Tech Overlook

Empowering a sustainable future – Microsoft on the Issues


Two female refugees in Athens
Photo courtesy of Sara Hylton for Mercy Corps.

Last year, I had the opportunity to visit schools and youth community centers in refugee camps in Greece and Jordan. Here young people, who were forced to leave their homes and communities, were preparing for the next phase in their lives. They were attending school and learning, through nonprofit-run programs, technology and entrepreneurial skills. I was moved by their willingness to work hard under difficult circumstances, with smiles on their faces, and by their hopeful view of the future.

At Microsoft Philanthropies, we feel an obligation to ensure that the benefits of the digital economy are available to everyone. The young people I met, and the many who remain displaced, were a reminder of why that work is so important. It’s why we launched AI for Humanitarian Action earlier this week, to help nonprofits save more lives, alleviate suffering and restore human dignity. Through this new initiative, front-line relief organizations will be able to use technology to anticipate, predict and better target response efforts.

It’s also why this week, in conjunction with the United Nations General Assembly session, we strengthened our commitment to sustainable development efforts through new digital skills partnerships with U.N. organizations. These partnerships focus on humanitarian initiatives in which we believe we can have the greatest global impact advancing education and employment, with an emphasis on preparing people with the skills they need in our global economy. We aim to help create meaningful livelihood opportunities for refugees and displaced youth, ensure more gender equality, promote accessibility, and overall, build stronger and more resilient communities.

With our partnership with UNICEF, for example, we are applying technology and expertise to ensure that the most vulnerable children on the move have access to education and protection. The first initiative will be a “learning passport,” being developed in collaboration with the University of Cambridge. It will be a digital, personalized, globally accredited learning platform aiming to enable children, who have had their learning disrupted, to keep learning – wherever they are.

We are working with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to reach over 25,000 refugee young women and men by 2021 with access to accredited, quality and relevant digital learning and market-oriented training opportunities. The partnership will include training and knowledge sharing with UNHCR international teams and local partners, who will also help deliver the content. Microsoft also joined this week with the International Labor Organization (ILO) on the Decent Jobs for Youth global initiative to help equip young women and men with digital skills and improve youth employment. It’s a privilege for Microsoft to partner with the nongovernmental organizations and others working to solve global challenges. We’re inspired by their work and hope to contribute to it by providing technology tools and resources to help them serve even more people.

We recognize the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals are addressing urgent and complex societal issues that are bigger than any one organization. That’s why we believe in partnering across public, private and nonprofit sectors to deepen and broaden our collective impact. The more we — as governments, nonprofit and private companies — can work together toward these shared goals, the greater and more lasting our impact will be toward building a sustainable future for all.

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