Delivering on the promise of security AI to help defenders protect today’s hybrid environments


Technology is reshaping society – artificial intelligence (AI) is enabling us to increase crop yields, protect endangered animals and improve access to healthcare. Technology is also transforming criminal enterprises, which are developing increasingly targeted attacks against a growing range of devices and services. Using the cloud to harness the largest and most diverse set of signals – with the right mix of AI and human defenders – we can turn the tide in cybersecurity. Microsoft is announcing new capabilities in AI and automation available today to accelerate that change.

Cybersecurity always comes down to people – good and bad. Our optimism is grounded in our belief in the potential for good people and technology to work in harmony to accomplish amazing things. After years of investment and engineering work, the data now shows that Microsoft is delivering on the potential of AI to enable defenders to protect data and manage risk across the full breadth of their digital estates.

The AI capabilities built into Microsoft Security solutions are trained on 8 trillion daily threat signals and the insights of 3,500 security experts. Custom algorithms and machine learning models make, and learn from, billions of queries every day. As a result, Microsoft Security solutions help identify and respond to threats 50% faster than was possible just 12 months ago. Today, Microsoft Security solutions are able to automate 97% of the routine tasks that occupied defenders’ valuable time just two years ago.

Microsoft Threat Protection, generally available today, does the heavy lifting for defenders by proactively hunting across users, email, applications and endpoints – including Mac and Linux. It brings together alerts and takes action using AI and automation. Microsoft Threat Protection breaks down security silos so security professionals can automatically detect, investigate and stop coordinated multi-point attacks. It weeds out the unimportant and amplifies signals that might have been missed, freeing defenders to work on the incidents that need their attention. With identity protection as a core component, it is the only solution of its type that is designed for Zero Trust. More details on the Microsoft Threat Protection announcement can be found on the Microsoft Security Blog.

It also builds upon solutions recognized as leaders in their categories, like Microsoft Defender Advanced Threat Protection (ATP) for endpoint security. Microsoft Defender ATP offers preventive protection, post-breach detection and automated investigation and response for Windows and macOS. Today we’re announcing support for Linux and plans for iOS and Android as well.

Azure Sentinel, the first cloud-native SIEM with fusion AI technology turns huge volumes of low fidelity signals into a few important incidents for security professionals to focus on. In December 2019 alone, within Microsoft, Azure Sentinel evaluated nearly 50 billion suspicious signals that in practical terms would be impossible for people to manually analyze and emitted just 25 high-confidence incidents for SecOps teams to investigate.

Microsoft was the first major cloud company to embrace the reality of the hybrid and multi-cloud enterprise, with more than 60% of enterprises using two or more cloud platforms. We’re committed to helping SecOps defend the entire stack, not only Microsoft workloads, and that’s why Azure Sentinel brings together events generated by security products from leading vendors such as Palo Alto Networks with the signals generated by cloud platforms such as AWS, providing security teams with visibility across their estates. To further help our customers secure their entire multi-cloud estates, today we are announcing the general availability of the Azure Sentinel connector for IoT and the ability to import AWS CloudTrail logs into Azure Sentinel at no additional cost from Feb. 24, 2020 until June 30, 2020. With this offer AWS customers now have seamless access to the best in-class, cloud-native security information and event management (SIEM) technology from a major cloud provider. More on the details of the Azure Sentinel announcements can be found on the Microsoft Security blog.

Funnel diagram of Azure Sentinal Fusion

An example of Azure Sentinel machine learning activity from the 30-day period of December 2019.

Securing the enterprise is not just about external attackers, but also managing insider risk – which has become a top concern of CISOs. Insider Risk Management in Microsoft 365 – the first born-in-the-cloud, integrated insider risk management solution – helps customers tackle the problem with no agents to deploy and no data ingestions to configure. Extending the same Microsoft Information Protection technology that already classifies and protects more than 50 billion documents for Microsoft customers, machine learning in Insider Risk Management brings together signals, sensitivity labels and content together in a single view, which saves security teams time by allowing them to quickly make informed risk decisions and take action. The general availability of Insider Risk Management is rolling out to customers’ tenants over the coming days.

When people and technology come together, we can accomplish amazing things. The world is indeed getting more complicated, but the public cloud combined with human expertise and industry collaboration are delivering innovation that gives the advantage back to the defenders of cyberspace. We have never been more optimistic about the potential for technology to support and scale your most precious cybersecurity assets – your people.


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Creating a world of good: Microsoft launches the Global Social Entrepreneurship program


Imagine what it would mean if communities that lack access to safe drinking water had a simple, affordable way to test their water supply for cholera, a water-borne disease that sickens 4 million people every year and causes an estimated 143,000 deaths? Or if we could skim plastic bottles, bags and microfibers from coastal waterways around the world? And what if there was a way to connect Africa’s growing community of young data scientists with organizations that have valuable data sets but lack the expertise to uncover the insights that the data might provide?

Whether it’s by saving lives, protecting the marine environment or focusing the talent of up-and-coming experts in machine learning on local issues in Africa, each one would mark an important step toward addressing some of the world’s most pressing challenges.

The good news is that today, this work is already happening. It’s happening at startups that are creating new businesses, built around powerful technologies and designed to make the world a better place. A smartphone-based cholera detection system developed by OmniVis is already being tested in field studies in Bangladesh and elsewhere. More than 800 trash-skimming devices deployed by Seabin Project have collected more than half a million tons of marine litter, the majority of which is microplastics. And more than 10,000 data scientists have signed up for Zindi’s web platform, which has hosted dozens of competitions that have yielded valuable artificial intelligence (AI) solutions for companies, nonprofits and government organizations across Africa and around the world.

This is truly just the beginning. Around the world, innovators and entrepreneurs are finding new ways to harness technology to fuel purpose-driven social enterprises that measure success not just by the profit they generate, but by the good they do. At Microsoft, we are deeply inspired by the commitment of these social entrepreneurs, who are focusing their passion for positive change on improving human health and the environment, advancing social and economic equity, and much more.

But these are huge, complicated problems and far too large for any single organization to hope to solve alone. So to empower social entrepreneurs, Microsoft is launching a new Global Social Entrepreneurship program to offer qualified startups access to technology, education, customers and grants.

Our global initiative is designed to help social enterprise startups build and scale their companies to do good globally. The program is available in 140 countries and will actively seek to support underrepresented founders with diverse perspectives and backgrounds. The criteria to qualify for the program include a business metric that measures impact on an important social or environmental challenge; an established product or service that will benefit from access to enterprise customers; and a commitment to the ethical and responsible use of AI.

At Microsoft, we believe in providing the foundational building blocks to help social entrepreneurs create companies that can achieve worldwide impact. Social enterprises that become part of the Global Social Entrepreneurship program will receive access to free Microsoft cloud technologies, including up to $120,000 in Azure credits, along with technical support and guidance. A dedicated program manager will help Global Social Entrepreneurship startups market and sell solutions and connect to large commercial organizations and nongovernmental organizations that are potential customers. Participants focused on sustainability, accessibility, and skills and employability will also be eligible for grants. And social enterprises that join the Global Social Entrepreneurship program will be part of a worldwide community of like-minded innovators who come together to share ideas, foster connections and celebrate success.

To help us identify promising social entrepreneurs from around the world who are pursuing innovative tech-based solutions that can have a transformational impact, we’re excited to be working with organizations like MIT Solve. A marketplace for social impact innovation at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Solve currently supports more 130 teams of social entrepreneurs – more than half of which are led by women – from 36 countries. With its global reach and reputation, Solve will ensure that we recruit talented social entrepreneurs who might otherwise be overlooked.

I see social enterprise startups like OmniVis, Seabin Project and Zindi as examples of one of the most important trends of the past decade – the growing recognition that building a business can be a powerful way to be a force for progress to benefit people and the planet. It’s an idea that has been gathering momentum. A 2016 report by the Global Entrepreneur Monitor found that one-third of startups around the world were focused on social good rather than just commercial success.

Today, social entrepreneurship is much more than a trend. It has developed into a global movement as more and more entrepreneurs find innovative ways to use AI to pioneer new approaches to solving the problems the world faces. For many of them, it is a chance to turn a lifelong passion into mission-driven enterprise that can thrive because it is doing good and driving positive change.

Dr. Katherine Clayton, the founder of OmniVis – which was selected as a 2019 Solver with MIT Solve – is a great example. After her uncle died of AIDS when she was just 7 years old, she declared she was going to get rid of disease when she grew up. It was a promise that led her to study biomedical engineering in college and then work on water safety issues in rural Thailand in a study-abroad trip alongside Engineers Without Borders. When she learned about the impact of cholera on vulnerable communities around the world, she saw a perfect opportunity to bring her knowledge of technology together with her desire help rid the world of life-threatening health issues.

One reason cholera is so difficult to control is that current tests for the bacteria must be processed in a major laboratory, which takes days and comes with high costs. Working with colleagues at Purdue University, Clayton has developed a simple, cellphone-based device that can analyze a few drops of water and provide an answer within minutes and then transmit location data to let health authorities know where to send the supplies needed to prevent an outbreak. And all for less than $10 a test.

Seabin Project is a similar story of lifelong passion applied to a contemporary problem. It was co-founded by Pete Ceglinski, who grew up in a small coastal town in Australia, where he learned to surf at age 8. He began his career as a product designer in Perth while still in his 20s and then became a builder of high performance boats for America’s Cup racing teams.

In 2014, Ceglinski quit his job and used his life savings to launch Seabin Project. Based on a business model pioneered by Patagonia, Seabin Project combines education and technology, with a goal of removing debris from the ocean and teaching people that if we are smarter about the use of plastics, we can keep them out of our oceans in the first place.

Named one of the world’s 50 best inventions by Time magazine in 2018 and recognized by the U.N. as a technology that can help address ocean pollution, Seabin trash skimmers are now trapping an average of 3.6 tons of marine litter per day in ports and marinas in more than 52 countries. And the devices not only collect trash, they collect data that scientists can use to better understand the impact that plastic debris has on marine life and human health.

At Zindi, which is based in Cape Town, South Africa, CEO Celina Lee sees incredible opportunities to be a catalyst for applying the power of AI to challenges for businesses, nonprofits and governments in Africa. A platform for hosting online machine learning competitions, Zindi connects engineers and data scientists at every level of experience with organizations that have difficult problems that machine learning and AI can help solve. Recent Zindi competitions include a UNICEF-sponsored effort to use AI to predict the impact of flooding in Malawi, a challenge to be presented at the International Conference on Learning Representations to use computer vision to recognize crop diseases, and a competition sponsored by Tunisia’s Ministry of Finance to use AI to detect tax fraud.

As important as the results of these competition are in creating AI solutions to meet the specific needs of African communities and organizations, Lee believes Zindi can have an even greater long-term impact by helping to build and support a thriving AI ecosystem in Africa and by giving young data scientists opportunities to improve their skills, build their work portfolios and connect with potential employers.

I never stop being inspired by the passion and purpose of people like Katherine Clayton, Pete Ceglinski and Celina Lee, who have dedicated their knowledge, time and resources to making a difference in the world. At Microsoft, we are honored to stand with them by offering access to technology, financing, partners, customers and a community that recognizes that people have great power to effect positive change if they have the right resources.

I believe more than ever that amazing things happen when startups work together with investors, enterprises, governments, nonprofits and communities. Through Global Social Entrepreneurship, we look forward to working in close partnership with social enterprises from around the world. I can’t think of a more compelling way to help create a sustainable, accessible and equitable world. To learn more and apply, please visit:


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Microsoft for Healthcare: Empowering our customers and partners to provide better experiences, insights and care


At Microsoft, our goal within healthcare is to empower people and organizations to address the complex challenges facing the healthcare industry today. We help do this by co-innovating and collaborating with our customers and partners as a trusted technology provider. Today, we’re excited to share progress on the latest innovations from Microsoft aimed at helping address the most prevalent and persistent health and business challenges:

  • Empower care teams with Microsoft 365: Available in the coming weeks, the new Bookings app in Microsoft Teams will empower care teams to schedule, manage and conduct virtual visits with remote patients via video conference. Also coming soon, clinicians will be able to target Teams messages to recipients based on the shift they are working. Finally, healthcare customers can support their security and compliance requirements with the HIPAA/HITECH assessment in Microsoft Compliance Score.
  • Protect health information with Azure Sphere: Microsoft’s integrated security solution for IoT (Internet of Things) devices and equipment – is now widely available for the development and deployment of secure, connected devices. Azure Sphere helps securely personalize patient experiences with connected devices and solutions. And, to make it easier for healthcare leaders to develop their own IoT strategies, today we’re launching a new IoT Signals report focused on the healthcare industry that provides an industry pulse on the state of IoT adoption and helpful insights for IoT strategies. Learn more about Microsoft’s IoT offerings for healthcare here.
  • Enable personalized virtual care with Microsoft Healthcare Bot: Today, we’re pleased to announce that Microsoft Healthcare Bot, our HITRUST-certified platform for creating virtual health assistants, is enriching its healthcare intelligence with new built-in templates for healthcare-specific use cases, and expanding its integrated medical content options. With the addition of Infermedica, a cutting-edge triage engine based on advanced artificial intelligence (AI) that enables symptom checking in 17 languages Healthcare Bot is empowering providers to offer global access to care.
  • Reimagine healthcare using new data platform innovations: With the 2019 release of Azure API for FHIR, Microsoft became the first cloud provider with a fully managed, enterprise-grade service for health data in the Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) format. We’re excited to expand those offerings with several new innovations around connecting, converting and transforming data. The first is Power BI FHIR Connector, which makes it simple and easy to bring FHIR data into Power BI for analytics and insights. The second, IoMT (Internet of Medical Things) FHIR Connector, is now available as open source software (OSS) and allows for seamless ingestion, normalization and transformation of Protected Health Information data from health devices into FHIR. Another new open source project, FHIR Converter, provides an easy way to convert healthcare data from legacy formats (i.e., HL7v2) into FHIR. And lastly, FHIR Tools for Anonymization, is now offered via OSS and enables anonymization and pseudonymization of data in the FHIR format. Including capabilities for redaction and date shifting in accordance with the HIPAA privacy rule.

Frictionless exchange of health information in FHIR makes it easier for researchers and clinicians to collaborate, innovate and improve patient care. As we move forward working with our customers and partners and others across the health ecosystem, Microsoft is committed to enabling and improving interoperability and required standards to make it easier for patients to manage their healthcare and control their information. At the same time, trust, privacy and compliance are a top priority – making sure Protected Health Information (PHI) remains under control and custodianship of healthcare providers and their patients.

We’ve seen a growing number of healthcare organizations not only deploy new technologies, but also begin to develop their own digital capabilities and solutions that use data and AI to transform and innovate healthcare and life sciences in profoundly positive ways. Over the past year, together with our customers and partners, we’ve announced new strategic partnerships aimed at empowering this transformation.

For example, to enable caregivers to focus more on patients by dramatically reducing the burden of documenting doctor-patient visits, Nuance has released Nuance Dragon Ambient eXperience (DAX). This ambient clinical intelligence technologies (ACI) is enriched by AI and cloud capabilities from Microsoft, including the ambient intelligence technology, EmpowerMD, which is coming to market as part of Nuance’s DAX solution. The solution aims to transform the exam room by deploying ACI to capture, with patient consent, interactions between clinicians and patients so that clinical documentation writes itself.

Among health systems, Providence St. Joseph Health is using Microsoft’s cloud, AI, productivity and collaboration technologies to deploy next-generation healthcare solutions while empowering their employees. NHS Calderdale is enabling patients and their providers to hold appointments virtually via Microsoft Teams for routine and follow-up visits, which helps lower costs while maintaining the quality of care. The U.S. Veterans Affairs Department is embracing mixed reality by working with technology providers Medivis, Microsoft and Verizon to roll out its first 5G-enabled hospital. And specifically for health consumers, Walgreens Boots Alliance will harness the power of our cloud, AI and productivity technologies to empower care teams and deliver new retail solutions to make healthcare delivery more personal, affordable and accessible.

Major payor, pharmaceutical and health technology platform companies are also transforming healthcare in collaboration with us. Humana will develop predictive solutions for personalized and secure patient support, and by using Azure, Azure AI and Microsoft 365, they’ll also equip home healthcare workers with real-time access to information and voice technology to better understand key factors that influence patient health. In pharmaceuticals, Novartis will bring Microsoft AI capabilities together with its deep expertise in life sciences to address specific challenges that make the process of discovering, developing and delivering new medicines so costly and time-consuming.

We’re pleased to showcase how together with our customers and partners, we’re working to bring healthcare solutions to life and positively impact the health ecosystem.

To keep up to date with the latest announcements visit the Microsoft Health News Room.

About the authors:
As Corporate Vice President of Health Technology and Alliances, Dr. Greg Moore leads the dedicated research and development collaborations with our strategic partners, to deliver next-generation technologies and experiences for healthcare.

Vice President and Chief Medical Officer Dr. David Rhew recently joined Microsoft’s Worldwide Commercial Business Healthcare leadership team and provides executive-level support, engaging in business opportunities with our customers and partners.

As Corporate Vice President of Healthcare, Peter Lee leads the Microsoft organization that works on technologies for better and more efficient healthcare, with a special focus on AI and cloud computing.

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Women as allies for women: Understanding intersectionality


One of my earliest learnings was that my experiences as a woman were not identical to other women’s experiences, although they were similar. As with any dimension of identity, the way women experience the world depends on much larger context. As a white girl growing up in Victoria, British Columbia, there were multiple layers to my experiences. Although my brothers and I had what was necessary, we did not have much socioeconomic privilege. What I learned as I watched the world around me is that as a benefit of my race, it was easier for me to cover my socioeconomic status than it was for my friends who were not white.

The United Nations marked March 8 as International Women’s Day by declaring that “fundamental freedoms require the active participation, equality and development of women everywhere.” This declaration is inclusive of all women with intersectionality in mind.

Understanding intersectionality in the workplace

It starts with something as simple as the way we think about all the dimensions of our identity, including things like race, ethnicity, disability, religion, age and sexual orientation. Even class, education, geography and personal history can alter how we experience womanhood. When Kimberlé Crenshaw coined the term intersectionality 30 years ago, she explained it as how these overlapping identities and conditions impact the way we experience life’s challenges and opportunities, the privileges we have, the biases we face.

So simply focusing on a single dimension of identity, without that context, is not always helpful. When we consider women as a single category, as a monolith, it can be misleading at best, dangerous at worst. Doing so overlooks the variations of circumstances and perspectives within the group and obscures real lived experiences as outliers or exceptions. “Women’s workplace issues” is a vague term without enough specificity to drive action. Women of color, women with disabilities, transgender women, women who are the first of their family to work corporate or professional jobs, women who are caregivers — all women deal with additional social, cultural, regional or community demands that may not exist for others. Although all women navigate varying degrees of conscious and unconscious gender biases, intersections of identity can place compounded pressure on a woman to downplay other aspects of her life to conform — a behavior called covering, as explored by Kenji Yoshino — leading to even greater workplace stress.

To increase hiring, retention, representation and the development of women in the workplace, companies must be intentional and accountable for being aware of the diversity within the diversity. Conventional strategies to increase the representation of women in a workplace have mostly benefited those who do not also experience intersectional challenges. By getting curious and exploring the lived experiences of women through the lens of intersectionality, we become more precise about the root cause and about finding ways to generate systemic solutions for all.

Setting the stage for allyship

 Understanding all this can be a powerful catalyst for change, not just for organizations as a whole but also for individuals. At Microsoft we are refining how we think about allyship. Part of that exploration is the recognition that as Microsoft employees each of us has some dimension of privilege. This isn’t meant to minimize or negate the very real ways that communities experience significant, systematic historical bias or oppression. But rather it is meant to shine a light on our opportunity to show up for each other. For example, as a community of women we have an opportunity to be more thoughtful about the experiences of our peers who face greater challenges due to their intersectional identity. So although traditionally we might look to men in the workplace to carry the full weight of allyship, women in the workplace also have an opportunity to be thoughtful allies for others in their community.

Such an awareness opens the door for true allyship — an intentional commitment to use your voice, credibility, knowledge, place or power to support others in the way they want to be supported. I am very aware of my opportunity, due to my personal privilege, to show up for other women in a meaningful way. I embrace my obligation to create space for other voices to be heard, not just on International Women’s Day, but all year round.

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Delivering information and eliminating bottlenecks with CDC’s COVID-19 assessment bot


Updated April 9, 2020

In a crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s not only important to deliver medical care but to also provide information to help people make decisions and prevent health systems from being overwhelmed.

Microsoft is helping with this challenge by offering its Healthcare Bot service powered by Microsoft Azure to organizations on the frontlines of the COVID-19 response to help screen patients for potential infection and care.

For example, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) just released a COVID-19 assessment bot that can quickly assess the symptoms and risk factors for people worried about infection, provide information and suggest a next course of action such as contacting a medical provider or, for those who do not need in-person medical care, managing the illness safely at home.

The bot, which utilizes Microsoft’s Healthcare Bot service, will initially be available on the CDC website.

Public health organizations, hospitals and others on the frontlines of the COVID-19 response need to be able to respond to inquiries, provide the public with up-to-date outbreak information, track exposure, quickly triage new cases and guide next steps.  Many have expressed great concern about the overwhelming demand COVID-19 is creating on resources such as urgent, emergency and nursing care.

In particular, the need to screen patients with any number of cold or flu-like symptoms — to determine who has high enough risk factors to need access to limited medical resources and which people may more safely care for themselves at home — is a bottleneck that threatens to overwhelm health systems coping with the crisis.

Microsoft’s Healthcare Bot service is one solution that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to help the CDC and other frontline organizations respond to these inquiries, freeing up doctors, nurses, administrators and other healthcare professionals to provide critical care to those who need it.

The Healthcare Bot service is a scalable Azure-based public cloud service that allows organizations to quickly build and deploy an AI-powered bot for websites or applications that can offer patients or the general public personalized access to health-related information through a natural conversation experience. It can be easily customized to suit an organization’s own scenarios and protocols.

To assist customers in the rapid deployment of their COVID-19 bots, Microsoft is making available a set of COVID-19 response templates that customers can use and modify:

  • COVID-19 risk assessment based on CDC guidelines
  • COVID-19 clinical triage based on CDC protocols
  • COVID-19 up-to-date answers to frequently asked questions
  • COVID-19 worldwide metrics
COVID-19 assessment bot screenshots
Screenshots from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention COVID-19 assessment bot.

Providence, one of the largest health systems in the U.S. headquartered near Seattle and serving seven Western states, had previously used Microsoft’s Healthcare Bot service running on Azure to create a healthcare chatbot named Grace that could help answer patient’s questions online. Using CDC guidelines and its own clinical protocols, Providence was able to build a similar Coronavirus Assessment Tool in just three days to help people in the communities it serves know whether they should seek medical attention for their respiratory symptoms.

The tool, which launched in early March, can bring a prospective patient directly into a telehealth session with a clinician to get immediate care.  It also aims to prevent healthy people or those with mild symptoms from showing up at clinics and emergency departments, which helps to limit community infection and save hospital beds and equipment for those who need it.

Walgreens, one of the nation’s largest drugstore chains, also provides specialty pharmacy, in-store clinics and other healthcare services throughout the country. Walgreens announced the expansion of the Walgreens Find Care™ platform to include a COVID-19 Risk Assessment, powered by Microsoft’s Healthcare Bot. Walgreens aims to further support patients and customers during this critical time by making it possible for customers to assess their risk of COVID-19 based on CDC guidelines.

Other providers who are now using Microsoft’s Healthcare Bot service to respond to COVID-19 inquiries include:

Virginia Mason Health System, based in Seattle and serving the Pacific Northwest region, has created a patient assessment Healthcare Bot to help its patients understand whether care is needed. The instance is live and has thousands of daily users.

Novant Health, a healthcare provider in four states in the Southeast with one of the largest medical groups in the country, has created a Healthcare bot for COVID-19 information that went live on its website within a few days, with thousands of daily users since its launch.

Across all users, customized instances of Microsoft’s Healthcare Bot service are now fielding more than 1 million messages per day from members of the public who are concerned about COVID-19 infections — a number we expect to escalate quickly to meet growing needs. We hope the answers it can provide will curb anxiety that the “worried well” may experience without clear guidance and save lives by speeding the path to care for those who need it most.

Tags: COVID-19, Microsoft Healthcare Bot


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A healthy society requires a healthy planet


In January we launched Microsoft’s carbon initiative, setting new goals for our company to become carbon negative by the end of this decade. While COVID-19 has upended daily life for almost all of us since then, sustainability issues have become no less urgent or important. That’s why today we’re announcing the second step in our sustainability efforts for 2020, focusing on preserving and protecting the biodiversity and health of the world’s ecosystems.

Nature and the benefits that it provides to people are the foundation of our global economy, our culture, and the overall human experience.  We depend on clean air, water, food, medicine, energy, and building materials that nature provides, but these very ecosystems are threatened or already in decline. Maintaining nature for the benefit of current and future generations is one of humanity’s greatest challenges. Deploying technology to support this global effort is one of ours.

Microsoft’s new biodiversity initiative is multi-faceted. Perhaps most importantly, it aims to put data and digital technology to work, including through an ambitious program to aggregate environmental data from around the world and put it to work in a new “Planetary Computer.” We will combine this with new work to enable partners and customers to use the resulting output to enhance environmental decision-making in their organizational activities. We’ll also use it to speak out on ecosystem-related public policy issues and take responsibility for Microsoft’s own land footprint.

Biodiversity and ecosystems in decline

As with the carbon issues we addressed in January, we believe that our work on biodiversity should be science-led and data-driven. One of the most important steps in this field has come from the United Nations Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), which is responsible for monitoring the health of the planet, and which last year issued its first Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services. The news was grim. A quarter of the planet’s species are threatened with extinction. Wetlands that purify and store water and provide habitats for thousands of species have been reduced by 87 percent. Coral reefs that provide aquatic habitats, food, natural flood barriers, medicine and millions of tourism jobs have declined by 50 percent in the modern era. Mammals, birds, and other wildlife populations are down almost 60 percent in the last 40 years, and the number of species threatened with extinction continues to rise rapidly. When an animal dies off, the ecosystem it called home begins to unravel and the implications can be catastrophic.

Take one example, the impact of insects on our health and economic prosperity. Insects are a group whose diversity and abundance has fallen dramatically over the past few decades. Insects are the base of the food chain, consumed by birds, fish, and small animals. Insect pollinators, including bees, are essential to the production of more than 75 percent of the world’s food crops. Without insects there is no food and without food, people can’t survive.

A principled approach to guide our work

Whenever we take on a new and complex societal issue, we strive first to learn and then to define a principled approach to guide our efforts. This has been fundamental to our work around the protection of privacy, the ethical development of artificial intelligence, our aggressive carbon goals, and our approach to biodiversity and ecosystems as well. Today we’re adopting four principles to guide our work in helping achieve global biodiversity goals. These are:

  1. Put data and digital technology to work. We can’t solve a problem that we don’t fully understand. That’s why we will aggregate environmental data from around the world and put it to work through computing and machine learning in a new Planetary Computer.
  2. Empower partners and customers around the world. We will use the Planetary Computer to develop and deploy the digital technology that helps our partners and customers with environmental decision-making in their organizational activities.
  3. Use our voice on ecosystem-related public policy issues. We will support and advocate for public policy initiatives that measure and manage ecosystems at the national and global scale.
  4. Take responsibility for our land footprint. We will take responsibility for the ecosystem impacts of our direct operations by protecting more land than we use by 2025.

Putting data and digital technology to work: The Planetary Computer

We do not know enough about species, biodiversity and ecosystems that are vital to our health and prosperity. Simply understanding where the world’s forest, fields and waterways are remains a daunting task of environmental accounting. Understanding what species call those ecosystems home or why they thrive or decline is largely unknown. We simply can’t solve a problem we don’t fully understand.

The world’s first such assessment was launched by the United Nations Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, or IPBES, in 2000, and took nearly five years and more than 1,300 experts from around the world to complete. IPBES’ more recent assessment, designed to close the gap between simple scientific insight and more effective policy implementation, was 1,700 pages, cited more than 15,000 scientific sources, and wasn’t published until 15 years after the first. These are years that we can’t afford as our environmental challenges intensify. It is abundantly clear that the world needs greater access to environmental data to assess, diagnose and treat the natural systems that society depends on. This is why data powered by machine learning will be a game changer.

Assessing the planet’s health must become a more sustained, integrated practice that allows us to understand exactly what is happening in time to enable smart decision-making. Fortunately, there is massive potential for technology to revolutionize our environmental assessment practices, so they are faster, cheaper, and – for the first time – operate at a truly global scale. It should be as easy for anyone in the world to search the state of the planet as it is to search the internet for driving directions or dining options. We must use the architecture of the information age – data, compute, algorithms, application programming interfaces and end-user applications – to accelerate a more environmentally sustainable future.

Two-and-a-half years ago, we took our first step in this direction by launching Microsoft’s AI for Earth program to put artificial intelligence technology into the hands of the world’s leading ecologists and conservation technologists, and organizations around the world that are working to protect our planet. So far, we’ve worked to empower nearly 500 organizations in 81 countries around the world working on game-changing environmental innovations.

Yet for all the great work of our AI for Earth community, we have also learned that they need more. They need much greater access to data, more intuitive access to machine learning tools, and a greater ability to share their work and build on the work of others than our program currently provides.

YouTube Video

Our community needs a new kind of computing platform – a Planetary Computer, a platform that would provide access to trillions of data points collected by people and by machines in space, in the sky, in and on the ground and in the water. One that would allow users to search by geographic location instead of keyword. Where users could seamlessly go from asking a question about what environments are in their area of interest, to asking where a particular environment exists around the world. A platform that would allow users to provide new kinds of answers to new kinds of questions by providing access to state-of-the-art machine learning tools and the ability to publish new results and predictions as services available to the global community.

This Planetary Computer would provide insights into critical questions that scientists, conservation organizations and businesses already ask every day, often with no easy way to obtain a locally relevant answer. For example:

  • Understanding tree density, land use and size of forests has implications for biodiversity conservation and climate change mitigation. Organizations often conduct expensive on-the-ground surveys or build customized solutions to understand local forests. The Planetary Computer will provide satellite imagery, state-of-the-art machine learning tools, and user-contributed data about forest boundaries from which forest managers will have an integrated view of forest health.
  • Urban planners and farmers depend on forecasts of water availability and flood risks to make educated guesses about land management. The Planetary Computer will provide satellite data, local measurements of streams and groundwater, and predictive algorithms that will empower land planners and farmers to make data-driven decisions about water resources.
  • Wildlife conservation organizations depend on their own local surveys, global views of wildlife populations, and suitable habitats for wildlife. The Planetary Computer will combine information about terrain types and ecosystems with the best available data about where species live, enabling a global community of wildlife biologists to benefit from each other’s data.
  • Combating climate changes requires organizations to measure and manage natural resources that sequester carbon, like trees, grasslands, and soil. The Planetary Computer will combine satellite imagery with AI to provide up-to-date information about ecosystems, and provide a platform for leveraging predictive models to estimate global carbon stocks and inform decisions about land use that impact our ability to address climate change.

That’s why we are announcing today that we are entering the next phase of our AI for Earth program, dedicated to building this Planetary Computer platform through dedicated investments in infrastructure development. We will provide our AI for Earth community – more than 500 grants in 81 countries – access to the world’s critical environmental datasets, and a computing platform to analyze those datasets on. We will also further invest in specific environmental solution areas like species identification, land cover mapping, and land use optimization. We’re starting with a new AI for Earth collaboration with the Group on Earth Observations Biodiversity Observation Network. This $1 million AI for Earth grant will support projects that strengthen efforts to monitor Earth’s biodiversity and create useful measurements required for the study, reporting, and management of biodiversity change that inform conservation decisions across the globe.

This Planetary Computer is incredibly complex, and we cannot build it alone. We must continue to learn from the work and demands of our grantees, while partnering with the organizations best suited to advance global environmental goals. That is why we are deepening our partnership with Esri, a company that is a market leader in geographical information system software with years of experience building environmental monitoring solutions.

We began our partnership with Esri at the launch of AI for Earth through shared technology granting programs. Microsoft and Esri share the goals of making geospatial data and analysis – meaning the gathering, display and manipulation of information about Earth systems – available to every sustainability researcher and practitioner around the world, and ensuring that every conservation organization can contribute its local data back to that global repository. Through hands-on collaboration and grants, Esri has helped conservation organizations all over the world – working on endangered species conservation, land protection, and the basic science that lets us understand the natural world – transform their operations to leverage digital spatial information. From mapping forest loss to combating elephant poaching, organizations depend on Esri’s tools and expertise to understand and protect the ecosystems in which they operate.

We are deepening our partnership around the development of the machine learning-based geospatial solutions that are the foundation of the Planetary Computer. We are building on work we started with the launch of AI for Earth: Jointly supporting key partners like the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation’s Half-Earth Project and NatureServe’s Map of Biodiversity Importance. We are making key geospatial datasets available on Azure and accessible through Esri tools later this year. And we will continue to partner to provide grants that ensure conservation organizations have access to the datasets, compute and other resources.

Empowering customers

We also believe it’s vital to help our customers with technology solutions to biodiversity conservation challenges. We are building the tools and services to help customers around the world understand the ecosystem around them today as it exists, monitor and model changes from climate or human behavior, and manage these in a way that protects biodiversity, their community’s well-being and way of life and the planet.

For instance, we are already helping the Department of Primary Industry and Resources (DPIR) in Australia’s Northern Territory use AI to monitor and manage marine health by rapidly analyzing underwater video captured around Darwin Harbour. The solution is now available to anyone on GitHub, built using Azure Machine Learning Service to automate the labor-intensive process of counting local fish stocks by progressively learning to identify different varieties of fish.

Monitoring is an important first step; ecosystem protection requires on-the-ground action as well. That is why we will continue to work closely with organizations like Wildlife Protection Solutions and Peace Parks, which depend on remote cameras to detect and respond to poaching threats. Both organizations are leveraging Azure and Microsoft AI to efficiently process images, so they can allocate scarce anti-poaching resources in protected areas all over the world.

We’re also accelerating our investments in precision agriculture, including how digital technologies like AI can help boost crop yield while reducing the impact of farming on lands and other natural resources. Companies like Ag-Analytics and AVR are using the Internet of Things, AI and machine learning on Azure to collect precision data at the field level so farmers can make decisions that balance yield, resource consumption and soil health. These insights can help grow food in less conventional places as well. For example, Priva uses Dynamics 365 and M365 to digitally transform its operations, and Azure to add innovative data services to its product range, dramatically reducing water consumption and increasing yields for customers growing food in greenhouses, vertical farms, or even in underground tunnels.

Using our voice on ecosystems policies

Governments play a unique and important role in measuring and managing ecosystems and biodiversity as they collect and make publicly available massive amounts of data critical to environmental science. They also own billions of acres of public land that they can use to protect, manage and restore critical ecosystems.  And, they establish and implement policies governing the use and management of natural resources and ecosystems.

We will use our voice to speak out on four public policy issues that we think can advance the world’s efforts to protect and restore ecosystems:

  • National ecosystem assessments. National ecosystem assessments allow governments to understand what is happening in a country’s natural environment and what actions are needed to safeguard critical ecosystem services. National assessments – involving scientists and policymakers from across federal and regional agencies, universities and NGOs –examine how a nation’s water, land and other ecosystems have changed, what are the likely future scenarios and what are the potential economic, social and political impacts from such scenarios. These assessments enable governments to develop data-driven policies about how best to provide ecosystem services and manage their natural resources. Several countries, including the United Kingdom and China, have undertaken national ecosystem assessments. European Union (EU) member states have been conducting national ecosystem assessments and the European Commission plans to release its new biodiversity strategy later this year with new commitments to address the main causes of biodiversity loss in the EU.
  • Infrastructure to accelerate measuring and monitoring of ecosystems. Governments play an important role in expanding digital infrastructure to monitor ecosystems and ensure the data is available to the public. By using digital tools and advanced computing capabilities, governments can collect, integrate and make publicly available data from on the ground sensors, satellites and atmospheric monitor stations to give us more accurate and real-time insight into the health of our ecosystems. In addition, governments can help expand broadband connectivity to rural and remote areas so that farmers, fisherman, foresters and key environment stakeholders can utilize and leverage data and digital tools to better manage natural resources.
  • Public land and water conservation. A primary mechanism for conservation is the allocation of government funding for the acquisition and maintenance of public land and water for conservation, recreational and natural preservation. Governments purchase land to establish national parks, protect environmental sensitive ecosystems and wetlands, create wildlife refuges and preserve cultural heritage sites. For example, the U.S. Land and Water Conservation Fund was created in 1964 to purchase land for these purposes.  There is a bipartisan legislative proposal in the U.S. Congress that would permanently guarantee $900 million a year for this conservation fund and finance the backlog of maintenance at national parks.
  • Public-private partnerships. Governments can also help encourage and facilitate investments by nongovernmental organizations or individuals and the private sector to protect and restore critical ecosystems. Governments can remove administrative barriers, provide matching grants, identify critical areas to protect, and create voluntary markets for eco-credits. The EU is proposing a new public-private partnership effort supporting data-driven research to stop the loss of biodiversity. An example of this type of work is BiodivERsA, which is doing critically important programming and funding of pan-European research on biodiversity. Governments around the world are developing public-private partnerships to support the U.N. Environment Program and the Food and Agriculture Organization in their Decade of Ecosystem Restoration. For example, the World Economic Forum recently launched a public-private initiative to reforest and regenerate 1 trillion trees by 2030.

It’s critical that countries also work collectively to protect biodiversity and manage ecosystems.  We have seen progress since countries first came together to address this issue at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, and launched the Convention on Biological Diversity.  Working through the U.N., governments have established IPBES as the scientific body that studies ecosystems, conducted the first global ecosystem assessment and proposed global ecosystem targets. We hope countries will approve these targets at the next meeting of the parties later this year.

Taking responsibility for our land footprint

As part of our focus on biodiversity and ecosystems, we are taking responsibility for our own relatively small land footprint. Microsoft operates on 11,000 acres of land globally. That’s equal to about three-fourths the size of Manhattan in New York City. You can see in this visualization where we operate by ecoregion and by biome. Today we are also committing to protect more land than we use by 2025, using approaches like land acquisition, conservation easement, national park creation, and community or indigenous-led conservation. We’ll protect and restore land in partnership with The Nature Conservancy globally and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation in the United States. We will use a data-driven approach to identify ecosystems most at risk, using The Nature Conservancy’s newly launched last chance ecosystem framework  and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s national landscape conservation framework.

As we are doing with our carbon initiative, we will capitalize on the energy and intellect of our employees by inviting them to participate in volunteering and giving efforts focused on biodiversity and ecosystems. In addition to our annual OneWeek Hackathon, where over a hundred projects focused on environmental sustainability in 2019, employees can become citizen scientists in a new iNaturalist bioblitz with the goal of adding 100,000 new observations to iNaturalist in the ecosystems where Microsoft operates, or in Zooniverse people-powered research projects with the goal of adding 100,000 annotations to support conservation science projects around the world.

Our collective challenge

The clock is ticking on our ability to measure and manage the planet’s natural resources. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recognizes that the health of people, animals and our shared natural environment are closely connected. As we have seen with the wildlife origins of the coronavirus, including SARS and MERS, this link cannot be ignored. We must work together to determine how we maximize the benefits that nature provides to people while minimizing the environmental harm of our activities. It won’t be easy, but it is possible if we put the pieces together. It is time to accelerate our work.

Tags: biodiversity, Brad Smith, carbon footprint, Planetary Computer, sustainability


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Helping survivors become heroes – The Official Microsoft Blog


The world is searching for ways to fight COVID-19, leading to a surge of research efforts to create effective therapies. Thankfully, as the human immune system learns to fight off the disease and people recover, we see some very promising ways that people’s naturally produced antibodies, which are present in convalescent plasma, can be used as treatment for others. The use of convalescent plasma is a technique dating back to the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic and was effective more recently during the SARS outbreak. Today, there is mounting clinical evidence that plasma collected from those who have recovered from COVID-19 can be used to treat ill COVID-19 patients.

There are two core approaches to using convalescent plasma to fight COVID-19 – each serving a different need. First and most direct is the approach of gathering convalescent plasma donations and making transfusions available to patients, for either therapeutic purposes or, more frequently, as part of research studies and clinical trials. This is a pragmatic and meaningful effort and we applaud all the organizations involved.

A different approach is to use the plasma in larger scale to make a potential therapy called a polyclonal hyperimmune globulin (H-Ig). Through the product manufacturing process, multiple plasma donations are pooled together and the antibodies are concentrated to consistent and reliable levels, meaning the medicine can be delivered in lower volumes and therefore would likely take less time to administer to patients than plasma itself. The H-Ig process also minimizes risk of any known virus or bacteria passing from donor to patient, thanks to the rigorous virus inactivation and removal steps that are embedded in the plasma product manufacturing process. Finally, H-Ig also has a longer shelf life, which permits easier storage and shipping for any outbreaks in the future. These attributes also make H-Ig relatively easy for hospitals to manage and distribute this potentially lifesaving medicine to patients.

The question is, how can we scale up the manufacture and distribution of H-Ig treatment? One promising approach has been developed by the CoVIg-19 Plasma Alliance, which has been formed by the world’s leading plasma companies: Biotest, BPL, LFB, and Octapharma along with CSL Behring and Takeda. The “I” and “g” in CoVIg-19 stand for immune globulin, which the CoVIg-19 Plasma Alliance will use to create an investigational medicine. With advisory support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, these leading scientists, innovators, and experts in drug manufacturing have joined together in an effort to accelerate the development of a potential H-Ig therapy for COVID-19. They are collaborating across key aspects such as plasma collection, clinical trial development, and product manufacturing. Plasma-derived therapies, like H-Ig, have already been shown to be effective in treating severe viral respiratory infections. The combined capability of these leading commercial manufacturers gives us hope for a scalable, reliable and sustainable treatment for COVID-19.

CoVIg-19 Plasma Alliance logo

At Microsoft, we conducted a careful (but rapid) assessment, including consultation not only with our own experts but also several external partners. This assessment involved gaining an understanding of the underlying science and potential medical benefits. We are now convinced that the CoVIg-19 Plasma Alliance has a real chance to save lives, at significant scale, and possibly much sooner than other approaches currently being developed. We were also impressed that these alliance members had committed to working together for the public good, setting aside commercial and competitive goals. We are thus devoting our computing infrastructure, plus engineering and research personnel, to support this esteemed group and kick off the first phase: helping healthy individuals who have recovered from COVID-19 to sign up to donate plasma at licensed plasma collection centers across the United States. Together with the alliance partners, we’re launching the CoVIg-19 Plasma Bot, a self-screening tool that anyone can use to see if they qualify to donate their plasma. Like Microsoft did with the CDC Coronavirus Self-Checker bot and more than 1,300 other COVID-19 bots around the world, we’ve followed standard protocols to help guide individuals through the qualification and education process.

The Plasma Bot and the home page and donor recruitment site for the alliance will live at and we expect to make the bot available through other web, social and search channels as well to maximize awareness for potential plasma donors. Donation should be fairly convenient in most cases: more than 50% of the eligible donor population in the U.S. lives within 15 miles of one of the 500 centers operated by CoVIg-19 Plasma Alliance member companies. Recruitment will start in the United States, and then expand to Europe.

The sooner recovered COVID-19 patients donate convalescent plasma, the sooner the alliance may be able to start manufacturing a potential therapy and begin clinical trials. These trials will determine if this therapy could help high-risk COVID-19 patients recover and whether it could protect high-risk individuals from the disease. Time is of the essence: we’re now in an especially important but small window of opportunity with a critical mass of people hitting peak immunity as they recover from COVID-19.

Like many of you, we’ve felt overwhelmed at times by the changes that COVID-19 has brought on society. But even more so, we’ve felt incredibly encouraged seeing people across the planet coming together in truly heroic ways to respond to this pandemic. With this new program, we have a chance to make even more people heroes, starting with those who’ve survived COVID-19. Please take a moment to share this with potential donors, so we can all play our part in making a difference.

Tags: COVID-19


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Looking back on an unprecedented quarter: customers embrace technology to advance industry innovation, respond to COVID-19 and plan for the future


It is predicted that by 2030, there will be a $4 trillion opportunity focused on new mobility services, as the automotive and transportation sectors converge.

This year has been unlike any other. As we welcomed the new decade, we witnessed industry-leading innovations by our customers and partners at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) and National Retail Federation (NRF) conferences in January. We announced ambitious new sustainability initiatives and how we plan to help our customers reduce their carbon footprint. Then COVID-19 changed everything, disrupting business as usual and forcing organizations across industries to navigate a new landscape. As we work through the effects of the pandemic together, it is incredible to see how technology is enabling our customers to be agile and maintain business continuity. We are also seeing them adapt and scale to sustain critical products and services — all while preparing for a post-pandemic comeback and the new normal.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella delivers the opening keynote at NRF 2020, sharing his thoughts on the future of retail and how technology can help the industry transform.

Groundbreaking innovation across industries

The first quarter of calendar year 2020 began with a strong focus on what is next in automotive and our participation at CES, a global technology event. The industry is transforming at an incredible speed, quickly shaping the future of mobility and the automotive experience by using cloud, edge, IoT and AI services. Faurecia, a leading automotive technology company is using the Microsoft Connected Vehicle Platform, Teams and Project xCloud to help people stay connected, productive and entertained while in the car. LG Electronics is working to build its automotive infotainment systems with our Azure cloud and AI services, and ZF is transforming into a software-driven mobility provider using Microsoft’s cloud services and developer tools.

At NRF, the world’s largest retail conference, Satya Nadella delivered the opening keynote, sharing ways we are working with retailers to help them better understand their customers, empower employees with digital tools, create a more intelligent supply chain through co-innovation and ultimately reimagine their businesses. During the event, Walgreens Boots Alliance announced it is piloting an immersive mixed reality training program for its employees using HoloLens 2. IKEA shared how it is deploying Microsoft Teams to more than 70,000 workers (including first-line employees) to increase productivity, and H&M shared how Azure IoT is helping propel its continued work toward a more sustainable future for the fashion industry by offering smart garment recycling bins in select stores around the world. Canada Goose, one the world’s largest makers of luxury performance apparel, showed how the company is building on the principle of the endless aisle using Dynamics 365 Commerce software to offer its entire range of products to customers without any physical stock in the store, and Home Depot bet on Microsoft PromoteIQ to help maximize the nearly 170 million monthly visitors on its e-commerce site with the PromoteIQ end-to-end commerce marketing platform. Samsung announced a new smartphone with a push-to-talk button that will leverage the new Walkie Talkie feature available in Microsoft Teams, providing first-line workers like retail employees easier ways to communicate on the job.

In February, Anheuser-Busch InBev, Bosch Group and ZF Friedrichshafen signed up as steering committee members of the Open Manufacturing Platform — founded by Microsoft and BMW in 2019  — to help manufacturing companies accelerate innovation at scale through cross-industry collaboration, knowledge and data sharing.

The emergence of a pandemic

As the fight against COVID-19 continues, I am encouraged by how customers are using technology to respond.

On the frontlines, care teams are using technology to scale their triage process to address the overwhelming number of patients needing care and to ease volume in the system. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a COVID-19 assessment bot, powered by Microsoft’s Healthcare Bot service running on Azure, to help organizations screen patients for potential infection and care options. These bots use artificial intelligence to help pre-screen patients and provide guidance on care plans, reducing the burden on medical professionals. Swedish Health Services built a mobile app to help hospital staff and administrators monitor resources, protective gear and ventilator use. The app syncs with hospital dashboards powered by the Power Platform emergency response solution to help manage bed count and inventory of critical supplies while sharing the information across the region to help other health professionals prepare their facilities.

Telemedicine is also enabling healthcare providers to continue delivering treatment. For example, Microsoft Teams has allowed doctors at St. Luke’s University Health Network to safely perform more than 75,000 virtual visits with patients vulnerable to the virus, while minimizing direct exposure and preserving valuable resources like masks and gloves.

In education, we are working with schools around the world to enable a remote learning system that fosters a culture of learning outside the classroom — as schools, universities, students and parents adopt the tools necessary for distance-learning models. That includes making Teams available for free for students and educators. The University of Bologna moved 90% of courses for its 80,000 students online to Teams within three days. AI is also playing a critical role in keeping students engaged and learning. The University of Sydney built an AI-infused bot using Microsoft Azure Cognitive Services that responds to students’ questions about COVID-19, providing instant answers and access to additional resources. At Case Western Reserve University, medical students are using Microsoft HoloLens to continue immersive remote learning without falling behind in classwork. In a larger-scale effort to support educators, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is launching a global e-learning initiative to minimize educational disruptions and maintain social contact.  Microsoft has joined this coalition to contribute resources and technology expertise to ensure #LearningNeverStops.

In response to the COVID-19 National Emergency Declaration, the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) directed the majority of its workforce to work remotely and created the Commercial Virtual Remote (CVR) Environment to provide secure teleworking capabilities to millions of users across the entire department. Our continued work with the DoD will lead to the single largest tenant of Office 365 and Microsoft Teams in the coming weeks, with the speed of deployment exceeding anything before it.

Quiet Microsoft campus during COVID-19 outbreak

A quiet Microsoft Commons in Redmond, Washington as employees work from home in the time of COVID-19.

We are working across industries to accelerate research for a cure for COVID-19 and recently announced our participation in a new consortium alongside and top universities to apply AI toward this pandemic challenge. The institute’s work aims to slow the spread of COVID-19, speed the development of medical treatments, predict its evolution and improve public health strategies. Additionally, Microsoft joined the White House-led consortium to provide COVID-19 researchers worldwide access to the most powerful High Performance Computing resources to significantly accelerate the pace of scientific discovery. As we strive to support our customers through technology, we are also doing our part to ensure our employees remain safe while contributing to efforts to protect public health and the well-being of our communities.

City skyline overlaid with points on a graph

Planning for the future

In recent weeks, we have shared details about groundbreaking new partnerships in the financial services sector, major league sports and consumer goods and services. BlackRock is moving its Aladdin platform to Microsoft Azure, the NBA is redefining and personalizing the fan experience through Azure and its AI capabilities, and last week, as part of our deep partnership with the NFL, Microsoft Teams and Surface were part of the technology solution that brought the first-ever virtual NFL Draft to life. Just today, The Coca-Cola Company announced it is standardizing business operations on Microsoft’s cloud to modernize how the company engages with employees and customers. In addition, in late March, we announced an agreement to acquire Affirmed Networks, a leader in fully virtualized cloud-native mobile network solutions. This acquisition, which closed last week, will allow us to evolve our work with the telecommunications industry, building on our secure and trusted cloud platform for operators, while we continue to focus on interoperability and strong partnerships with suppliers, emerging innovators and other stakeholders to extend cloud-based, software-defined networking into the world of 5G connectivity.

I am deeply inspired by how our customers and partners across every industry are harnessing digital tools to navigate an uncertain landscape. While COVID-19 has disrupted lives, the resilience we see today gives me confidence that we will be prepared to build a new normal together, full of opportunity and powered by innovation and ingenuity.



Tags: AI, Azure, Azure Container Service, Cloud Computing, customers, Dynamics 365, HoloLens, IoT, Microsoft Cloud, Microsoft Healthcare Bot, Microsoft Power Platform, Microsoft Teams, mixed reality, Power BI, PowerApps


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