Empowering every country through education, public safety, and economic growth

This week, our CEO Satya Nadella joins other leaders from around the globe at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland. We have entered an era in which global leaders from the public and private sector are meeting and working collaboratively to drive positive change—a sign of our willingness to work together to shape the future of our planet.

In Davos, Microsoft will meet with government leaders to share details about how cloud technology is transforming public sector organizations and the lives of the citizens they serve. Davos attendees will hear about success stories in cloud computing such as the following:

  • Virginia Tech, which is using Microsoft cloud technologies to enable individualized access to genetic profiles, resulting in earlier diagnoses and lifesaving treatment for patients.
  • The city of Glasgow, Scotland, which has transformed itself into a smart city of the future by building an open big-data platform on Microsoft Azure, enabling citizens to crowdsource traffic information or find real-time updates on everything from the current population of rats in the city to the availability of open bicycle racks.
  • Tacoma Public Schools, which is using Microsoft cloud and analytics tools to parse student performance data and identify at-risk students so that they can be provided with the additional learning assistance they need.
  • Microsoft’s partnership with the United Nations Development Program to deliver disaster relief to the citizens and communities of Nepal. After the devastating earthquake there, engineers were equipped with Microsoft mobile devices and a custom, cloud-based application to expedite debris management efforts as well as facilitate daily cash payments to thousands of emergency workers, thus putting money back into the communities that need it the most.

Cloud computing has emerged as a vital resource for addressing the world’s problems. That’s why this week at Davos, Satya announced that Microsoft Philanthropies, with support from Microsoft Research and Microsoft Business Development, will donate $1 billion in Microsoft cloud services to nonprofits and university researchers over the next three years. Our goal is to support 70,000 nonprofits through this initiative, in an effort to make these transformative technologies universally accessible.

Our mission

Microsoft firmly believes that technology has the power to enable every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more, and nowhere is this more important than in the public sector, where organizations exist to serve the public good.

Last September, a similar meeting of the world’s leaders occurred as 193 global representatives joined together to commit to 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as set forth by the United Nations. Over the next 15 years, governments and organizations will be working together to end extreme poverty, address environmental degradation and climate change, and fight inequality and injustice.

As government leaders strive to bring about a better world, Microsoft will continue to act as a trusted partner in helping them succeed. We are using technology to overcome the specific societal challenges under discussion at WEF and described in detail in the 17 SDGs. Our mission—to empower every person on the planet to achieve more—as well as our technology solutions and our philanthropic, citizenship, and accessibility offerings, align directly with this renewed focus on the future of the planet and all its peoples.

We care deeply about inspiring and empowering people—creating opportunities that lead to lasting impact—and helping remove the barriers to adoption and use of technology around the world: issues such as trust, privacy, digital inclusion, and education.

Through a wide range of innovative technology and programs, Microsoft is empowering individual countries to help them meet their growth and sustainability targets and also create lasting opportunities for their citizens.

Three priorities at the top of most national agendas are education, public safety, and job growth. Government leaders are working to improve the quality of teaching and learning. They’re striving to protect themselves from an increasing number of complex threats, both physical and digital. And they’re placing a strong emphasis on economic growth, working to cultivate new multi-generational talent and capabilities to respond to a rapidly changing marketplace.

Empowering the next generation

By the end of this decade, 77 percent of all jobs will require some technology skills, signaling the need to invest in the people who will lead our future. Microsoft helps educate youth around the world through a variety of cutting-edge programs and initiatives. For example, Microsoft YouthSpark has provided 300 million students in more than 100 countries with training to help them develop the computational-thinking and problem-solving skills that are critical to their future. Because proficiency with Office applications is among the top skills that employers frequently require, the Student Advantage program provides students with free versions of Office 365, enabling them to familiarize themselves with the leading productivity applications.

Higher education institutions have also embraced Microsoft technology to improve student outcomes. The Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University’s prestigious business school, is using Microsoft Azure Machine Learning to help students create predictive models that enable them to make strategic decisions and predictions based on hard data rather than on supposition. By opening the door to data science and advanced analytics without requiring students to become technology specialists, Microsoft technology is helping empower a future generation of leaders.

Building a safer future

In addition to equipping the next generation of workers, Microsoft is dedicated to helping governments bring about a more secure future through enhanced cybersecurity. The Microsoft online safety programs help governments successfully fight cybercrime, a problem that costs the global economy an astounding US$500 billion annually. As an example, the Microsoft Digital Crimes Unit has taken down 15 massive malware disruptions tied to criminal organizations. And the state-of-the-art Microsoft Cybercrime Center disrupting and rooting out international cybercrime operations, botnets, and malware.

Microsoft also helps public safety organizations mitigate on-the-ground threats and improve community safety by equipping them with a series of “intelligence-led, first-response” solutions. A great example of this is the partnership between Microsoft and the New York Police Department (NYPD) to prevent crime and terrorism. Together, the NYPD and Microsoft developed a sophisticated law enforcement technology solution that aggregates and analyzes public safety data in real time, providing NYPD investigators and analysts with a comprehensive view of potential threats and criminal activity. The Domain Awareness System (DAS) enables police officers to see key, up-to-date information, such as arrest records, 911 calls, and data from 3,000 security cameras, all from a single dashboard. This provides officers with unprecedented access to information that they can use to fight crime.

Fostering job growth

Education and public safety are top priorities, but so is economic growth—and here, too, Microsoft has been working alongside governments to foster innovation and job creation. For example, the Microsoft BizSpark program has helped more than 100,000 startups get their businesses off the ground by providing three years’ worth of free software, services, and tech support. The Microsoft Ventures Accelerators program provides business mentors and advanced resources to help thousands of entrepreneurs get through the challenges of launching a company. Moreover, there are now 120 Microsoft Innovation Centers in 33 countries that are increasing the number of highly skilled technology specialists by providing practical opportunities for collaboration with software developers, IT professionals, entrepreneurs, and academic researchers.

Creating a lasting impact

These initiatives are just a few examples of the work Microsoft is doing in partnership with governments and organizations around the world to help create a better future for all citizens. As national leaders strive to meet their economic and sustainability development targets, Microsoft is helping them get there quickly, cost-effectively, and with the greatest impact.

For more information, read the whitepaper Empowering citizens, businesses, and governments to achieve more.

Creating opportunity and transforming lives with technology

This week, Microsoft President and Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith was in Washington, D.C., to support the World Bank launch of the 2016 World Development Report (WDR2016). This annual report, published since 1979, examines the economic, social, and environmental state of the world today and offers in-depth analysis and policy recommendations on specific aspects of development. The 2016 report, “Digital Dividends,” focuses on the role that technology plays in global advancement, with particular emphasis on developing countries. Joining other leaders from academia, policy, government, and development, Brad discussed the findings in this year’s report.

According to the WDR2016, the benefits of digital technologies are heavily skewed toward wealthy and influential populations, creating a digital gap between those who have access and those who don’t. The World Bank estimates that four billion people worldwide have no access to the Internet, signifying that 60 percent of the world’s population is excluded from the digital economy and resulting development opportunities.

Brad’s participation in this event continues Microsoft’s commitment to working with the World Bank and other global leaders to address this problem. Microsoft believes that technology has the power to enable every individual and organization on the planet to achieve more. Our mission is aligned with ensuring that people all over the world have the tools, education, and access to technology that will help transform their lives for the better. Although much work is yet to be done, progress is already being made towards many of the recommendations in “Digital Dividends.”

Creating opportunity

The Internet has the ability to profoundly improve the lives of billions of individuals, bringing education, information, and economic opportunities within reach. Perhaps nowhere is the Internet more important than in the developing world, where citizens often lack electricity—much less reliable and affordable Internet access.

Nanyuki, in rural Kenya, is just such a place. A technology called TV white spaces is bringing the Internet to rural areas via underutilized broadcast bandwidth and solar power. A recycled shipping container serves as an Internet café and is enabling enterprising citizens to earn a living online. The technology, which is also bringing the Internet to schools and to the Red Cross, is changing lives in Kenya.

The same technology is being used to deliver online healthcare services to regions of Botswana currently without adequate primary care or access to broadband. Microsoft, the University of Pennsylvania, Botswana Innovation Hub (BIH), and Global Broadband Solutions (GBS) partnered to deliver low-cost, long-range broadband to remote areas of the country utilizing TV white spaces. Now, healthcare providers can consult with patients in isolated locations as well as send high-resolution patient images to specialists and facilities around the world. As a result, providers are delivering more accurate diagnoses and better patient care, and increasing the scale and reach of health services across Botswana.

Bringing digital innovations mainstream

Microsoft has always been committed to enabling access to technology innovations and placing these advanced tools in the hands of the people who need them the most. Cloud computing is a prime example. The cloud has revolutionized the way business is conducted by providing anywhere, anytime access to data, with an added layer of security and flexibility. Microsoft is bringing this technology to the mainstream.

With Microsoft Azure, a collection of integrated cloud services, Microsoft is enabling organizations like Partners in Health (PIH) to bring critical assistance to underserved populations in remote corners of the globe. Today, virtual teams working around the world—from jungles in Africa to the mountains of Mexico to remote villages in Russia—are using cloud technology to communicate and share information as they provide life-saving healthcare and give hope to those in need. Whether the team is aiding HIV patients in Haiti or monitoring oncology patients in Africa, the ability to aggregate, share and access information remotely is leading to better standards of care and improving the lives of people in distant areas.

Cloud technology may seem like an odd partner for small farmers in Kenya, but they too are reaping benefits. Kenya AGIN is a cloud-based service which uses farmer profile and production data to provide critical transparency in the agricultural value-chain. The service collects profile information on small-holder farmers, links it to their production and transactional data, and uses that information to make vital links between the farmer and his services providers. As a result, an un-banked farmer can establish credit- worthiness, ultimately opening up all kinds of possibilities.

Cloud-based services like AGIN are increasingly at the center of the agricultural revolution in Africa, helping to increase yield, provide traceability, and grow markets for small-holder farmers in developing economies. The solution is currently serving over 200K farmers in Kenya and growing, and is set to deploy to other countries in the region.

Microsoft cloud technology is also helping organizations provide people with the skills and education needed for a twenty-first century workforce. The University of Belgrano in Argentina is using Microsoft Azure to provide a secure, efficient online learning environment for students who may not live near its academic campuses. The university moved its programs from an open source platform onto Azure, citing reliability and security concerns with the previous solution. Now, the university offers its virtual degree programs safely and securely to over 3,000 students sprinkled throughout the country, providing opportunities that otherwise may not have existed.

Toward a brighter tomorrow

We believe that technology can be a powerful agent of change in solving many of the challenges facing countries today as they move toward sustainable growth and development models. As the World Bank addresses digital development issues, Microsoft is working with the Bank in the development of the Digital Adoption Index (DAI), a composite index measuring the spread of digital technologies within and across countries. The Index charts the extent to which digital technologies are available and adopted by all the key agents in an economy: people, businesses and governments, providing a comprehensive picture of technology diffusion.  Using real-time World Bank data, the DAI will be used to help countries and governments examine where they stand and guide them in prioritizing their initiatives as they seek to improve their standing.

As Microsoft makes progress in supporting the World Bank and other organizations in their efforts to achieve the recommendations outlined in the WDR2016, we are committed to providing affordable broadband access for all, to promoting and protecting the digital infrastructure, and to mainstreaming digital innovations so that people all over the world can benefit.

To listen to Brad’s comments at the launch of the WDR2016, please see the following webcast.