Committed to empowering refugees and displaced people around the world

A Syrian child living as a refugee in Lebanon is far more likely to be gathering cilantro, digging up potatoes, or simply staying home than going to school. There are approximately 800,000 Syrian children in Lebanon, and 75 percent of them are not enrolled in school.  The refugee youth face education obstacles, such as lack of official papers, limited school capabilities, transportation difficulties, and underprepared teachers. There is also a language barrier. In Syria, children are taught to read and write in Arabic, but public schools in Lebanon use English or French. Additionally, many refugee parents need to earn money, so children are required to help in the fields.

Many of these youth want the same thing: to play with their friends, help their families, and have the opportunity to receive an education that will lead to becoming a doctor or a teacher someday. But any steps the Lebanese government could take to help the situation—build schools, train more teachers, provide transportation—would take time and money to implement.

In response to the White House Call to Action to make “new, measurable and significant commitments that will have a durable impact on refugees residing in countries on the frontlines of the global refugee crisis and in countries of resettlement, like the United States”, Microsoft is answering the call. We are committed to continue working with governments, international organizations and NGOs to deliver greater opportunity and empower displaced people around the world.

Specifically, we are focused on:

Enablement through Connectivity: More than 50% of people in the world have no internet connectivity. Enabling aid organizations to serve people in need with greater insight and efficiency, while also providing refugees and displaced people access to technology to aid with economic opportunities is a priority. A good example of this is our TV White Space initiative where we’re partnering with local internet providers around the world to bring broadband connectivity to some of the 4 billion people who are not currently online. We are delivering broadband TV White Space connectivity in Malawi to support aid organizations and refugees. We are also providing broadband connectivity to 15 schools in Lebanon and 26 more in Egypt.  Further, in Botswana, Kenya, Colombia, the Philippines, and Jamaica, these projects help to get consumers, businesses, schools, community centers, and police stations online for the first time, deliver telemedicine to rural areas, and facilitate disaster relief efforts. Many refugees and displaced people say that internet connection is more important than electricity.

Empowerment through Education: With our Microsoft partners and NGOs, we invest in providing technology to deliver refugees educational services to provide them with opportunities to gain digital literacy and computer science skills that can open up future employment opportunities.

For example, our Microsoft CityNext partner ITWORX Education launched a pilot program at the Saad Nayel refugee camp in the Zahle district, near the border of southwestern Syria. The first phase of the program was to set up K-12 learning centers inside the camp so that transportation to a school wouldn’t be a hurdle. Next, community and volunteer teachers attended trainings at the learning centers to develop their teaching skills. Teachers and students were provided with tablets running WinjiGo, an online learning platform that uses Microsoft Azure for cloud development and hosting, in addition to applications based on Office 365. ITWORX Education then trained teachers on how to lead discussions and apply problem-based learning using WinjiGo interactive social classes. Teachers quickly learned how to build simple digital content mapped to lesson plans and curriculum. With WinjiGo, teachers can easily track students’ needs and performance, and provide insightful support and mentorship.

Group of mentors with students outside of teaching center in Saad Nayel community.1

The pilot program is providing a safe learning environment within the Saad Nayel community, and students can reach out to teachers who live outside of the camp for help, whenever they want. Students can also access their schoolwork anytime, allowing them flexibility to participate in family life and help support their parents’ needs. They now have an opportunity get the education they deserve, as they prepare for more formal schooling and continue to dream about their futures.

Transformation through Employment: we are committed to leveraging our technology, partnerships and programs to help prepare refugees for employment opportunities and build better lives.

For example:

Through Microsoft’s Imagine Academy and in partnership with Pearson Education, we are delivering opportunities for 20,000 refugees to learn and gain globally-recognized certifications that can qualify them to pursue in-demand jobs in the technology sector.

In partnership with Mercy Corps, we are supporting the development of a 12-month program to deliver training, counseling and psychosocial support to 10,000 refugee and migrant youth to enhance their social and emotional well-being, learning and employability.

Aligned with the United National Development Program (UNDP), the World Food Programme (WFP) and and the International Labour Organization (ILO), we are investing in economic assessments to better understand employment opportunities and areas for refugee engagement in six countries affected by waves of Syrian refugees, including Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Turkey.

We are investing in an “Innovation Hub” where refugees can develop technology and entrepreneurial skills and networking that they can use to start their own business and to prepare for employment opportunities in the tech field.

We believe that cloud technology can empower people to connect, learn, rebuild lives and create more promising futures.  That’s why we’re not only answering the White House Call to Action but also focusing on helping countries meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.

But we can’t do it alone. We believe in the power of partnerships and of people from all backgrounds working together to solve these critical challenges.

I invite you to do the following:

Thank you.


1 YouTube video. “Sustainable Education for Refugees.”

Empowering countries through technology

At the United Nations General Assembly this week we’ll discuss the myriad of ways that country leaders plan to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030. 193 countries signed on to these goals last year, which focus on solving major, global societal issues related to economic, social and environmental challenges.

We are committed to all 17 goals, but believe that ICT can rapidly accelerate progress on eight. As we focus on these eight, we will leverage our solutions, partners, programs and services as we look to empower countries to compete in a dynamic, global economy.

TTW-18 view(02)We believe technology can be a powerful enabler to solve many of the challenges facing public sector agencies today as they focus on the future of our planet and its people.  As it turns out, government leaders also see technology as a very powerful lever to meet government goals. We commissioned a survey with the Economist Intelligence Unit where world leaders ranked their priorities and challenges in relation to the SDGs and outlined the strategies and investments they’re making to accomplish their goals.Evolving development goals in an evolving world-woman working in field- city-skyline

Government leaders recognize that technology can boost collaboration amongst government agencies and citizens, but also aid in providing citizens access to better jobs and education.

Let’s look at three areas where we’ve seen technology utilized as a powerful lever to make a difference:

Spurring Employment and Economic Growth:

According to the Australian Human Rights Commission, people with a disability are almost twice as likely to be unemployed and half as likely to have a full time job in comparison to people without a disability in Australia. Ensuring that people with a disability have the tools and technology that they need to be productive and fulfilled members of the workforce is critical to improving this imbalance.

With close to 4 million Australians (and 1.2 billion people worldwide) with a disability, we’re passionate about ensuring that our products and services are designed for people of all abilities.

That’s why we welcome the recent announcement that Australia will adopt the European standard for the procurement of accessible ICT: Accessibility requirements suitable for public procurement of ICT products and services. This clears the path for the standard to eventually be embedded into public procurement requirements to improve outcomes for people with a disability working in public sector agencies and helps governments ensure that all of the citizens they serve have equal access to information, services and the political process.

We’re also working hard to ensure that our products comply with emerging global standards. To help ensure organizations have the information they need about our product accessibility, we have for many years self-declared how we meet US Section 508 standards and have recently added conformance statements on how our products meet EN 301 549 and WCAG standards as well. Read our latest Microsoft Accessibility blog about Microsoft’s support for global accessibility standards.

Gender Equality:

According to the Global Gender Gap report of 2015, of the 3.5 billion women on the planet, 57% work outside the home, but only 17% in a professional job. And in the era of digital transformation, with every one digital job created for women, 20 jobs typically held by women will be displaced).TTW - girl with glasses watching on(01)

This exacerbates today’s gender gap, creating a digital divide that will displace women in the workforce. To combat this trend, we are embracing a new construct, which we call digital diversity. This construct calls for us to be mindful of the impact that digital transformation has on diversity and purposeful about creating opportunities that are inclusive of women and minorities. Further, we will strive to provide access to the skills that will allow women and minorities to land high growth jobs and allow them to prosper in the digital economy.

We are investing in many ways to increase the pipeline of girls and women in tech roles. We’re building key partnerships with the Anita Borg institute and the National Center for Women in Technology (NCWIT). We’re providing $75 million dollars in funding for greater access to computer science for under-represented groups through successful programs like DigiGirlz and TEALS. And we’re expanding our Explore Microsoft internship program which has a target of 50 percent diverse candidates.

Quality Education:

A quality education is critical to creating tomorrow’s doctors, engineers, teachers and leaders. And it lays the groundwork for solving the world’s greatest challenges. A critical part of that education for just about every job and sector today is understanding how to harness the power of technology to transform education and inspire learning to unlock potential everywhere.

Özel Dünya Koleji, a primary and middle school in western Turkey worked with Microsoft to introduce a wide variety of new software and services that have helped teachers utilize cutting-edge educational tools and methods. Now when the teacher provides the closing day announcements, she includes directions such as to “bring your tablets for the online lesson”, “check your OneNote notebooks for feedback on the last assignment you turned in” and “I’ve sent your parents an email about next week’s class presentations”.  Teachers say that using new technology is giving students and parents confidence in the school.

We believe that, through our innovative cloud technologies and our engagement with political and business leaders, we can play an active role in helping to solve the world’s most pressing problems. There are many ways that you can show your support. I invite you to: