Microsoft deepens longstanding commitment to philanthropy with expanded vision, new organization

Brad Smith
Brad Smith

Today we’re announcing an expanded commitment to our corporate philanthropy around the world with a broader ambition and a new organization within the company, Microsoft Philanthropies, to make this ambition a reality.

Our CEO, Satya Nadella, has defined a clear mission for Microsoft: Empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more. In his letter to shareholders this year, he said, “In the year ahead we will continue to ask ourselves what are the challenges mankind faces, how can technology help, and what is the contribution of Microsoft?”

We’ve challenged ourselves to think holistically about the contribution we can make and ask how can we truly bring to life the promise and potential of technology for everyone. Part of the answer is Microsoft Philanthropies, a dedicated organization within the company reporting directly to me, that will focus on these issues.

Delivering on our company mission starts with great technology, but great technology alone is not enough.

Despite global expansion, increased access, and democratization of technology, the benefits of technology are not yet reaching everyone in the world.

Too many of technology’s benefits have yet to reach people who need them. The reasons are manifold.

  • Poverty limits access to the very tools that can empower people to create a better life for themselves, their families and their communities.
  • A lack of education – especially in STEM disciplines – limits the ability of people to participate in the opportunities created by the growth of the global economy.
  • Accessibility remains a key challenge, with too many people with disabilities encountering barriers to using essential new technologies.
  • People in remote or displaced communities often confront great challenges accessing technology and information when they need it most.

To fulfill our company mission and truly empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more, we, ourselves, need to do more.

Just as there is an extremely effective commercial ecosystem which brings the promise of technology to life in the marketplace, there must be a strong societal ecosystem that brings the promise of technology to life in the community space, especially where there is the greatest need.

Meeting the greatest need requires greater action. And, a recognition that empowerment begins with inclusion.

Through Microsoft Philanthropies, we will contribute in new and more impactful ways to a societal ecosystem that connects the benefits of technology to those who need it most and work harder to drive inclusive growth of the global economy. We will strive to bridge gaps within and across communities through more widespread access to technology that enhances the productivity and quality of life for the people of those communities. The opportunity to do this is greater than ever with the power of cloud computing and the potential of data science.

To bridge these gaps, Microsoft Philanthropies will invest in digital inclusion programs and partnerships. These assets include our strategic societal investments of cash and technology, the technical talents of our employees, our commitment to creative and collaborative partnerships, and the reach and scale of our brand and voice.

Through Microsoft Philanthropies, we will integrate and leverage these assets to drive greater inclusion and empowerment of people who do not yet have access to technology and the opportunities it offers and enables.  As we do so, we will build on the foundation of Microsoft’s 30+ years of giving and the insights from our many valued partners and the communities they serve, and seek new ways to achieve greater outcomes for a broader segment of the world’s population.

We must do this in order to truly fulfill our company mission. Here’s how we’ll start.

Strategic societal investments of cash and technology in digital inclusion programs and partnerships:

  • We will invest cash and technology in nonprofit partnerships that deliver the benefits of technology to a wider segment of the population.
  • These investments will span the spectrum of digital inclusion, from providing access and connectivity to the public cloud to delivering digital skills training to help people get jobs and start businesses, to educating the next generation of innovators through greater access to computer science education for all youth.
  • One example is the $75 million we have committed to computer science education worldwide over the next three years. Early next year, we will detail the programs and partnerships that will turn this commitment into action.

Technical talents of our employees mobilized to solve digital inclusion gaps and challenges:

  • We will greatly expand our efforts to support employees in their community engagements, with a special emphasis on matching employee technical talents with nonprofit organizations’ technical needs.
  • We will do this on multiple levels, starting with nonprofit technology deployments and extending to global hackathons that create new technology ‘proofs of concept’ to address a number of key societal challenges as well as selecting a number of marquee data science projects to benefit broad segments of the global population.
  • The Microsoft employee team that developed the Eye Gaze solution is an example of the creativity, passion and innovation that we’ll do more to support, partnering with leaders in the nonprofit, educational and civic community, over the next six-to-12 months.

Creative and collaborative partnerships aimed at building bridges of digital inclusion and empowerment:

  • We will engage in a number of creative partnerships, internally and externally, to drive greater inclusion and empowerment of people in the communities we serve.
  • For example, we will invest in nonprofit programs to complement Microsoft’s Affordable Access Initiative, which is designed to help new business grow in remote areas and connect people to the cloud.
  • We’ll do this because we recognize that connecting to the cloud is not enough: it takes skills and knowledge to leverage this connection and derive true benefit from it. Therefore, we’ll invest in the coming year in digital education programs for the people in those communities to ensure not only their inclusion in new opportunities but also their empowerment to make the most of those new opportunities.

Reach and scale of our brand and voice to spotlight and prompt action on root causes of digital exclusion:

  • We will partner with nonprofit organizations to call attention to the root causes of digital exclusion, matching the reach and scale of our brand with the expert knowledge and service that nonprofit organizations provide to their communities.
  • We’ll do this through social good marketing initiatives, such as our recent Upgrade Your World campaign, which provided $10 million to help 100 nonprofits do more good in their communities.
  • We’ll also expand our public advocacy work that is currently focused on education to tackle additional issues of digital inclusion, such as serving the needs of displaced or remote communities.

To take the ambitions and work of Microsoft Philanthropies forward, I have tapped Mary Snapp, a long-time leader in our company and community, to head Microsoft Philanthropies, reporting directly to me. Lori Forte Harnick will serve as its Chief Operating Officer, and we’ll expand our existing broader team in the months ahead.

Today is the first step in the journey of Microsoft Philanthropies, and we look forward to engaging with our long-standing partners and our yet-to-be-discovered partners to strengthen a societal ecosystem that will deliver the benefits of technology to people with the greatest need and create inclusive and enduring positive impact throughout our communities.