Microsoft on the Issues http://blogs.microsoft.com/on-the-issues News and perspectives on legal, public policy and citizenship topics Tue, 17 Jan 2017 14:02:15 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.7.1 Calling US teens: Apply to join our new Council for Digital Good http://blogs.microsoft.com/on-the-issues/2017/01/17/calling-us-teens-apply-join-new-council-digital-good/ Tue, 17 Jan 2017 14:00:09 +0000 http://blogs.microsoft.com/on-the-issues/?p=49577 Teenagers in the U.S., listen up: here’s a unique opportunity to have your voices heard about digital issues. Effective today, Microsoft is accepting applications for our Council for Digital Good, a one-year pilot program for youths ages 13 to 17 to help lay the groundwork for a new approach to online interactions. Selected council members will be invited to our Microsoft Campus in Redmond, Washington, for a two-day trip in Read more »

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Illustration of laurel branches with computer power on button in the center

Teenagers in the U.S., listen up: here’s a unique opportunity to have your voices heard about digital issues. Effective today, Microsoft is accepting applications for our Council for Digital Good, a one-year pilot program for youths ages 13 to 17 to help lay the groundwork for a new approach to online interactions. Selected council members will be invited to our Microsoft Campus in Redmond, Washington, for a two-day trip in early August.

Today’s youth are tech-savvy, digitally engaged and resourceful, and we at Microsoft are interested in what they’re doing online, who they’re connecting with, and what they’re sharing and learning. In turn, we’re cognizant that being online presents very real risks, and we want to make sure young people appreciate – and have the skills to help mitigate – those risks. That’s why we’re piloting this council: to gain diverse perspectives from youth in the U.S. on the state of online interactions today, as well as their hopes and ideals for what would make online life healthier, safer and more enjoyable.

Apply to join our Council for Digital Good
Interested teens ages 13 to 17 living in the United States should complete and submit this online application by Wednesday, March 1.

In addition to some basic information, the application calls for either essay or video responses to questions about life online, expectations for their council experience, and about Microsoft generally.

Special two-day event for council members
Following application reviews and selection, we’ll invite 12 to 15 young people from across the country to join the inaugural council, which will culminate in a two-day trip for each council member and a parent or guardian to attend a council summit at our company headquarters.

The summit is expected to include small group and full council discussions, a separate “parent track,” interactive sessions with guest speakers, engagement with Microsoft consumer product and service group representatives, and fun activities. After the summit, we hope council members will serve as ambassadors for digital civility in their schools and communities, share their experiences and continue their participation in council-specific online forums. For questions about the council or planned activities, contact safekids@microsoft.com.

To learn more about Microsoft’s work in online safety generally, visit our website and resources page on the Microsoft YouthSpark Hub, and be on the lookout for our digital civility release on Safer Internet Day 2017, Feb. 7. And, for more regular news and information about online safety, connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.

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Next Generation Washington: Our perspective on this year’s state legislative agenda http://blogs.microsoft.com/on-the-issues/2017/01/12/next-generation-washington-perspective-years-state-legislative-agenda/ Thu, 12 Jan 2017 18:58:44 +0000 http://blogs.microsoft.com/on-the-issues/?p=49502 As we begin a new year, lawmakers from across Washington state have been sharing the policy positions they are advocating for during this year’s legislative session.  Increasingly public interest groups have also called for increased transparency by others who “walk the halls” in the state capitol, including companies.  We thought about this and concluded that these groups make a good point; after all, the democratic process benefits from more open Read more »

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As we begin a new year, lawmakers from across Washington state have been sharing the policy positions they are advocating for during this year’s legislative session.  Increasingly public interest groups have also called for increased transparency by others who “walk the halls” in the state capitol, including companies.  We thought about this and concluded that these groups make a good point; after all, the democratic process benefits from more open and public discussion.  I’ve therefore summarized below the issues we want to address this year in Olympia.  Hopefully, you’ll find it helpful.

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A Balanced Agenda to Create Opportunity

As one of the largest employers in the state, we at Microsoft have long strived to support a balanced and bipartisan approach to public policy while using our technology and expertise to advance forward-looking initiatives.  Our focus has included the Washington State Opportunity Scholarship, expanded computer science and STEM education, the new SR-520 bridge and last fall’s successful ST3 proposal, to name a few issues.  Recognizing the need for additional state resources, we also worked proactively during the last biennium with legislative leaders on a focused proposal that was adopted and increased tax payments for Microsoft and no other taxpayer in the state.

As the legislature starts its 2017 session, the issues in Washington state mirror many of the important topics throughout the nation.  While rapid advances in technology have spurred economic growth and opportunity, these gains have not been shared universally.  While the Puget Sound region boasts an abundance of opportunities for some, many others haven’t prospered.  And the economic expansion taking place in the Seattle region hasn’t taken hold in many communities across the state, driving a divide between affluent and struggling areas.  Across the state, the Washington Roundtable’s “Benchmarks for a Better Washington” demonstrate real progress in important areas, but also a lot of room for additional steps to address several indicators that define globally competitive states, including educating our youth.

We need a legislative agenda that will enhance economic growth, create new opportunities for more individuals to participate in that growth, and protect and improve the quality of life enjoyed by Washington residents.

We know that we don’t have all the answers.  We also appreciate that there are many thoughtful individuals, groups, and companies across the state that have good ideas.  In the coming weeks and months, we’re interested in listening to and learning from others.  As always in every legislative session, ideas will evolve and creative compromises will emerge.  But with all this said, we’re hopeful that this year’s session will include consideration for five public policy pillars that we believe are important for Next Generation Washington:

Education and Workforce Training

It’s obvious to even a casual observer that our lawmakers this year must address a final and very large set of hurdles associated with the Supreme Court’s 2012 McCleary decision and funding for K-12 education.  We look forward to participating in this vital discussion.

We believe that one key to this conversation is a recognition of both the recent progress made by the state and the need to do more.  This decade we’ve seen the state’s high school graduation rate rise from 75.4 percent for the class of 2010 to 78.1 percent for the class of 2015.  This progress is a testament to the work not just of the students themselves, but also to many great teachers, strong schools, committed families, and dedicated state officials.  While we obviously can’t afford to spend too much time patting ourselves on the back as a state, we nonetheless should reflect on and thank all the talented people who continue to make progress possible.  They provide some of our best inspiration for the additional, big steps we’ll need to take in the coming months.

As we all come together to discuss the McCleary decision’s requirements, we obviously need to address some big questions.  We appreciate that there will be an extended discussion about both the amount of funding needed and where it will come from, including new revenue sources.  We look forward to learning more about the options being considered in Olympia and rolling up our sleeves and participating in a constructive way.  From our perspective, one key goal should be to ensure that we not only invest more money in K-12 education as a state, but that we do so in a manner that will improve outcomes for our students.  For instance, we urge policymakers to consider adopting a student-based budgeting model, as many other states have, to improve equity and outcomes.  Education, after all, is about our kids and their future.

But as important and big of a challenge as this is, we hope that the state’s leaders won’t stop there.

The state’s educational needs don’t end with high school diplomas.  A recent Boston Consulting Group report found that Washington will have 740,000 new job openings over the next five years, a number that exceeds the state’s historic growth rate and triples the national average for job growth over this period.  Fast-growing middle-wage and high-wage jobs will require post-secondary degrees, certificates, or other credentials.  Therefore, even as we invest in our K-12 system, we also need to address the learning needs of people after high school.  If we don’t, we’re likely to see open jobs persisting side-by-side with unemployment rates that are unacceptably high.

As part of a Next Generation Washington, we need to continue to innovate and support new post-high school educational steps.  Some of this should involve our public four-year institutions, such as expanding their capacity in high-demand degree programs and completing investments like the second Computer Science Engineering building at the University of Washington.  In the 2017 session, we’ll support the capital request for an additional $7.5 million for this building, to bring the total state funding for it in line with the original $40 million request.  Especially as the state continues to expand computer science and coding classes for K-12 students (which similarly should be a continuing priority this session), there will need to be expanded opportunities for high school graduates to advance their computer science learning in college in ways that will prepare them for the jobs our state is creating.

We also will support new learning and training opportunities for so-called middle-skill jobs.  There are many good jobs that don’t require a four-year college degree, but they do require learning beyond high school.  This area is ripe for innovation and investment, which this video we produced with the Markle Foundation illustrates.

One important way to expand opportunities for people to pursue this learning is to expand the Washington State Opportunity Scholarship (WSOS) to create new opportunities at community colleges.  As a company, we’re big believers in WSOS, having donated $35 million to it, and I’ve chaired the WSOS Board.  Other companies, including Boeing, have been huge supporters as well.  It’s a trendsetter nationally in matching private scholarship donations with state funds.  In just five years since its inception, more than 5,500 Washington students have received grants of up to $22,500 to pursue degrees in science, technology, and health care fields.  The program is growing, and next year over 5,000 students with these scholarships will be enrolled across the state.  Of the 1,500 who have completed their degrees so far, 90 percent remain in the state.

Given the need to increase post-secondary credentials in high-demand fields, we believe this is the year to expand the WSOS model to support students who want to earn an associate’s degree or industry certificate at one of the state’s community and technical colleges.  With Washington’s 34 strong public community and technical colleges serving 386,000 students annually, this is an excellent opportunity to expand the statewide impact of the WSOS program.

We should also build on the state’s longstanding and successful track record in vocational apprenticeship programs by developing new youth apprenticeship opportunities, including by learning from successful programs in places such as Colorado and Switzerland.  Today, Washington’s registered apprenticeship programs are underway in virtually every region of the state, but not typically focused on youth or well integrated into high schools.  The average age of an apprentice in our state is 27.

Contrast that situation to the one in Switzerland, which has one of the lowest youth unemployment rates in the world.  In Switzerland, 70 percent of young people choose to pursue their education through a Vocational Education and Training (VET) apprenticeship pathway that starts in high school. The VET program offers 230 occupational apprenticeship pathways that incorporate standard high-school curricula, industry-based curricula, and on-the-job training that leads to a credential for immediate employment.

While we of course would need to adapt this type of program to our institutions and culture, we can learn a lot from recent efforts in Colorado to do just that.  That state is moving quickly to adapt the Swiss-style career-connected learning model, with $11 million in public, private and foundation funding to develop a comprehensive high school apprenticeship system.

This is why one of Microsoft’s priorities this session is to support Governor Inslee’s initiative for Career-Connected Learning, including his funding proposal for $12 million (half public/half private) to engage in-and-out-of-school youth in career-connected learning opportunities, including youth apprenticeships, across the K-12 and youth development sectors.  These efforts would initially focus on low income, rural youth, and youth from populations underrepresented in high-demand fields.  If adopted, Microsoft will help support and fund a strong public-private partnership to define targets, invest in high-impact models, and catalyze systemic changes.

Improvements to the Criminal Justice System

A change for Microsoft this session is our prioritization of potential improvements in the criminal justice system.  Across the country over the past year, we’ve come to appreciate more keenly the importance of criminal justice issues.  Diverse segments of our population can have widely divergent experiences in their interactions with law enforcement, and therefore widely divergent perceptions of the law enforcement community.  There is a need to address these issues, and an expanded conversation across our state is not just timely, but important.

We believe there is a common public interest in healthy community policing that both respects the vital role played by our public safety officers and ensures that people of all races and backgrounds have confidence in our law enforcement system.  The time to strengthen our state’s dialogue around these issues is not after a tragedy or crisis.  It is now, and often at a local level, so that we can avoid tragedies and crises in our hometowns.

As an employer of a large workforce comprised of deeply talented individuals of every race and from around the world, and with an eye towards the needs of their families, we hope to contribute to new and constructive initiatives in this space.  As we do so, we’re interested in helping to explore how data gathering and analysis and technology tools may improve the effectiveness of public safety officers in serving all segments of our community.  We believe there are important opportunities for the state, local law enforcement agencies, and public-interest groups to work collaboratively and closely together.  This might include, for example, (1) expansion of data collection, storage and analysis to track not only arrests and citations, but stops and investigations; (2) use of data analysis to define best practices and design state-of-the-art police training programs; (3) use of new technological tools like HoloLens in situational training such as de-escalation techniques; and (4) cross-agency data collaboration to allow real-time sharing that improves the incident response effectiveness.  We know this is just a start.  If the state can help promote this type of dialogue, many good people will bring new ideas to the table.

We also believe that Washington state should strive to create a national model for a criminal justice system that not only provides strong public safety protections but also creates new opportunities for offenders to lead more productive lives upon release.  To contribute to this effort, we at Microsoft will work with lawmakers to evaluate the potential benefits of offering digital literacy, productivity tools and coding training to some inmates in the corrections system setting.  And we’re prepared to explore ways that our philanthropic resources can contribute as well.

Equal Pay in the Workplace

 Washington voters have signaled their interest in ensuring that the workplace provides meaningful opportunities for everyone.  Meanwhile, over the last several sessions, some lawmakers have proposed legislation to mandate equal pay.  In general, their proposals have often met with less than support from the business community.

We want to work with lawmakers and the business community to pursue strong compromise proposals on equal pay and paid family leave that will provide important protections and predictability to employees and employers alike.  We believe the time has come to find a path that can meet the needs of stakeholders across the economy, and we hope that 2017 can bring a breakthrough in this space.

A Cascadia Innovation Corridor

The Seattle and Vancouver regions’ synergies in research, innovation, and technology development represent a game-changing opportunity to create an innovation corridor that will generate job opportunities and prosperity well beyond what our two cities can achieve separately.  Microsoft is committed to supporting several important efforts to help strengthen this corridor.

We hope that one big piece of this will include a strengthening of our transportation systems across the border.  There are multiple ways we can address this.

One such opportunity is to build on the fact that, in March 2015, the United States and Canada reached an agreement to expand preclearance to passenger rail facilities as part of the Beyond the Border Agreement.  For the first time, rail preclearance facilities in Canada will allow travelers to pass through U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) inspections prior to traveling, expediting their arrival in the U.S. while also protecting national security.  Microsoft was pleased to see Congress in December enact H.R. 4657, the Promoting Travel, Commerce and national Security Act of 2016, as a necessary initial step toward full implementation of the Agreement.  Now we can build on this further.

As an additional step to enhance connections, we also believe it’s important to continue to investigate the feasibility of air service between Lake Washington or Lake Union and Vancouver’s inner Harbor.  Initial conversations with air operators indicate that doing so would require organization of a group of businesses to provide a base level of passengers in the initial phase.  At Microsoft, we’re prepared to support this effort and help make it a success.  Additionally, some financial hurdles exist with Canadian Customs that would have to be overcome to make the service financially viable.  There may be opportunities to align these issues and address the challenges concurrently.

Finally, it makes sense in the transportation space to explore high speed rail (HSR) between Seattle and Vancouver.  The governor’s proposed transportation budget provides $1 million to evaluate the feasibility of HSR in Washington state, including potential connections to Vancouver and Portland.  We support this proposed budget request.

Of course, it’s important to promote opportunities for people not just to travel across the U.S.-Canadian border, but for our two regions to work more closely together in ways that will promote broad economic growth.  We believe there are a variety of new and important opportunities to advance this, including by promoting more collaborative work by our regions’ great research universities and by our renowned cancer research institutions Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and the BC Cancer Agency.  We look forward to working with Washington state, the province of British Columbia, and others this year to help advance this.

A Cloud for Global Good

The cloud innovations coming from local companies like Microsoft, Amazon, Zillow and Tableau, among many others, are driving the transformation of businesses and industries around the world.  They are helping our customers create new capabilities, connect with their own customers in deeper ways, solve problems, gain insights, and access new markets.  Our region is leading the world in developing cloud technology, and we should be a leader in unleashing its benefits for our citizens.  We are committed to building a cloud that is trusted, responsible, and inclusive, promising economic and social benefits for both urban and rural communities.

We authored a Cloud for Global Good policy roadmap to help lawmakers and policy influencers navigate the societal implications of technology to ensure that the cloud benefits everyone, not just the fortunate few.  One of the important cloud computing-related opportunities in Washington is the deployment of broadband services to rural areas through public-private partnerships.  Telecom companies and port districts are interested in new legislation to facilitate broadband deployment in rural area through such partnerships.

Currently, such arrangements are not authorized under state law.  Government entities may not offer telecom or broadband services on the retail level; they may only offer these services on a wholesale basis with ISP’s offering the retail service to consumers.  Although these latter arrangements exist in a few areas in the state (including Grant County and Tacoma), they are largely unprofitable and require some form of subsidy from the sponsoring utility.

Legislation to extend new authority to public ports as an economic development tool is being promoted by the Washington Public Ports Association and by CenturyLink. We believe it’s important to consider this opportunity, including the use of new and less expensive broadband technologies that we are helping to develop, such as TV White Spaces.

Microsoft is beginning the technical work on a project to provide TV White Spaces broadband internet access to a few thousand residential customers in Lincoln County, Washington, located in the rural, eastern part of the state.  Our goal is not to enter the connectivity business, but to develop, test, and prove out the technologies that can help bring broadband to communities that don’t have it today.  We believe that broadband deployment is critical for creating additional economic opportunities in rural areas and reducing the divisions between the Central Puget Sound and the rest of the state.  Hence this too should be an important legislative priority.

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As all of this reflects, 2017 can be a busy and important year for Washington state.  We will need leadership, constructive conversation, and ultimately creative compromises to make this potential a reality.  We believe it’s a year for the state to aim high, and for all of us across the business community and the private sector to help make this year a success.  As a company, Microsoft is committed to doing its part.

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Year in review: New online safety resources created, 2017 brings focus on digital civility http://blogs.microsoft.com/on-the-issues/2016/12/19/year-review-new-online-safety-resources-created-2017-brings-focus-digital-civility/ Mon, 19 Dec 2016 14:00:30 +0000 http://blogs.microsoft.com/on-the-issues/?p=49439 I recently attended the Family Online Safety Institute’s annual conference in Washington, D.C., where the event theme – “Online Safety in Transition” – prompted me to reflect on my work in online safety and how it has evolved. Looking back on 2016, the online safety landscape has indeed shifted and we at Microsoft will continue to focus on the issue in 2017. When I began working in online safety some Read more »

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I recently attended the Family Online Safety Institute’s annual conference in Washington, D.C., where the event theme – “Online Safety in Transition” – prompted me to reflect on my work in online safety and how it has evolved. Looking back on 2016, the online safety landscape has indeed shifted and we at Microsoft will continue to focus on the issue in 2017.

When I began working in online safety some 12 years ago, risks like child predation took center stage, more out of fear than fact, and issues such as phishing were just starting to become mainstream. With a code of conduct and robust content moderation practices in place, our responses focused on public awareness-raising, informal educational efforts and collaboration with others in industry and civil society. While being cognizant of existing and emerging risks, we spoke of the transformational power of technology, and the promises to be derived from a connected world. And, while those ideals still hold true, a dozen years later, the face of online safety has changed.

In 2016, Microsoft announced new resources for reporting hate speech on our hosted consumer services, developed a new form for reporting any type of content that we may have removed (or an account that we may have closed) in error and published our approach to addressing terrorist content online. We also marked one year since our non-consensual pornography (or “revenge porn”) policy went into effect, and we used that milestone to create new guidance to help support victims. We continued our work in the WePROTECT Global Alliance to End Child Sexual Exploitation Online; stepped up efforts to combat tech support fraud, online bullying and harassment; and supported groups and causes across the globe focused on safeguarding children’s rights, protecting other vulnerable members of our global online population and evangelizing best practices.

In the final months of 2016, we previewed new research (post #1, post #2) that we will publish in full on Feb. 7, 2017, which is Safer Internet Day. The study, “Civility, Safety and Interaction Online – 2016,” polled teens and adults in 14 countries,[1] asking about their experiences and encounters with 17 different online risks across four categories: behavioral, reputational, sexual and personal/intrusive. We hope these findings will serve as an evidentiary base for a global push toward “digital civility” – healthy behaviors for youth and adults alike, both online and off, grounded in respect, constructive interaction and inclusion. Such a shift will mark a further evolution in online safety, combining the focus areas of the early years of the new millennia with the fresh realities of the internet today.

In addition to the digital civility research, we plan to release other materials on Safer Internet Day 2017, including suggested smart practices for youth, teens and adults, educators, school officials, new technology companies and others. Watch our digital and social channels for updates and new releases between the start of the new year and Safer Internet Day.

While we’re encouraged by our new campaign for digital civility and some favorable early feedback, we don’t profess to have all the answers – not by any stretch. On the contrary, new concerns and fresh twists on age-old internet issues continue to surface regularly, with many problems presenting a delicate balancing of interests. So, as one step, we want to get back to basics and encourage civility and respect in all online interactions.

In the meantime ahead of our Safer Internet Day release, continue to visit our website and resources page on the Microsoft YouthSpark Hub.  There, we offer advice and guidance for dealing with almost any online situation. For more regular news and information, “like” us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. We look forward to sharing more on SID, and here’s to making 2017 the safest digital New Year yet.

 

[1] Countries surveyed: Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Chile, China, France, Germany, India, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States.

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Expanding partnerships and transparency on human rights http://blogs.microsoft.com/on-the-issues/2016/12/09/expanding-partnerships-transparency-human-rights/ Fri, 09 Dec 2016 17:35:50 +0000 http://blogs.microsoft.com/on-the-issues/?p=49379 As our society becomes increasingly interconnected, it is more critical than ever that we foster a strong relationship between business and the protection of human rights. With that in mind, and in honor of Human Rights Day tomorrow, I am pleased to announce an exciting new partnership with UC Berkeley to further embed human rights in business education, as well as share a positive step forward in Microsoft’s own commitment Read more »

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As our society becomes increasingly interconnected, it is more critical than ever that we foster a strong relationship between business and the protection of human rights. With that in mind, and in honor of Human Rights Day tomorrow, I am pleased to announce an exciting new partnership with UC Berkeley to further embed human rights in business education, as well as share a positive step forward in Microsoft’s own commitment to transparency with an updated Microsoft global human rights statement.

Over the last decade, Microsoft has made significant strides to advance and reaffirm our commitment to the protection of human rights. These initiatives include joining the UN Global Compact, helping establish the Global Network Initiative, and working to align our company with the UN’s Guiding Principles. We also work with some of the world’s leading human rights organizations to apply the power of technology to promote human rights.

Today, we are building on that work and have released an updated Microsoft Global Human Rights Statement outlining Microsoft’s approach to human rights as we work to ensure that technology plays a positive role across the globe. Key updates to this statement include:

  • Making explicit Microsoft’s recognition that technology is increasingly an essential gateway to the enjoyment of human rights everywhere;
  • Expanding our human rights commitments to encompass the special consideration we give to vulnerable groups such as children, women and persons with disabilities; and
  • Emphasizing the importance we ascribe to championing the rule of law informed by consideration of international norms.

We must continue to work together to ensure basic human rights for every person.

To that end, we recognize that more investment is needed to deepen the connections between the protection of human rights and the core strategy and operations of companies around the world. This is why we are so thrilled to announce our partnership with the Center for Responsible Business at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business on the Human Rights & Business Initiative. This initiative aims to integrate key human rights issues such as privacy, inclusion, freedom of expression, education and employment directly into business education. Humanity United, a leading non-profit focused on human rights issues such as forced labor and human trafficking, will also be lending their expertise to the program.

We are excited for the opportunities with this program and the insights we hope to gain from it as we work to expand these efforts in the future. Through education, we can empower the next generation of business leaders around the world with a strong foundation in human rights.

As you may know, Human Rights Day commemorates the day 68 years ago when the United Nations General Assembly first adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. What a powerful reminder of our common humanity and the need to stand up for the basic rights of all people.

Working together, we can promote a safer, more free and more inclusive society for everyone – and a better world for the next generation.  We look forward to doing that with you.

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European Commission clears Microsoft’s acquisition of LinkedIn; deal to close in coming days http://blogs.microsoft.com/on-the-issues/2016/12/06/european-commission-clears-microsofts-acquisition-linkedin-deal-close-coming-days/ Tue, 06 Dec 2016 15:45:44 +0000 http://blogs.microsoft.com/on-the-issues/?p=40736 The European Commission announced Tuesday in Brussels that it has cleared Microsoft’s acquisition of LinkedIn. Microsoft has now obtained all the regulatory approvals needed to complete the acquisition, and the deal will close in the coming days. Tuesday’s clearance follows similar reviews and approvals in the United States, Canada, Brazil and South Africa. As part of discussions with the European Commission, Microsoft formalized several commitments regarding its support for third-party Read more »

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The European Commission announced Tuesday in Brussels that it has cleared Microsoft’s acquisition of LinkedIn.

Microsoft has now obtained all the regulatory approvals needed to complete the acquisition, and the deal will close in the coming days.

Tuesday’s clearance follows similar reviews and approvals in the United States, Canada, Brazil and South Africa. As part of discussions with the European Commission, Microsoft formalized several commitments regarding its support for third-party professional social networking services that compete with LinkedIn.

“With this regulatory process behind us, we can bring together two great companies and focus on even broader issues for the future,” writes Microsoft President and Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith.

Read more on The Official Microsoft Blog.

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Computer Science Education Week: An opportunity to bring 21st century skills to everyone http://blogs.microsoft.com/on-the-issues/2016/12/04/computer-science-education-week-opportunity-bring-21st-century-skills-everyone/ Mon, 05 Dec 2016 05:00:03 +0000 http://blogs.microsoft.com/on-the-issues/?p=40619 Today marks the beginning of Computer Science Education Week (CSEdWeek). This annual initiative mobilizes educators, parents, nonprofits and the industry to inspire all young people to learn computer science and open the door to a promising future. Why does computer science education matter? Right now, fewer than 3 percent of all bachelor’s degrees awarded in the United States are in the field of computer science. Yet, computer programming jobs are Read more »

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Today marks the beginning of Computer Science Education Week (CSEdWeek). This annual initiative mobilizes educators, parents, nonprofits and the industry to inspire all young people to learn computer science and open the door to a promising future.

Why does computer science education matter? Right now, fewer than 3 percent of all bachelor’s degrees awarded in the United States are in the field of computer science. Yet, computer programming jobs are growing at twice the national average and are among the top paying fields. Our tech fueled world is expected to generate 1.4 million computing jobs in the U.S. alone by 2020. Today, there are already more than 604,000 open computing jobs nationwide. However, only 40 percent of schools in the U.S. teach any form of computer science.

With our rising digital economy and the nonstop pace of technological change, we have an imperative to prepare young people to pursue careers that are in demand. Beyond computing jobs, computer science education also provides the computational thinking and problem solving skills that are now required in any field – from music and fashion, to manufacturing, health care and transportation.

So why, then, aren’t more young people jumping at the chance to learn skills that will qualify them for rewarding work? The answer is nuanced, but one of the biggest barriers is straightforward – the lack of equitable access to computer science education and related skills essential for 21st century careers.

Our own efforts during CSEdWeek and throughout the year center on making computer science more accessible and inclusive. In partnership with nonprofit Code.org and other leading tech companies, Microsoft is encouraging millions of young people globally to spend an hour this week – and beyond – getting started on their journey of learning computer science. To that end, the Minecraft Hour of Code Designer is a tutorial for students and educators created by Microsoft and Mojang for Hour of Code.

The tutorial allows players to create their own custom game experience, plugging together blocks of code to control the behaviors of sheep, zombies and other creatures. It includes a set of 12 challenges, followed by free play time so users can create a game using the coding concepts they’ve just learned. Throughout the week, Microsoft will lead hundreds of free hands-on coding workshops in Microsoft Stores around the world. Our YouthSpark Hub offers even more resources for finding in-person coding camps, as well as coding tutorials.

Additionally, this week, in partnership with the California Academy of Sciences and KQED, Microsoft will host Hacking STEM activities where students will apply coding to a relatable challenge in their own world. In an accessible format, they will learn more about earthquakes by building and coding a functional sensor-enabled seismograph – engineering, equipping and testing prototypes with the potential to help mitigate earthquake damage.

Over many years, Microsoft has developed such partnerships and programs that help reach young people who are most likely to be among those without access to computer science education —particularly girls, minorities and those living in rural areas with limited connectivity. We collaborate closely with nonprofits around the world, including Boys & Girls Clubs of America, to deliver computer science learning in clubs throughout the U.S., and with Coder Dojo across Europe. Their efforts are critical to reach underrepresented groups and close the skills gap.

As part of Microsoft Philanthropies, we also run a program called TEALS (Technology Education and Literacy in Schools), which pairs computer engineers from Microsoft and other tech companies with full-time high school teachers to teach introductory and advanced placement (AP) computer science. In addition to TEALS, the company works with a broad spectrum of educators to help prepare students for the digital future. This week, that includes expanding resources in Microsoft Imagine Academy – a one-stop shop for digital curriculum, fundamental technology skills certification and teacher training tools.

In my role, I’ve had the opportunity to meet with educators and nonprofits eager to collaborate on creative ideas, get kids excited about coding and make positive shifts in public policy to improve accessibility to computer science. From visiting dozens of schools, Boys & Girls Clubs and other programs, I’ve seen firsthand that from the minute kids sit down and start coding, the world around them disappears. When coding is fun, they respond intuitively and love diving in.

Expanding access to computer science – for all – is why initiatives like CSEdWeek are so important. Together, we can work to ensure any young person who wants to learn critical computational skills or go on to study computer science in community college or university has these options. And, in just an hour, we can start them on a journey where they gain the skills and knowledge needed to pursue their passions in our increasingly digital world.

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Highlights from Microsoft’s annual shareholders meeting http://blogs.microsoft.com/on-the-issues/2016/12/02/highlights-microsofts-annual-shareholders-meeting/ Fri, 02 Dec 2016 17:07:56 +0000 http://blogs.microsoft.com/on-the-issues/?p=40673 I want to thank Microsoft’s shareholders who attended or voted at this year’s Annual Shareholders Meeting. Microsoft shareholders: Re-elected all 11 directors to serve until the next annual meeting of shareholders. All director nominees received a vote of 99 percent of votes cast. Approved, on a nonbinding advisory basis, the fiscal year 2016 compensation of the company’s named executive officers. The advisory measure received 96 percent of votes cast. Ratified Read more »

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I want to thank Microsoft’s shareholders who attended or voted at this year’s Annual Shareholders Meeting. Microsoft shareholders:

  • Re-elected all 11 directors to serve until the next annual meeting of shareholders. All director nominees received a vote of 99 percent of votes cast.
  • Approved, on a nonbinding advisory basis, the fiscal year 2016 compensation of the company’s named executive officers. The advisory measure received 96 percent of votes cast.
  • Ratified the selection of Deloitte & Touche LLP as the company’s independent auditor for fiscal year 2017, with a vote of almost 99 percent of votes cast.
  • Approved an amendment to Microsoft’s Amended and Restated Articles of Incorporation lowering the threshold for shareholders calling a special meeting from 25 to 15 percent of shares, with a vote of 99 percent of votes cast.
  • Approved a French Sub Plan under the 2001 Stock Plan, with a vote of 97 percent of votes cast.
  • Rejected a shareholder proposal to make amendments to the current Proxy Access for Director Nominations bylaw; the proposal received approximately 26 percent of votes cast.

As Satya Nadella has shared, Microsoft’s mission to empower every person and organization connects in fundamental ways with how we as a company operate, from how we design and develop technology to how we work to serve people with disabilities. A highlight of this year’s meeting was the demonstration by Anne Taylor, Senior Supportability Program Manager, of how our assistive technologies like Windows Narrator (a screen reader built into Windows 10) make it possible for someone who is blind or visually impaired to access our shareholder materials. Anne showed on stage how, by using Narrator, she was able to have a Word document read back to her at various speeds, call out when comments were made, and provide her own responses through the use of keyboard shortcuts instead of a mouse.

In conjunction with providing an online vote via a virtual shareholders meeting, we delivered an interactive version of our proxy statement for the second year in a row. A webcast of our annual meeting is available on our Investor Relations site, along with a detailed breakdown of the vote results.

We continually strive to improve. Let us know what you think by sending questions or thoughts you may have to AskBoard@microsoft.com.

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An opportunity for small businesses expanding affordable internet access: Grant applications open now http://blogs.microsoft.com/on-the-issues/2016/12/02/opportunity-small-businesses-expanding-affordable-internet-access-grant-applications-open-now/ Fri, 02 Dec 2016 14:00:13 +0000 http://blogs.microsoft.com/on-the-issues/?p=40592 This post originally appeared on NextBillion.net. New Sun Road is literally lighting up Uganda’s economy. The small business, supported with a grant from Microsoft’s Affordable Access Initiative, provides a critical service, creates jobs and is the kind of enterprise we aim to support with a second round of grants for innovators around the world. Initially conceived at UC Berkeley, New Sun Road designed, built and operated the first 24/7 metered Read more »

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Phot of man outdoors installing micro-grid technology on one of Uganda’s Ssese Islands.

New Sun Road’s micro-grid technology being installed on one of Uganda’s Ssese Islands. Image courtesy of New Sun Road.

This post originally appeared on NextBillion.net.

New Sun Road is literally lighting up Uganda’s economy. The small business, supported with a grant from Microsoft’s Affordable Access Initiative, provides a critical service, creates jobs and is the kind of enterprise we aim to support with a second round of grants for innovators around the world.

Initially conceived at UC Berkeley, New Sun Road designed, built and operated the first 24/7 metered electricity service on an off-grid island chain in the southern part of Uganda. Now they are sharing their technology solutions with other entrepreneurs to accelerate development and scale clean, renewable power systems in developing markets such as East Africa and Southeast Asia.

A challenge, and an opportunity, in Uganda

The 50,000 inhabitants of the Ssese Islands in Uganda depend on an economy largely driven by the fishing industry. Before New Sun Road’s system went online, local businesses had only an intermittent power supply, provided by costly diesel generators, which made it difficult to provide predictable hours of operation. Since the introduction of a solar grid, fishing-adjacent businesses including taverns, restaurants and food processors enjoy improved physical security, due to around-the-clock lighting, and much lower utility fees.

Electricity costs – which had previously accounted for up to a third of clients’ daily incomes – have fallen by 50 percent. Extended hours enabled by the new system are allowing businesses to stay open later, increasing earning potential and job creation. Most importantly, New Sun Road’s prototype demonstrated strong local demand for solar micro-grid power, giving new utility companies confidence to build larger systems and expand service throughout the remote Ssese Islands.

“While building our micro-grid in the Ssese Islands, we encountered a lot of obstacles stemming from lack of power, water, sanitation and transport infrastructure – and this helped us better understand the daily struggles residents of the islands face,” said Jalel Sager, director at New Sun Road. “We are proud to have provided our early customers with 24-hour reliable clean energy and tablet-based connectivity on the island as a first step toward securing the rest of the services they need for a better future.”

New Sun Road’s micro-grid management systems also use various Microsoft Azure cloud-connected tools, such as real-time analytics, automated event notifications and machine learning, to maximize efficiency. The company gathers data on electricity usage and identifies patterns that can predict when there will be outages or potential failures. Once a possible lapse is identified, the system alerts local technicians and keeps customers updated. And New Sun Road systems provide the foundation for broadband internet capabilities in the community.

Affordable Access Initiative grants: Year Two

Unfortunately, 3.9 billion people worldwide, often in economically disadvantaged, rural and other underserved communities, lack internet connectivity. That’s why Microsoft created the Affordable Access Initiative, a holistic, partnership-based program that invests in new last-mile access technologies, cloud-based services and business models to reduce the cost of internet access and help more people affordably get online. The initiative is a call to innovate. By using seed grants, mentoring networks and sparking community engagement, we cultivate partner companies that demonstrate promising market-based solutions through hardware, software or infrastructure improvements that deliver connectivity.

One important aspect of Microsoft’s Affordable Access Initiative is a grant fund which has, since November 2015, awarded funds to 12 companies in 11 countries and five continents, offering affordable internet access or cloud-based services in fields such as power generation, health, education, finance and agriculture. The social enterprises we support have inspired us with practical, high-impact and scalable approaches to help close the digital divide. It’s a privilege to see these solutions take shape, and to play a role in helping local entrepreneurs spur job creation and economic growth.

This initiative is also connected to the work of Microsoft Philanthropies, which is helping to bring technology’s benefits to those who need them most. Microsoft Philanthropies is making its digital literacy, online safety and computer science education programs available to grant recipients and the communities they serve.

“Too many people around the world lack internet connectivity and the educational, commercial and economic benefits of cloud-based services,” Mary Snapp, corporate vice president and head of Microsoft Philanthropies, told me. “Affordable Access Initiative grants, and the technology ecosystems they help support, empower entrepreneurs to provide connectivity which then enables the creation of critical services for those who need it most.”

Businesses wishing to apply for this year’s grants may find a list of criteria, and the application, here. Applications will be accepted until midnight PT on Jan. 31, 2017.

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ABA Resolution 113: Creating a legal profession that reflects the public it serves http://blogs.microsoft.com/on-the-issues/2016/11/22/aba-resolution-113-creating-legal-profession-reflects-public-serves/ Tue, 22 Nov 2016 16:45:38 +0000 http://blogs.microsoft.com/on-the-issues/?p=40574 Since the United States was founded, the diversity of our nation has continuously grown, a trend that will accelerate in coming years. Unfortunately, the diversity of the legal profession has failed to match this growth. This is why Microsoft has joined legal departments and law firms from across the country to support the American Bar Association (ABA) Resolution 113 and its mission to create a legal profession that better reflects Read more »

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Since the United States was founded, the diversity of our nation has continuously grown, a trend that will accelerate in coming years. Unfortunately, the diversity of the legal profession has failed to match this growth.

This is why Microsoft has joined legal departments and law firms from across the country to support the American Bar Association (ABA) Resolution 113 and its mission to create a legal profession that better reflects the diversity of the nation we serve.

At Microsoft, our customer base is as varied as the world itself, representing every background in this country and virtually every country on the planet. As a legal department, we understand that diversity is a business necessity. To be successful as lawyers, we must understand how to connect, communicate with, and persuade people of all races, genders, abilities and cultures. And we can’t do that unless our diversity mirrors that of our customers.

Diversity starts with law firms

Based on our experience, we believe that as diversity increases, improvements in decision-making, creativity, innovation and customer engagement follow. Like many corporate legal departments, Microsoft’s Corporate, External and Legal Affairs team views our outside counsel as a partner with and an extension of our own legal team.  As a result, the business rationale that drives us to diversify our overall workforce applies to our law firms.

Yet the statistics show that the legal profession has important work to do. We have yet to see diversity gains at the leadership levels of most U.S. law firms. In 2015, only 7 percent of equity partners were minorities[1] and just 17 percent of the equity partners were women[2]. These numbers don’t reflect the increasing number of diverse graduates that have been coming out of our law schools for more than a decade.[3]

At Microsoft we work closely with our law firms to promote greater diversity and inclusion. Our Law Firm Diversity Program (LFDP) and our work with law firms owned by women or minorities – or WMBE firms – have helped grow the diversity of our own legal team and promote diversity within the firms that support our business. While these programs are a step in the right direction, we recognize that we need to do more.

The role of ABA Resolution 113

We must take new steps together – as a profession – to make significant progress towards increasing diversity. This starts with setting clear, measurable goals based on strong indicators of where we stand, where we want to go and how we will get there.

ABA Resolution 113 encourages legal departments to ask law firms to complete the ABA legal model diversity survey and consider the information as a factor in deciding whether to retain a law firm for significant matters. The survey enables legal departments to measure their progress and to review the diversity data of law firms.  By providing a standardized format, the survey also reduces the burden of reporting on law firms and makes it easier to compare progress between law firms and track improvements year-over-year.

We are enthusiastic in endorsing ABA Resolution 113 and hope that many other legal departments across the country will pledge their support for use the survey as a factor in managing their law firm relationships.  This new resolution will help encourage new and significant steps toward building greater transparency and accountability relating to diversity.  It should inspire all of us to aim higher and build a legal profession that reflects the populations we serve.

 

[1] Law360’s 2015 Minority Report

[2] Eighth Annual NAWL National Survey on Retention and Promotion of Women in Law Firms

[3] Law360’s 2015 Minority Report, Eighth Annual NAWL National Survey

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Teaching kids computer science: no computer required http://blogs.microsoft.com/on-the-issues/2016/11/17/teaching-kids-computer-science-no-computer-required/ Thu, 17 Nov 2016 14:00:10 +0000 http://blogs.microsoft.com/on-the-issues/?p=40502 Every young person should have the opportunity to learn computer science skills and, by extension, gain a better understanding of how the technology works, since it will impact so many aspects of their lives. A grant announced today will help more youth get that opportunity. Computational thinking is described by Jeannette M. Wing, corporate vice president at Microsoft Research, as the thought processes involved in formulating a problem and expressing Read more »

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Six girls outside a classroom learning computer science by using CS Unplugged

Using the CS Unplugged program, students can learn computer science through engaging games and puzzles that rely on cards, string, crayons and physical activity.

Every young person should have the opportunity to learn computer science skills and, by extension, gain a better understanding of how the technology works, since it will impact so many aspects of their lives. A grant announced today will help more youth get that opportunity.

Computational thinking is described by Jeannette M. Wing, corporate vice president at Microsoft Research, as the thought processes involved in formulating a problem and expressing solutions in a way that a computer – human or machine – can carry out. Wing, who also serves as the president’s professor of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University, wrote in Social Issues in Computing that computational thinking “will be a fundamental skill – just like reading, writing, and arithmetic – used by everyone by the middle of the 21st century.”

Yet not every young person has ready access to technology or the internet. In schools where technology is available, teachers don’t always have curriculum materials that make computational thinking easy and fun to teach. University of Canterbury Computer Science and Engineering Professor Tim Bell, in collaboration with colleagues at other universities, created an innovative solution for teaching computational thinking in these and other settings. CS Unplugged, available in about 20 languages and used by educators around the world, is a collection of free learning activities to teach core computer science concepts through engaging activities that use everyday items and interaction among youth to facilitate learning. The program’s games and puzzles use cards, string, crayons and physical activity – no technology required.

Professor Bell’s important work received a boost from Microsoft Philanthropies today: a Microsoft YouthSpark grant to continue to build and improve his CS Unplugged curriculum to have greater applicability and usability for nonprofit organizations and teachers all around the world.

“All youth should have a chance to learn problem-solving skills critical for today’s technology-driven world,” said Mary Snapp, corporate vice president and head of Microsoft Philanthropies. “CS Unplugged is especially useful in demonstrating core concepts in computer science and removes the barrier of technology access so that more young people can gain these important skills. We’re pleased to support Professor Bell and this work.”

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella in a school classroom in New Zealand with children learning computer science without computers.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, who was in New Zealand this week, visited Freemans Bay School in Auckland to see how students at the school learn computer science with the CS Unplugged program.

New lesson plans will be developed, and new supplementary videos, made possible by this grant, will demonstrate how the material looks when used in a classroom. The material will include tips and explanations to help teachers understand computer science principles behind the activities and how to teach those to students. The material is suitable for people of all ages and backgrounds, from elementary school students to seniors, and will be available free of charge.

Today’s announcement coincided with the first visit to New Zealand by Microsoft’s CEO Satya Nadella, who visited Freemans Bay School as the guest of New Zealand Minister of Education Hon Hekia Parata to see how the school uses the CS Unplugged program. Reflecting a growing trend around the world, New Zealand will integrate a digital technologies focus into school curriculums in 2018. The grant will enable the modification of CS Unplugged to be fully integrated into school curricula, building on its initial function as extra content for classes.

CS Unplugged may be downloaded in a variety of languages at csunplugged.org. The new versions of the materials, made possible by today’s YouthSpark grant, will be published in the summer of 2017.

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