Cloud computing is fast becoming a vital resource for addressing the world’s problems, as it helps to fuel breakthroughs across a range of economic and social challenges. At the same time, university researchers and nonprofits play a critical role in driving positive change in society. For these reasons we are committed to putting the Microsoft Cloud to work for the public good and Microsoft Philanthropies will be donating $1 billion in Microsoft cloud services to nonprofits and university researchers over the next three years. We believe that with access to the computational power provided by cloud services, these people and organisations can make an even greater positive impact on society. In addition, we are taking steps to bring cloud services to people who today lack affordable broadband access.
This is all part of our mission to empower every person and every organisation on the planet to achieve more. When it comes to cloud services, there are three key areas on which we are focusing to make this a reality.
1. Providing resources for the nonprofit community
As nonprofits work to tackle society’s biggest challenges, they need resources that will support them and make it that much easier to do so. With that in mind, we plan to donate our cloud services to 70 000 of these organisations..
Several nonprofits in the Middle East and Africa (MEA) have already benefited from software donations and are maximising the value of the technology to make a difference in their communities.
Al Mandiya in Tunisia received $147 440 worth of software to create websites for all 264 municipalities in the country. This is changing the way citizens access information about their cities, while opening up job opportunities for community managers and providing more than 600 youth access to the resources.
Also in Tunisia, Aroso is using Office 365 as it works to develop road safety programs for its more than 3000 users. Office 365 allows the non-profit to connect its different members, share best practices and structure its data using Sharepoint Online.
In Egypt, Red Crescent received one of the largest grants equivalent to $1 440 430, which it is using to upgrade its 600 PCs, as well as its data centre.
2. Expanding access to cloud resources for university researchers
Another key area in tackling society’s issues is being able to conduct the research needed to understand the issues and how to address them. For this reason, we are expanding our Microsoft Azure for Research program, which offers free Azure storage and computing resources to help faculty accelerate their research.
In MEA, Tunisia’s I Watch project is making use of our resources for its research. I Watch aims at enhancing transparency and fighting corruption, especially during election time. Through the innovative use of technology, they have simplified the data collection process and are able to crowdsource voter feedback.
We aim to expand our support for research projects by 50% so that more initiatives like I Watch can make an impact.
3. Reaching new communities
If only the wealthy societies have access to data, intelligence, analytics and insights that come from the power of cloud computing, then we will find ourselves dealing with a whole new digital divide. The first step to ensuring that doesn’t happen is to find ways to connect more people, wherever they are. That’s why we are pursuing new initiatives to combine last-mile connectivity with donated access to our cloud services.
Our TV White Spaces project is one of the ways in which we are doing this, and we’re excited about its potential to bring broadband connectivity at a low cost to more communities in MEA and around the world.
By combining connectivity with cloud services and focusing on new public-private partnerships, our goal is to grow what we call our Affordable Access Initiative to 20 projects in at least 15 countries by the end of 2017.
Addressing social challenges
Cloud computing is one of the most important transformations of our time, and it has significant applications for health, education and development. Our goal is for put the power of cloud computing in the hands of those who are working to solve the world’s most pressing problems, and to bring it to those who today lack affordable access. That way, we can take an important step in our mission to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.