Microsoft Corp. CEO Satya Nadella announced a new three-part initiative to ensure that Microsoft’s cloud computing resources serve the public good. As part of this initiative the recently formed Microsoft Philanthropies will donate $1 billion of Microsoft Cloud Services, measured at fair market value, to serve nonprofits and university researchers over the next three years.
The donation by Microsoft could also bring long-term business benefits, as it would help the company win over a number of potential long-term users to its cloud platform.
“Microsoft is empowering mission-driven organizations around the planet with a donation of cloud computing services — the most transformative technologies of our generation,” said Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. “Now more than 70,000 organizations will have access to technology that will help them solve our greatest societal challenges and ultimately improve the human condition and drive new growth equally.”
In 2016 alone, the company expects to donate close to $350 million in cloud services to nonprofits, according to Microsoft President and Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith.
The new Microsoft Philanthropies arm of the company, set up last month, will provide nonprofits with the full suite of Microsoft cloud services, including Microsoft Azure, so that nonprofits can run applications and make use of computing and storage power, CRM Online to manage relationships with donors and beneficiaries, and the Enterprise Mobility Suite to manage all of their devices, applications, and data.
Cloud computing has emerged as a vital resource for unlocking the secrets held by data in ways that create new insights and lead to breakthroughs not just for science and technology, but for the full range of economic and social challenges and the delivery of better human services. It can also improve communications and problem-solving and help organizations work in a more productive and more efficient manner.
In September 2015, 193 heads of state and other world leaders unanimously adopted 17 sustainable development goals to achieve by 2030. This ambitious agenda — which includes ending poverty, ending hunger, and ensuring affordable, reliable and sustainable energy for all — will only be achievable with the benefit of significant inventions and technology innovations. The scale and computational power enabled by cloud computing will be essential to unlocking solutions to this list of some of the world’s seemingly unsolvable problems.
Microsoft has been pushing its cloud services around the world, including setting up data centers in some countries to meet local government requirements that data should be stored locally.
Philanthropy efforts by tech companies have, however, been viewed with skepticism, as they are seen as secretly promoting business agendas. Facebook’s Free Basics, a program to provide select Internet services, including Facebook, to users without data charges, has been criticized in India as a way to promote the social networking platform.
Microsoft’s program to use TV white spaces for connectivity has also been criticized by the Indian mobile industry, which is demanding that the white spaces should be auctioned rather than given free.