This post was written by Microsoft Director of Startups, Shaloo Garg who shares about the Global Social Entrepreneurship Program, and how it enables social entrepreneurs to do more good globally via access to top notch technology, access to customers and grants.
For years, social entrepreneurs have been innovating to build sustainable models for inclusive economies. This passion to create positive change is one of the most encouraging and altruistic aspects of entrepreneur culture. In the current situation, this has become more important than ever. With the outbreak of COVID-19, almost every facet of our life has changed or is being impacted in some way. The pandemic is exposing the systemic inequalities of our global economic system, and threatening progress towards equality and advancement of human rights. In challenging times like these, we need social entrepreneurs more than ever.
In the last few months, since the launch of the Microsoft Global Social Entrepreneurship Program, I have been fortunate to ‘meet’ some amazing social entrepreneurs. In almost every conversation with a founder, I have been intrigued to discover that no matter how varied their business model is, their challenges remain the same - getting access to top notch technology and accelerating customer acquisition to expand the reach of their mission.
At Microsoft, we’re in awe of these founders and wholeheartedly support their commitment to pushing the envelope and building products and solutions that address the world’s most persistent problems. Microsoft for Startups Global Social Entrepreneurship Program was created exclusively for social entrepreneurs addressing important social or environmental challenges. The program is designed to empower social entrepreneurs to leverage technology to change the world, make the world more accessible to those with limitations, help at-risk populations live longer and healthier, improve quality of life for those who need it most, and preserve the artifacts and traditions that define us as humans, among other important efforts. Among many, two examples of such social entrepreneurs are CIRCLE Women Association and Breeze Technologies.
To tackle the digital gender divide, CIRCLE Women Association based out of Pakistan has an initiative called “Tech Karo” designed to create upskilling opportunities for talented and enthusiastic women and girls from low-income households and works closely with local colleges, universities, and communities. Since the onset of COVID-19, they have gone fully digital to support growing population out of colleges and unemployed. As part of Microsoft Global Social Entrepreneurship Program, Tech Karo is building their infrastructure on Microsoft Azure. They also and plan to have an open-source learning management system (LMS) hosted on Azure App services so that students can learn remotely, review lessons, engage and submit their assignments. The data analytics, also hosted on Azure, will allow Tech Karo to scale and impact thousands of young women across Pakistan empowering them through technology. "Being part of the Microsoft Global Social Entrepreneurship Program is a recognition of the potential of Pakistan’s women and its youth. We are excited to use Microsoft Azure to achieve our goal of digital skills for thousands of young women and youth in Pakistan so the country can prosper,” shared Sadaffe Abid, founder of CIRCLE Women Association.
Air pollution is the single biggest environmental health threat of our time, killing seven million people annually. Higher levels of air pollution are even suspected to increase COVID-19 mortality rates. And yet, data is collected in manual, time-consuming processes with equipment that is expensive and difficult to operate. Breeze Technologies, based out of Germany and part of Microsoft Global Social Entrepreneurship Program, provides cities, corporates and the public with ubiquitous air quality and climate data fused from lower-cost sensors, satellites, public monitoring networks and many other data sources. With this data, they enable communities to protect themselves and take action.
Particularly affected groups, such as the elderly or the chronically ill, are able to better protect themselves making informed decisions. "Our Azure-enabled air quality sensors and Environmental Intelligence Cloud enable communities to plan and implement much more efficient and effective clean air actions. This is particularly important now, as higher levels of air pollution are suspected to increase Covid-19 mortality. Therefore, any clean air action is also an action against the current COVID-19 crisis,“ said Robert Heinecke, co-founder and CEO at Breeze Technologies. Breeze Technologies is using Cosmos DB, Azure MySQL, VMs, Container Instances and Functions to collect the air quality data and check, calibrate, process and analyze it. Built on Azure Machine Learning Studio and Machine Learning Service, the Breeze team can further process the data to trigger alerts and recommend the right clean air actions. Breeze Technologies is an Microsoft AI for Earth Grant recipient under sustainability.
Similar to supporting initiatives like Tech Karo and Breeze Technologies, social entrepreneurs that are part of Microsoft Global Social Entrepreneurship can enjoy various benefits. In addition to the existing Microsoft for Startups benefits, selected qualified startups will also receive access to customers; grants from Microsoft Philanthropies in the field of sustainability, accessibility, and skills & employability and access to the Global Social Entrepreneur community to help build and foster connections.
At Microsoft, our mission is to empower every person and organization on the planet to achieve more. We want to help grow your business globally! We recognize that, together, we have an unprecedented opportunity to create even more positive change at scale!
To learn more or apply for the program, please visit https://startups.microsoft.com/en-us/social-entrepreneurship/.
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