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Microsoft's $1 Billion Cloud Gift

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella took to the world stage at the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland to announce the company will contribute $1 billion in cloud resources over the next three years to nonprofit organizations, researchers and underserved communities. While Microsoft has a storied history of donating software, the latest is a huge contribution.

Nadella in a blog post said the contribution will serve 70,000 nonprofits including researchers and universities that want to "make it easier for governments and NGOs to use the public cloud for public good." The contribution will include Azure, Office 365, Power BI, Enterprise Mobility Suite and Dynamics CRM Online.

Noting the United Nations commitment last fall to tackle such issues as poverty, hunger, health and education by 2030, Nadella said cloud services will help researchers "to reason over quantities of data to produce specific insights and intelligence. It converts guesswork and speculation into predictive and analytical power."

Noting that governments are looking for a framework that would make the best use of cloud resources, Nadella said the four critical components are infrastructure, skills development, trusted computing and leadership. "This framework would encourage more pervasive use of the public cloud for public good," he noted.

For example, he pointed to the L V Prasad Eye Institute in India, which has treated 20 million patients with cataracts. By digitizing medical records and other data "doctors now can pinpoint the procedures needed to prevent and treat visual impairments," he said. Another example he cited was last April's massive earthquake where U.N. relief workers used the cloud to gather and analyze huge amounts of data about schools and hospitals to expedite relief efforts.

Microsoft President and Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith outlined three initiatives that the company hopes to achieve with the contribution.

  1. A new organization formed last month headed by Mary Snapp called Microsoft Philanthropies will aim to make Microsoft's entire cloud portfolio available to specific nonprofit organizations. The organization will roll out a program this spring.
  2. Cloud access will be extended to universities via Microsoft Research and Microsoft Philanthropies. "We will significantly expand our Microsoft Azure for Research program, which grants free Azure storage and computing resources to help faculty accelerate their research," Smith wrote. "To date this program has provided free cloud computing resources for over 600 research projects on six continents. We will build on what works and will expand our donations program by 50 percent, with a focus on reaching important new research initiatives around the world."
  3. Microsoft intends to reach "new communities" where last-mile connectivity and cloud services aren't available. One technology Microsoft has already started helping deliver to address last-mile connectivity is TV White Spaces, which makes use of unlicensed VHF and UHF spectrum.

Naturally it's a good business move to donate products and service. It has served Microsoft, Google and others well over the years. Microsoft has a vested interest in seeing its services used as widely as possible. It's nice if doing so actually helps make the world better.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 01/20/2016 at 12:00 PM


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