Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has announced a new three-part initiative “to ensure that Microsoft’s cloud computing resources serve the public good”. As part of this initiative the recently formed Microsoft Philanthropies will donate $1 billion of Microsoft Cloud Services, measured at fair market value, to serve non-profits and university researchers over the next three years.
Microsoft’s three-part commitment focuses on ensuring the cloud can serve the public good in the broadest sense by providing additional cloud resources to non-profits, increasing access for university researchers and helping solve last-mile Internet access challenges.
“Microsoft is empowering mission-driven organisations around the planet with a donation of cloud computing services — the most transformative technologies of our generation,” said Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, who on Wednesday will speak at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. “Now more than 70,000 organisations will have access to technology that will help them solve our greatest societal challenges and ultimately improve the human condition and drive new growth equally.”
Cloud computing has emerged as a vital resource for unlocking the secrets held by data in ways that create new insights and lead to breakthroughs not just for science and technology, but for the full range of economic and social challenges and the delivery of better human services. It can also improve communications and problem-solving and help organisations work in a more productive and more efficient manner.
In September 2015, 193 heads of state and other world leaders unanimously adopted 17 sustainable development goals to achieve by 2030. This ambitious agenda — which includes ending poverty, ending hunger, and ensuring affordable, reliable and sustainable energy for all — will only be achievable with the benefit of significant inventions and technology innovations. The scale and computational power enabled by cloud computing will be essential to unlocking solutions to this list of some of the world’s seemingly unsolvable problems.
“We’re committed to helping non-profit groups and universities use cloud computing to address fundamental human challenges,” said Microsoft President Brad Smith. “One of our ambitions for Microsoft Philanthropies is to partner with these groups and ensure that cloud computing reaches more people and serves the broadest array of societal needs.”
Specific elements of the new initiative include these:
Serving the broad needs of the non-profit community. A new global donation program will make Microsoft Cloud Services, including Microsoft Azure, Power BI, CRM Online and the Enterprise Mobility Suite, more available to non-profit organizations through Microsoft Philanthropies. The program builds upon an already successful program that provides similar access to Office 365 for non-profits. The non-profit program for Microsoft Cloud Services will begin rolling out this spring, and Microsoft Philanthropies aims to serve 70,000 non-profits in the next three years with these Microsoft Cloud Services.
Expanding access to cloud resources for faculty research in universities. Microsoft Research and Microsoft Philanthropies will expand by 50 percent the Microsoft Azure for Research program that grants free Azure storage and computing resources to help faculty accelerate their research on cutting-edge challenges. Today this program provides free cloud computing resources for over 600 research projects on six continents.
Reaching new communities with last-mile connectivity and cloud services. Microsoft Philanthropies and Microsoft Business Development will combine donated access to Microsoft Cloud services with investments in new, low-cost last-mile Internet access technologies and community training. By combining cloud services with connectivity and training, and focusing on new public-private partnerships, Microsoft Philanthropies intends to support 20 of these projects in at least 15 countries around the world by the middle of 2017.
Providing non-profits with better access to Microsoft Cloud Services, including the powerful Microsoft Azure platform, builds upon Microsoft’s long-time commitment to making cutting-edge technology available at no or low cost to organisations working on solving some of society’s toughest problems.
In recent years, as organisations have increased their reliance on cloud computing, Microsoft has worked in partnership with a broad range of organisations focused on big challenges. The initiatives show the potential impact that increased access to the transformational power of cloud computing can have:
Microsoft Research is working with the São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP) Biodiversity Research Program through the use of 700 wireless sensors, cloud technology and automated data-stream processing to understand how cloud forests work and study the impact of climate changes on the communities supported by those forests.
Through a partnership with the University of Texas at Austin called Project Catapult, Microsoft makes advanced cloud computing technology available to researchers that have demonstrated the ability to deliver lower power and cost, higher-quality results, or a combination of both.
In Botswana, Microsoft is partnering with the Botswana Innovation Hub, Vista Life Sciences, the United States Agency for International Development and Global Broadband Solutions to assist Botswana, the University of Pennsylvania and the Ministry of Health in leveraging cloud-based health records management and Internet access enabled by use of TV white spaces to remotely deliver specialized medicine, including cervical cancer screenings to women at rural healthcare clinics.
“Access to technology is critical to the operations and services of NetHope and its 44 humanitarian non-profit member organizations,” said NetHope CEO Lauren Woodman. “The power of cloud computing will create exponential value for all we do to serve the millions of people in our communities around the world.”