Microsoft-government partnership attempts to address technology transformation paradox

  • Immersive technology can both empower and displace communities
  • Urges Malaysian govt to challenge Microsoft to be transparent in all aspects of building systems, policies

Microsoft-government partnership attempts to address technology transformation paradox

WE HAVE all heard about the Fourth Industrial Revolution – the current growth of automation and digitisation that includes the Internet of Things and cloud computing. As with the last three industrial revolutions, it brings with it tremendous transformation, new jobs and new forms of industry.

According to Microsoft Public Sector corporate vice president Toni Townes-Whitley (pic, above), the transformation comes with a paradox. “With opportunity comes great challenge. Digital capability brings job displacement, and concerns about privacy, income inequality and security,” she said in her keynote address entitled The Power and Paradox: Technology as a Vital Resource for Solving the World’s Problems at the Road to GECommunity event on Oct 6, part of the lead-up to Global Entrepreneurship Community 2016.

Balancing tech and impact

“We feel as a company the responsibility to be aware of the impact of the technology that we introduce, to use that technology for good and to address where that technology is being used inappropriately,” she said.

Townes-Whitley illustrated her point through a video that highlighted how technology is being used for illicit activities such as human trafficking and how government agencies and companies such as Microsoft can work together to use technology to fight these crimes.

With this in mind, Townes-Whitley said that Microsoft wants to be purposeful in how it moves forward in its partnerships, particularly with the partnerships it has here in Asia, emphasising the importance of maintaining a balance between the technologies that Microsoft introduces into societies around the world and the values that underpin those societies.

Aligning strategy and goals

Townes-Whitley revealed that Microsoft’s strategy with its government partnerships, including in Malaysia, are based on a two-pronged approach: driving multi-year business development and market design opportunities, and creating a favourable cloud policy and sales environment.

The first side of the equation includes rolling out public sector solutions that are aligned to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, especially the goals that Malaysia has identified as being most significant for its own development.

“We overlap and map to these goals so that what we build drives where you’re going as a country,” she said.

The second part involves building policy frameworks to help governments change, increase and modernise their policies and rule of law to address the technology that is part of their emerging digital economies.

In fact, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and president and chief legal officer Brad Smith announced on Oct 3 the launch of a book from Microsoft called A Cloud for Global Good and a framework of 78 policy recommendations in 15 areas. This is part of the tech giant’s larger A Cloud for Global Good campaign that aims to move forward the discussion on the evolution of technology and its impact on societies.

Thinking about the future

Townes-Whitley urged Malaysia to find partners who are willing to put principles and policies in place, stand behind them with contractual commitments, and to be transparent about how they build their products and services and represent the country.

“The number one problem all governments face is cybersecurity. With that, my call to action for the Malaysian government is to challenge companies like Microsoft to be transparent in all aspects of what we do in building systems and in our policies,” she said

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