Microsoft’s assists NGOs with tech

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Above: NGO representatives listen to Microsoft’s Andrew Persad (centre, standing) as he guides them through the use of Office 365 during Technology for Good day at the Chamber of Commerce. Photo by Mark Lyndersay.

BitDepth#1044 for June 07, 2016

Above: NGO representatives listen to Microsoft’s Andrew Persad (centre, standing) as he guides them through the use of Office 365 at Technology for Good day at the Chamber of Commerce. Photo by Mark Lyndersay.

On May 25, Microsoft invited local NGOs for a day long conversation about what, exactly, the Redmond software company could do for non-governmental organisations in Trinidad and Tobago.

It’s a day they call “Technology for Good,” but it’s only the tip of the spear of a corporate social responsibility project that’s spent US$462 million in cash, software and services in Latin America to more than 6,000 nonprofit organisations.

In the regions the company describes as Latam New Markets, Microsoft has donated more than US$92 million dollars in cash, software and services to more than 850 nonprofit organisations.

The company is particularly bullish about its “Public cloud for public good” project, and will commit US$1 billion in cloud computing services to 70k NGOs over the next three years.

This year’s Technology for Good day, held at the T&T Chamber of Commerce and enjoying both that organisation’s endorsement and support, was a mix of demonstrations, success stories and explanations of the leveraging potential of the company’s products.

In T&T, Microsoft has donated more than TT$20 million in software donations to eligible NGOs and has signed seven NGO’s to receive the Office365 donation from Microsoft.

At the event, Marketing Communications Manager for Microsoft TT, Monique Ragbir acknowledged the difficulty of achieving full NGO status in T&T, and promised refreshed efforts to persuade the company to adjust its very firm requirements for eligibility in the programme.

In a tightly produced video, Dr Dr Surujpal Teelucksingh spoke about the prevalence of diabetes in childbirth and the 1,000 cases of diabetes that occur among the 20,000 births locally every year.

Keen to address the issue of hypoglycemia in pregnancy, his team has been working with Microsoft to develop HiPTT, an app hosted on the Azure platform that connects doctors, labs and health institutions to review results for pregnant patients who are monitoring their blood glucose levels.

Dr Teelucksingh hopes that the software will create an environment in which all the parties involved can work together to address the problem.

Microsoft announced the CSR initiative in June 2014, and a key adopter was ALTA, the adult literacy NGO led by Paula Lucie-Smith.

According to Ms Lucie-Smith, ALTA has benefited from free software from Microsoft since 2000, and the upgrade to O365 was welcomed. The implementation happened between February and April 2015, led by Chuck Stuart of ICONS Company and the organisation has been using it since then.

“The package comes with integrated online Outlook, SharePoint and OneDrive storage of a terabyte per user,” said Ms Lucie-Smith.

“These all matched the needs arising out of ALTA’s work conducting free adult literacy classes and the ALTA Online project. For both, ALTA needs to share and work on files online as persons need access offsite.”

“ALTA Online is a web-based version of the ALTA Reading Programme planned for launch in 2017.”

“This interactive software will allow low literates to develop their reading and spelling skills. The development team will expand our use of SharePoint and begin to use OneDrive to house and manage the files.”

“The project has evolved through the usage going from that of use strictly by in-house staff, to providing access to external persons for ALTA Online (National, Regional Coordinators and Special Project team members),” said Karelle Clark, ALTA’s Office Manager, and the line liaison for the implementation.

“No new features, just learning how to really maximize the benefits from the software provided. Still, many features to be mastered by all.”

“To assist with this I created a How-to Guide which provides step-by-step instructions on how to utilise key O365 features. If any technical issues arose, which have been minimal, Icons has assisted to alleviate the problem.”

Microsoft hopes to extend the project to 100 per cent of all eligible NGOs in T&T and to other islands in the region where the cloud-based O365 is available.