May 2015

Tech in Cuba in 2015

Tech in Cuba 2015

Illustration by J. Longo

Last month, I had the incredible opportunity to visit Cuba with my global travel companion Marco Bani. It’s a dynamic place facing rapid changes. I talked to everyone I met – regular people, but for their exposure to the lucrative tourism sector – about technology. The result is this primer in Kernel, the Daily Dot‘s Sunday magazine, for their travel issue. Thanks to Jesse Hicks for his editing. See more photos at this link.

Microsoft NY’s Not-To-Miss Events at Internet Week

logo_IWNY_2It’s here! Happy Internet Week. With a wonderful kickoff to the week, including David Rothschild, Economist at Microsoft Research giving a talk on disrupting market research, we’ve gathered some of the best events you don’t want to miss.

Here are our top picks:

#STAY CALM AND DRONE ON – A Featured Session on the Future of Drones
May 21, 11am—11:25am
Metropolitan Pavilion | Internet Week HQ | 125 West 18th Street | New York

From delivering burritos to government surveillance – everyone is droning about drones. In a session co-curated by The Startup Policy Lab, Lisa Ellman, TEDx & SXSW speaker, co-chair of McKenna Long & Aldridge’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Practice Group and formerly of the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy. Lisa will discuss future federal drone policy, the Hollywood drone industry, and if the future really includes “a license to drone.”

Doing Good through Technology: Code for America and the Detroit Water Project
May 21, 11:30am – 11:55am
Metropolitan Pavilion | USA TODAY Theater | 125 West 18th Street | New York

Have you ever wondered why it is the world of venture funded Internet startups spends all its time talking about “changing the world” yet still seems to primarily produce new ways to share photos and videos? If you really want to make an impact, there’s so many more ways that you can do it besides just building a startup. Join Lane Becker, Talent Director at Code for America, and Tiffani Bell, Executive Director of the Detroit Water Project and former Code for America fellow, as they talk about the ways that they’re using technology at their non-profit organizations to genuinely improve the world.

Internet: Supply and Demand
May 21, 2:00pm – 2:25pm
Metropolitan Pavilion | Internet Week HQ | 125 West 18th Street | New York

Internet service is the water and electricity of the 21st century, yet more than a third of low-income households are without a connection and the rest of the city pays high prices for slow speeds. We’ll discuss how New York can achieve the Mayor’s goal of universal access to high speed, affordable broadband.

Gale Brewer, Manhattan Borough President, The City of New York
Tony Marx, President, The New York Public Library
Maya Wiley, Counsel to the Mayor, The City of New York

Moderator: Susan Crawford, Author, Captive Audience

Missing out on Internet Week? Follow along on twitter using @InternetWeek and #iwny.

June 4-5: Personal Democracy Forum

The Personal Democracy Forum brings together a thousand top opinion makers, political practitioners, technologists, government leaders, academics, journalists, and philanthropy professionals from across the ideological spectrum for two days to network, exchange ideas, and explore how technology and wired citizens are changing politics, governance, and civil society.

The 12th annual Personal Democracy Forum is coming up this June 4-5 and this year’s theme is Imagine all the People, The Future of Civic Tech. Speakers include Cory Doctorow, science fiction author and co-editor of, Lila Tretikov, Executive Director of the Wikimedia Foundation, and Rep. Cathy McMorris Rogers, U.S. Representative (WA-05), among others you can see here.

The event will be held again at NYU’s Skirball Hall, located in the heart of Greenwich Village, at 566 LaGuardia Place, New York, NY.

Together We Can Fight Child Abuse

Last week, the International Centre for Missing & Exploited Children (ICMEC) held its first-ever Gala for Child Protection, raising over $1.3 million dollars to combat crimes against children worldwide. At the event, Microsoft accepted the Global Impact for Child Protection award for our contributions to the fight against child exploitation. Also honored at the event were world-renowned artist Jeff Koons and his wife Justine, longtime supporters of ICMEC, and Ashton Kutcher gave a moving tribute to retiring ICMEC Founding President and CEO Ernie Allen, whose tireless advocacy has helped the lives of millions of children around the world.

Microsoft was deeply honored to be recognized among these leaders. For more than a decade, we have invested in technology and global partnerships that aim to help in this fight – from the development and distribution of PhotoDNA and contributing to Project Vic, to providing trainings for law enforcement. We have been humbled by the importance of this mission and the devotion of our global partners whose passion makes the world a safer place for children. We see this moment as an acknowledgement of what can be achieved when people and organizations come together to try to make a difference.

To be honest, when Microsoft worked with Dartmouth College to develop PhotoDNA – an image-matching technology we make available to organizations for free to help stop the spread of child sexual abuse images online – I don’t know that we truly appreciated the breadth of impact it might ultimately have. Today, PhotoDNA is a leading best practice for combating child sexual abuse material online and is currently being used by 70 companies, including Facebook and Twitter, non-governmental organizations and law enforcement. In April, Interpol integrated PhotoDNA technology into its International Child Sexual Exploitation (ICSE) database to help officers identify and rescue victims as quickly as possible.

And yet, while we are pleased that PhotoDNA has proven to be a helpful tool in this effort, it is but one of many, and still we must also recognize that we have barely scratched the surface as an industry – and as a society – in the fight against child abuse.

We must do more. And we must do it together. Because every child deserves to have a childhood.

To learn more about the International Centre for Missing and Exploited children, visit: To learn more about PhotoDNA, visit the Microsoft Digital Crimes Unit Newsroom.

Watch — Brad Smith Speaking at Columbia University Conference on Internet Governance & Cyber-security

Watch — Brad Smith Speaking at Columbia University Conference on Internet Governance & Cyber-security

Today, Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) hosts the Conference on Internet Governance & Cyber-security along with the Global Commission on Internet Governance.

Microsoft Executive Vice President and General Counsel, Brad Smith, joins the conversation at 1:15pm EST (10:15am PT) today for a fireside chat with Dean Merit E. Janow on issues of US and international law and public policy affecting the internet.

We invite you to join us for the conversation by attending the conference or tuning in at home on SIPA’s live webcast. You can also follow along on Twitter with @ColumbiaSIPA, @OurInternetGCIG@MicrosoftNY and #SIPAcyber.

Why You Should Attend Industry Conferences

Why You Should Attend Industry ConferencesIn Civic Hall‘s newest publication, Civicist, New York’s top leaders in civic technology explain the ins and outs of the industry: what civic tech means, how to utilize it best, who it helps, and more. In Matt Stempeck‘s latest post for Civicist, he explains how to dive head-first into civic tech by convening with other leaders and learning from them. That takes one simple step: going to industry conferences. There, you’re able to network, see what other people are doing, and build upon that.

via Matt’s post:

Whichever sector of civic tech you’re taking on, be it transportation, elections, payments, or procurement, chances are the people who have been doing that work for decades are already convening annually somewhere. That somewhere might not be in San Francisco. The average age might be older than most civic tech events. You should still go. This isn’t my advice; it’s the happily-shared secret of several successful civic tech startups.

Read Go to Industry Conferences live on Civicist.

Introducing NYC Summer STEM

Introducing NYC Summer STEM

New York is a city of innovation and success, stemming from a drive that citygoers have to do more. That drive comes from a particular blend of innate passion and serious education. That’s why we’re pleased to support the city in its initiatives to further this drive, from NYC’s Tech Talent Pipeline right down to our city schools. And this summer, we’re taking another step toward this by supporting NYC’s Summer STEM program.

This July, 1200 students — 400 each in 2nd, 7th, and 10th grade — will have the opportunity to spend several weeks experiencing high-quality hands-on instruction in STEM education from university and museum partners across the city. Students will explore robotics, engineering, arts, physical education, technology and science in an intensive and fun environment. We’re thrilled to be on board for this venture and look forward to our students creating inspiring projects this summer.

To learn more about Summer STEM, read New York City Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña’s guest post on the Microsoft in Education Blog here.

To learn more about Microsoft’s commitment to youth and education, visit our YouthSpark Hub or follow us on twitter at @msftcitizenship.

What is Civic Tech?

What is Civic Tech?

This past week, Civic Hall launched Civicist, a platform for civic tech news and analysis. The site will explore hot topics in civic tech, editorials, thought pieces and more. And we’re proud to say that our own Matt Stempeck is leading the charge by offering his first post, “A Maddeningly Broad Term.” In this post, Matt explores what civic tech really means — what work goes behind it, what technology drives it, and who it helps.

“What do you do?”

“I work in civic tech.”

“What’s that?”

“It’s like tech for good.”

“Oh, ok.”

Examples range from companies to organizations to public policy, and Matt explores the broad nature of the term “civic tech” and why that breadth is important. Matt’s strongest point is this: Civic tech is when we apply technology toward shared problems and opportunities.

Read Matt’s post live on Civicist.

Build 2015 Showcases Game-Changing Innovations

Last week, San Francisco played host to Microsoft Build 2015, the annual developer summit on new technologies. After Satya Nadella’s first 15 months at the helm of the company, game-changing announcements were everywhere you looked. I’ll mention a handful of the most intriguing in terms of civic impact.

Office Graph

As a society, we are transitioning from documents to data. Microsoft Office boasts over a billion users worldwide who have created massive amounts of data that now resides within the Office ecosystem. Using a new product called Delve, users can make sense of the density of data in the Office Graph and also have the ability to merge those data resources with other data produced outside the Office suite of tools. As Satya put it, this creates a “semantically rich graph of data that developers can view and extend.”

Azure Data Lake

This new data commons promises to put a wide variety of data building blocks at the fingertips of thousands and thousands of Microsoft cloud customers so that they can mash them up with their own proprietary data to create value.

Visual Studio Code

Following on last year’s announcement that Visual Studio would support numerous open source languages and libraries and that .NET itself – long having been proprietary – would be open sourced, Microsoft unveiled a new tool called Visual Studio Code built around the cross-platform realities of modern developer workflow. With a video shout-out from GitHub CEO Chris Wanstrath and other luminaries, the audience reaction to these new tools was off the charts.

Continuum for Windows 10

As part of the deep dive into the new Windows 10 operating system, Corporate Vice President Joe Belfiore demonstrated how the Continuum feature enables a user to plug in her phone to a desktop, laptop, or any screen and the phone’s apps would run on that larger screen appearing and functioning much like you would expect a traditional desktop application to appear. When you start thinking about it, Continuum could be a groundbreaking advance in addressing the digital divide. Many lower-income people in the United States and around the world have connected smartphones but do not have their own laptop or desktop. Using Continuum, anyone could plug their phone into a screen and keyboard and work in traditional productivity tools such as Excel, Word, and PowerPoint. This promises to be useful to millions of business people, but more importantly, it can allow millions of less-advantaged people a means to participate in the professional economy using technology they already have.

And this brings us to perhaps the single most exciting technological advancement jn years: The emergence of holographic computing.


First announced in January, HoloLens was on full display at Build, with a mind-blowing demo on stage that made clear the benefits for home life and for professional scenarios. It is easy to dream up the many ways this technology could benefit communities as they address their shared social issues, from urban planning use cases to public health and education. Hundreds of attendees at Build had the chance to try out HoloLens for themselves – something we hope many more will have the opportunity to do later this year.

In addition to the excitement of the developers in the convention hall, press and third-party observers saw a lot that they liked.

I joined Microsoft just 13 months ago and in that time, I’ve been fortunate to be involved in an array of incredible projects that have the potential to empower people to do good. The pace of change today is incredible – in the industry and at the company. And what is most exciting is that these recent announcements are just a start.

Welcome to NYC’s Civic Tech Corridor

Our team works with Microsoft Research‘s NYC Lab at 6th Ave and 20th Street. In just the last few months, two new civic tech institutions have opened up shop on our block. Just down West 20th Street, Data & Society considers the social, ethical, and cultural implications of data-driven decisions. And Civic Hall recently opened its doors at 156 5th Ave. It’s already home to countless great civic tech organizations, startups, and members, including our partners at BetaNYC and New York Tech Meetup. Not to mention that DataKind‘s in the same building, and one block up is It’s a great time to be in the Flatiron District of Manhattan. Stop by to visit whenever you’re around or in town!