I was out of the office over the last 5 weeks, and during that time we had a lot going on in the Unlimited Potential Group, especially around some of our efforts involving rural computing.
For starters, we have posted a video and have engaged in a public discussion around Digital Green, an agriculture extension project in India that is being managed by the Microsoft Research Emerging Markets team there. The idea behind the project is to use "low tech" digital videos and TVs to help train small and marginal farmers on how to improve the way they farm. The project also uses elements of a participatory social network to get over many of the trust and cultural issues that can plague these type of training and aid programs. I was able to meet our team working on the project during some executive reviews here in April, and it is pretty cool to see the type of impact they are starting to have. This is a great example of creative capitalism. You can see a short video of their work here.
Secondly, Microsoft held the Imagine Cup finals in Paris two weeks ago and announced that the team from Indonesia won the Rural Innovation Award. Among other things, the winning team gets the opportunity now to work as interns in the lab doing Digital Green! Their winning project, called Butterfly, is an environmental reporting system that streamlines how citizens can report environmental issues to government agencies and then track how public officials respond. I love this project for multiple reasons: it deals with environmental sustainability, it is a "phone first" application that combines SMS with a web based portal along with BI and social networking, and it was designed by college kids who are applying their passion for technology to solve a critical social issue.
Finally, as I mentioned last month, we had a team of people from Unlimited Potential participate in a public outreach project in Western China with the goal of raising awareness around digital divide issues that affect people living in rural areas in that part of the world. The team donated technology to schools, met with local officials, and participated in a week-long "Gobi March" endurance race across the desert. Well, I am happy to report that everyone survived the race and made it home safe and sound. Their trip was covered by Chinese national television, ABC News, and the Seattle local Fox affiliate.
So it was a busy month while I was gone, and it was nice to see these hands-on projects getting the level of attention they deserve.