Microsoft announced on 19th January 2016 that they are planning to donate $1 billion of Microsoft’s Cloud Services to help nonprofit organizations and university researchers. This is part of a new three-part initiative to use Microsoft’s profit for the public good, and the project will run over the next three years.
The project has been organized by the nonprofit section of the Microsoft business, named Microsoft Philanthropies, which was launched in December 2016.
About Microsoft Philanthropies
Microsoft Philanthropies is a branch of Microsoft dedicated to nonprofit work that improves people's lives through technology; they do this through making various investments into digital inclusion. These investments range from providing internet connectivity to more people, training people to start their own online businesses, and greater access to computer science education.
A statement on the Microsoft Philanthropies website gives clear insight into their purpose:
“Through Microsoft Philanthropies, we’re investing Microsoft’s strongest assets to drive greater inclusion and empowerment of people who do not 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-plus years of giving, seeking new ways to achieve greater outcomes for a broader segment of the world’s population.”
One Billion Dollars Cloud Service Donation
The initiative to donate $1 billion of Cloud Services to various causes is aimed at opening up the internet and its technologies to those who don’t yet have access. It is hoped that by doing so, more people will be able to reap the benefits of this technology: whether the benefits are financial, or communicational.
Microsoft President, Brad Smith, commented:
We’re committed to helping nonprofit groups and universities use cloud computing to address fundamental human challenges. One of our ambitions for Microsoft Philanthropies is to partner with these groups to ensure that cloud computing reaches more people and serves the broadest array of societal needs.
Microsoft’s three-part project consists of these plans:
- A donation program which is aimed at making Microsoft Cloud Services, especially Microsoft Azure, more accessible to organizations like charities and universities; the company hopes that it will be providing Cloud Services to approximately 70, 000 such organizations worldwide over the next three years.
- A 50 percent expansion of the Microsoft Azure Research Program which guarantees free Azure storage and cloud computing to university research; even before this program begins, Microsoft already provides free cloud computing to over 600 university faculties.
- A combination of donated resources with increased internet access and training: Microsoft Philanthropies will join with Microsoft Business Development to support 20 public-private partnerships, all of which focus on opening internet access to over 15 countries. This project is expected to have widened the Internet’s reach to these 15 countries in 2017.
Microsoft says that their new plans will begin to be enacted in spring 2016, and it also maintains that this is a widening of its donating, and so organizations already receiving free Microsoft services will not have them taken away as the new initiative moves in.
Though the move will be welcome news to many in the charity and higher education sectors, Microsoft may also be thinking of their reputation in launching this project. IDC Research Manager, George Mironescu, said of the donation plan:
It’s not surprising to Microsoft doing that given that competitors such as Google have been very active in the nonprofit and education sector for some time now and their often free services challenge Microsoft to convince such organizations to buy/ consume into its services.
Mironescu suggests that there may also be an industry driver behind Microsoft’s new philanthropy by drawing much more attention to the company, and may open up people to their services who may have previously gone to Google.
That being said, the project remains an important one for nonprofit and educational organizations and shows Microsoft’s recognition that access to the internet should be extended to many more people. The Microsoft Philanthropies initiative will give much more people the opportunity to be a part of cloud computing, and to expand their business, education or causes through the internet.
Investments Made By Microsoft Philanthropies
So far, Microsoft Philanthropies have invested in various projects which further their aims; these range across all the sectors they try to cover and include:
- Microsoft YouthSpark: This is a global initiative to allow more youngsters to learn about computer science. It was launched three years ago and has turned into a cross-company project which has created opportunities for more than 300 million youth around the world.
- Work In Washington State: Microsoft has expanded to work around the globe, but with almost 42, 000 employees and their families living in Washington State, they remain interested in their home state's economy. They have invested in public education projects there, as well as transportation.
- Affordable Access Initiative: Microsoft say on their website, with affordable internet access, 4.2 billion more people could communicate, further their employment and expand their lives. So, Microsoft offers grants of $75, 000 to companies providing access to regions without internet connectivity.