September 2016

RECAP: White House Open Data Innovation Summit (#WHOpenData)

This week, we were honored to join and support the White House Open Data Innovation Summit. Leaders in open data, including White House leaders in data U.S. Chief Information Officer Tony Scott and U.S. Chief Technology Officer Megan Smith, spent the summit championing the use of Federal open data across all sectors.

Read more about the growth of open data with the Center for Open Data Enterprise‘s new Open Data Best Practices Report. You can also watch the livestream of the summit here.

Some top tweets from the Open Data Innovation Summit:

Local and Global Changemakers Mark Launch of Hub @ Grand Central Tech

#YesAllGirls Group

“I didn’t have a birth certificate until I was 22 years old…today, I’m a tech CEO in London.”

Those words from Marieme Jamme, who will never know her own birthdate but now has the audacious goal of teaching 1 million girls to code by 2030 as the chief executive of iamtheCODE, summed up the range of opportunities faced by women and girls the world over.

At the brand new Microsoft Reactor space, with the iconic windows of Grand Central Terminal in full view, Marieme joined an incredible all-female panel on Monday evening to discuss how to invest in young women and girls who are suffering through the refugee crisis.

The following morning, the Hub @ Grand Central Tech would officially open with a ribbon-cutting ceremony featuring the Microsoft Reactor and other foundational partners such as Milstein Properties and General Electric, as well as New York City Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen, New York City Economic Development Corporation President Maria Torres-Springer and London Deputy Mayor Rajesh Agrawal.

Last year, the United Nations (UN) launched the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – a set of global priorities to be ambitiously pursued between now and 2030. SDG #5 is to “achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.” As part of that push, Monday evening’s event titled Investing in Adolescent Girls and Young Women in the Refugee Crisis was convened by UN Women and the Malala Fund to take full advantage of the plethora of changemakers in New York during the annual UN General Assembly. After I welcomed the overflow crowd to the Microsoft Reactor, UN Assistant Secretary-General Lakshmi Puri provided a sober assessment of progress-to-date and ongoing needs.

John Paul Farmer and Zaynab Ali Abdi

John Paul Farmer stands with Zaynab Ali Abdi.

A panel of female voices then shared experiences from Yemen, Syria, and across the United States. As Fatuma Roba of Film Aid said, in a statement that is simultaneously saddening and inspiring, “I don’t believe in tomorrow; I believe in today.” Zaynab Ali Abdi, a Yemeni refugee who quickly became student body president and captain of the soccer team at her high school in Minneapolis, Minnesota, spoke about the importance of education above all – not just access to education, but expectation of education. She suggested that delaying marriage, which can often occur in the mid-teens for Yemeni girls, could lead to a more educated and empowered female population.

John Paul Farmer and Amani Yahya

John Paul Farmer and Amani Yahya, the first female Yemeni rapper

The panel was followed by a spoken word performance by Amani Yahya, the first female Yemeni rapper, who now lives in Saudi Arabia as a refugee from civil war in her home country. It was heartwarming to witness how excited Amani and Zaynab – both from Yemen – were to meet each other just prior to the event. On this, her inaugural visit to New York City, Amani was even interviewed by Tony-winning actor Daveed Diggs of the mega-hit musical Hamilton.

As an organization, UN Women recognizes the importance of teaching boys and men to support girls and women. Wearing #HeForShe lapel pins, rappers TrevMomatic and Otuk William took the stage to lend male feminist voices in the form of their song Girls.

The event was wrapped up by Toni Townes-Whitley, Microsoft’s Corporate Vice President for Worldwide Public Sector, who delivered a tour-de-force showing of her own.

Conversation alone won’t solve the myriad problems faced by refugee girls. But it’s a start. Showcasing the incredible stories and resolve of these girls and women can only open up minds. And, as we often do at Microsoft, connecting skilled technologists with knowledgeable policymakers and dedicated non-profit workers can bring about the most profound change, because in the 21st century technology and policy are increasingly codependent. Three things were clear: 1) the opportunity to get an education is essential, 3) these are strong, determined girls and women who will no doubt make a positive impact on societies in the USA and abroad, and 3) we here at Microsoft have roles to play, in connecting our technologies to solve hard problems and in hosting conversations like this one.

Ribbon-cutting the Hub @ Grand Central Tech

The official ribbon-cutting for the Hub @ Grand Central Tech.

On Tuesday morning, we hosted the official ribbon-cutting for the Hub @ Grand Central Tech, a striking 45,000 square foot space specifically geared toward startups working on urban tech solutions – from transportation to water treatment to air pollution. With the 4,000 square foot Microsoft Reactor as its cornerstone, the Hub will showcase innovative Microsoft technologies, make Microsoft experts more accessible to the community, and happens to boast the aforementioned show-stopping views of Grand Central Terminal – one of the world’s great examples of urban infrastructure.

Grand Central Tech co-founders Matt Harrigan and Charlie Bonello have spent the past few years building a density of startup activity in an accessible midtown location. With the success of Grand Central Tech’s accelerator program, the Build co-working space, and now the Urban Tech Growth Hub, 335 Madison has become the vertical home for tech in midtown. After Matt and Charlie welcomed guests, NYCEDC President Torres-Springer highlighted the importance of urban tech, NYC Deputy Mayor Glen spoke of “the commitment of the city to continue to grow,” and London Deputy Mayor Agrawal even jokingly (and erroneously) referred to New York as “the second-greatest city in the world” while sharing his own inspiring story of arriving in London as an immigrant 15 years ago with just 200 pounds in his pocket, becoming a successful entrepreneur, and being named Deputy Mayor of London. Now, he is promoting further ties between London and New York.

In less than 24 hours, the Microsoft Reactor hosted hundreds of people from the Middle East, Africa, Europe, Asia, and North America who represent a wide array of industries and issues. From these two very different events – one focused on the needs of girls in the refugee crisis, the other on the potential of tech in New York City – two things became clear. First, the audacious optimism of every person in the room. Second, no matter how different we may be – far-flung cities and countries, varying cultures, differing dress – we all have roles to play and we can often accomplish the most when we work together.

It’s days and weeks like this that make a job worth doing.

Rock the Vote This National Voter Registration Day


Are you registered to vote? In 2008, 6 million Americans missed their chance to vote — either because they missed a registration deadline, or didn’t know how to register. National Voter Registration Day, a new annual initiative, brings this information to the forefront to make sure every American has all the necessary information to register to vote.

The National Association of Secretaries of State has established the fourth Tuesday of September as National Voter Registration Day annually, making today (September 27, 2016) the day to act!

This presidential election, we want to make sure every American has a chance to vote. That’s why we’re excited to partner in Rock the Vote’s Corporate Civic Responsibility Program, working to make voter registration readily available to employees and consumers alike. And, with Microsoft Pulse, we’re helping the public become more informed voters through initiatives like

Looking for an easy way to find voter registration information? Just Bing search “how to register to vote” and Bing will display local information for you, including deadlines, requirements, and an online voter registration platform.

Microsoft Pulse partners with leading news broadcasters for the Presidential Debates

Microsoft Pulse has partnered with PBS NewsHour, MSNBC, and Telemundo to give the American public a voice during one of the biggest nights in politics this election cycle. Viewers will be able to watch the Presidential debates tonight and vote in real time whether they agree or disagree with what the candidates have to say, through any of the following channels:

  • – this partnership between Microsoft and PBS NewsHour, sanctioned by Commission on Presidential Debates, houses all the general election debates since 1960 for viewers to access on demand. In addition, viewers will be able to watch for free – and rate – each of the 2016 presidential and vice presidential debates by visiting the site, both live and, after the debates have ended, on demand. Tonight’s debate live stream begins at 9pm E.S.T on
  • – MSNBC online visitors and readers will be able to stream the debates on for free, vote real time on the candidate’s positions, and compare their reactions to those of their peers using Microsoft Pulse. Tonight’s debate live stream begins at 9pm E.S.T and viewers will be able to vote at
  • Live on Telemundo – Telemundo’s special coverage of the first debate, titled “La Gran Batalla” (The Great Battle), will feature and engage viewers with voting and insights from Microsoft Pulse before, during, and after the debate. Coverage of the debate begins live on Telemundo at 8pm E.S.T. and viewers will be able to engage from any mobile device by going to

Learn more here.

Announcing A New Way to Watch Presidential Debates

Election season is in full swing!

With our two 2016 major-party candidates gearing up for debates, we’re excited to announce the newest venture between PBS NewsHour and Microsoft:, expanding on an existing civic education partnership between PBS and the Commission on Presidential Debates. This interactive civic education and voter engagement site provides access to every general election debate since 1960, allowing visitors ability to screen entire debates and highlights, track how specific issues over the years, and interact with the content using online voting tools from Microsoft Pulse.

Since the first televised presidential debate in 1960, these events have been integral to the American democratic process and the leading forum for serious discussion of current affairs. Today, for the first time, these debates are being organized and made available in one place for the American public in an online forum.

On, users can access various content and engagement tools, including:

  • Livestreams of the four 2016 general election debates
  • Full debate footage from 39 previously broadcast debates
  • Online rating and audience engagement of previous & this year’s debates, powered by Microsoft Pulse
  • Highlight reels of memorable moments from all televised debates between 1960-2016
  • Issue-based reels looking at the evolution of key policy and political issues through the years

Experience WatchTheDebates yourself — head to

Small and Midsize Businesses Get a Boost at Microsoft Stores

New York City-area businesses have something to celebrate: many Microsoft Stores across the region, including the flagship location on Fifth Avenue, have rolled out new SMB Zones. What are those, you ask? SMB Zones are spaces where you can get hands-on access to business-grade technology — and they were designed with entrepreneurs and small and midsize business (SMB) owners in mind.

New York City has the highest concentration of small businesses in the state.In fact, more than 98 percent of firms in New York City reported fewer than 500 employees.To further support these local businesses and their employees, Microsoft Stores in the New York City region are also offering the Accelerate Your Business leasing program – created to help small and midsize organizations choose the technologies that best meet their business needs as well as get training, support, warranties and deals for combined solutions.

In addition to the Fifth Avenue location, Microsoft Stores in White Plains, N.Y.; Huntington Station, N.Y.; Bridgewater, N.J.; Freehold, N.J.; Willowbrook, N.J.; and Paramus, N.J., are offering the new programs.

To underscore Microsoft’s commitment to SMBs, on Thursday, Sept. 22, entrepreneur, author and CNBC contributor Carol Roth will host a live-streamed event at the flagship Microsoft Store to discuss how small business owners can use technology to solve problems and take their business to the next level of success. Register here and tune in online starting at 4 p.m. Eastern Time to hear from Roth as well as a handful of other entrepreneurs.

In addition to the SMB Zone and the Accelerate Your Business program, SMBs can access a host of in-store and on-the-ground support, training, and services designed especially for them. Check out the Microsoft U.S. Small and Midsize Business Blog for more details.

1 The Economic Impact of Small Business in New York State, New York state comptroller, March 2016

Microsoft Empowers the 2016 Republican & Democratic National Conventions

Microsoft Surface screen at RNC 2016

Regardless of your political stripes, Microsoft’s mission is to empower everyone to achieve more. This year, Microsoft is playing a significant role in the election process. We believe technology, and our teams, can create a more secure, accurate, and efficient elections process. After starting in Iowa, we continued onto Super Tuesday, and this past July, we were vital to the Democratic and Republican National Conventions.

Republican Convention 2016 stage

Microsoft Surface screen After all the balloons dropped, and Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump had been officially nominated at their respective parties’ conventions, the entire Microsoft community can proudly say they helped make these significant events in our democratic process a success. Teams across the company, from Washington state to Washington, DC, coordinated over the past year to engage with the political parties, the planning committees, the host cities, and local organizations and businesses to provide access to Microsoft technology and services. From the earliest planning stages, we worked with the RNC Committee on Arrangements and the Democratic National Convention Committee to empower those people and organizations running the conventions to address challenges and provide solutions.

From Azure to Skype to O365 to Surface, Microsoft became integral to two weeks of conventions in Cleveland and Philadelphia, viewed by millions of people around the world.

Just as important, we aimed to leave a lasting legacy in each host city. In Cleveland, we partnered with Cuyahoga County on an Azure-based, mobile app to help solve some of the areas on-going challenges. In Philadelphia, we partnered with local organizations to launch the Microsoft Reactor, where entrepreneurs and developers can have a home to innovate into the future.

We will continue supporting the next steps in the 2016 election (bookmark and check out throughout the election cycle), and are committed to being a vital part of the democratic process for years to come.

The Elections newsroom on Microsoft News Center provides an ongoing reflection of the company’s work as the election cycle continues.

Civic Tech Events This September in NYC


As we’re settling into fall, the last thing we want is to get the early September blues. Luckily for you, we’ve gathered some of the top events NYC has to offer this month to keep you active as summer wraps up:

September 1

NYC Data Science Seminar Series Presents: Matt Salganik, Social Research in the Age of Big Data

This event is part of the NYC Data Science Seminar Series, organized by MSR NYC, Facebook, NYU Center for Data Science, Columbia University, and Cornell Tech, with the Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute.

September 5


Let’s talk about Europe – now more than ever! DLDeurope will shed a spotlight on the implications of the digital age on the economic, political, and cultural spheres of Europe – a continent with boundless opportunity, undergoing major transitions. Join DLDeurope on September 5th, 2016 in Brussels.

**John Paul Farmer will be speaking on a panel at this conference**

September 7

Women in Design & Tech Leadership Forum NYC

In a recent publication by the National Center for Women & Information Technology, it was found that gender diversity at top management levels improves companies’ financial performance – yet the numbers show that we’re far behind in hitting goals of balancing leadership roles. Join a panel of leaders from design, tech and higher education for presentations and a town hall discussion to develop goals and practices to move toward leadership equality.

September 7

2016 Startup Tech Demo Night

Join us as we celebrate 26 hard-working NYC high school students participating in the fifth year of Startup Tech Summer (formerly NYC Generation Tech). This innovative and intensive tech-entrepreneurship program trains high school students to develop coding, business planning, and entrepreneurship skills that will allow them to transform the world through tech-based innovation. This year the students were challenged to design apps aimed at improving the lives of New Yorkers with help from mentors representing MasterCard, Warby Parker, LivePerson, Appnexus, and Deloitte.

On Demo Night, all five teams will be celebrated and pitch their mobile app prototypes and business plans before a panel of expert judges to compete for a top prize of $5,000.

September 10

Out in Tech Digital Corps | Launch Party

Out in Tech is teaming up with Squarespace to support 10 international organizations fighting to protect LGBTQ+ rights in their home countries, from Pakistan to Botswana.

Join us at Squarespace on Saturday, September 10 for rooftop drinks and snacks, sweeping views of Manhattan, and the chance to see the 10 websites unveiled with over 250 of your closest friends (and NYC’s top LGBTQ tech talent).

Please share with your friends on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn and share your favorite moments via #OutInTech.

September 13

NYC TechBreakfast: Wunder Capital, Brohan, IntroNet, IssueVoter

Interact with your peers in a monthly morning breakfast meetup. At this monthly breakfast get-together techies, developers, designers, and entrepreneurs share learn from their peers through show and tell / show-case style presentations.

September 21

OGP Toolbox Hackathon: Civic Tech for Open Government

France will host the Open Government Partnership 2016 Global Summit that will take place in Paris on December 7, 8 and 9.

As announced at the Global Summit launch event on April 20, a hackathon on civic tech and the concrete implementation of open government principles and national commitments will take place during the Global Summit. The goal of this hackathon is to come up with an open government toolbox for the OGP, governments and civil society.

Open data portals, public consultation platforms, tools for monitoring and co-creating the law, discussion forums, civic tech solutions, online platforms to monitor the implementation of national action plans: these are examples of software and online services used by governments and civil society around the world, which could be referenced, shared and reused.

This toolbox will be based on a catalogue, including examples of use cases and technical criteria, to help choose among available solutions. It aims at facilitating the implementation of national commitments made by governments in their national action plans and encouraging cooperation, peer learning and resource sharing between OGP members.

September 22

NYC Media Lab 16

NYC Media Lab 16 is a snapshot of the best thinking, projects, and talent in digital media from universities in NYC and beyond.

This is an opportunity for media executives, technologists, and decision makers to explore interesting technologies and applications related to the future of media. Through thought-provoking discussions, faculty-led workshops, and 100+ innovative demos, attendees will explore pressing issues related to digital media innovation.