and mobile devices like Windows Phone and Microsoft Surface can help low-income citizens take part in today’s digitally connected world.

The new UN Sustainable Development Goals adopted last September are aimed at ending poverty, fighting inequality and injustice, and tackling climate change by 2030. As governments around the world work toward achieving these goals, Microsoft’s big data analytics platform can help them collect, manage, and analyze vast amounts of information to help them obtain the insights they need.

With humanitarian crises in Syria and other areas around the globe, millions of refugees are fleeing to other countries. At the same time, human trafficking is a major problem, with many victims being sexually exploited or forced into slave labor. Software such as Microsoft Dynamics CRM can help governments create case management systems that track the flow of migrants and refugees. These management systems can also assist authorities in finding and prosecuting human trafficking criminals.

Across our entire spectrum of endeavor, the International Organizations are trusted partners to Microsoft by providing access to government decision makers, funding for our customers to make technology investments, and business opportunities for our subsidiaries and partners. So to conclude with the question that started it all, yes, we should all care about International Organizations.

Over the next several months, we will be blogging in detail about the issues and opportunities just mentioned and more, while demonstrating how Microsoft can assist governments in bringing about a more prosperous and inclusive world. To learn more, please see our Microsoft in Government webpage.

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