Remarks by Steve Ballmer
Washington, D.C., April 18, 2000
MR. BALLMER: It’s a great pleasure to have a chance to be here with you.I’m actually marveling right now at just seeing this podium for the first time, because it’s absolutely the most high technology podium I’ve ever seen.It says everything is okay, all okay, it says on the digital readout.So, I hope we can still say that 40 minutes or so from now when I get a chance to wrap up.
For me, this is an exciting opportunity I suspect there’s far more opportunities for those of you in the D.C. area to read about Microsoft than I wish there was recently.But I think it’s also exciting really for me to come here, primarily because the U.S. government overall is certainly our largest customer in the world.And the chance for me to get back and meet with folks inside the U.S. federal government and have a chance to learn what’s working, what’s not working, and how we can improve, that’s a great opportunity for me.I say the federal government is our largest customer, and probably if we were to look at agencies separately, I would probably say there are four or five parts of the U.S. government that are amongst the top ten customers that we have worldwide.So, in every sense, this is a great opportunity to have a chance to be here.
Microsoft is a fairly diverse company at this date.We’re doing a lot of things.I’m not going to talk about every one of them today, I simply don’t have the time.So, we tried to sort of just give you a snippet, particularly from the perspective of folks who do what you do, who worry about the information technology needs of the government.We’re trying to take a cut-through, and maybe get you interested in some of the kinds of things that are happening around our platform, some of the kinds of opportunities and applications, and scenarios that we’re enabling, and hopefully that will be useful and beneficial to you in terms of structuring and thinking through the topics on which you might want to learn more.
I think I can fairly title this talk Reinventing Government.Now, I’ll be brutally honest, and I’ll give you a little bit of a
— what shall I say
— secret here, but I also give a speech that’s called Reinventing Business, and they’re not all that dissimilar, because I think the issues are, in large measure, the same, although there are some significant differences.And I think now is a time when we’re talking a lot about reinventing.
People are taking a look at the opportunities, and what’s happening with the Internet, what’s happening with the PC, what’s happening with cellular phones, what’s happening with the range of new devices, and asking, how do we remake ourselves?How do we take advantage of this fundamental shift that’s happening in technology and make it really work for our customers, or for our constituents, because we are at a time now when I think over the next four or five years, we will see as massive a shift in technology as we have seen in any four or five-year period over the last 30 or 40.
I’ve been at Microsoft 20 years, every year I expect to not be able to look forward to as much change as I saw the years before.That’s not this year.The Internet really is still in a very early stage, a very pioneering stage, and the transition; the Internet of five years from now isn’t going to look like the Internet of today.And that will give us all chances to think through how to reinvent ourselves.
From a government perspective, I think there are probably four things that I want to stress for today.First is the notion of what we might call e-government, or personal constituent services.How does government do e-commerce, how does it reach out and touch the individuals and businesses that it needs to do business with across the Internet, what are the tools, what are the services?Most workers in government are what we’d call knowledge workers.There’s not a mass production process involved.Most of the people who work in government are fundamentally charged to think, to process information, to serve customers.And they need the right information, the right time, the right place to do that.So I think the challenge of empowering knowledge workers is perhaps even more important in government than it is in private industry.
Number three, efficiency through digital operations.There are still many things that are happening in the technology infrastructure that will allow you to just run a better operation.And I can’t say this is all brand new.We’ve all been thinking about how to computerize operations for 30-plus years.But, there’s still action in this area.And last, but not least, I want to talk some today about making sure that the kinds of change that we’re talking about, whether it’s for workers in the government or constituents that you’re trying to interact with, that we make these innovations accessible to everyone.I want to stress some of the investments that we’re making and some of the opportunities in more accessible computers and software.
Let’s start with personal constituent services, e-government, reaching out and touching everybody.If you take a look at it, it really is quite amazing.By the end of this year over 50 percent of U.S. households, well over 50 percent of U.S. households will have PCs.Over 25 percent of U.S. households will have an Internet connection.And that number is growing steeply, steeply, steeply.The numbers just keep rising, and rising, and rising.And I think that as we project forward five years, all of us, even government institutions, which I think have to be most conservative, about moving to electronic communication with constituents, because you want to make sure the constituent body has a digital connection, to start asking the question, how do I take everything I do with my customers and move it to be online, and let it be digital, how do we get there, how do we take every piece of paper that we require from the citizenry, how do we take every application, how do we take every transaction, how do we take every request for information, and how do we push that out, so that people can do those things electronically.
The digital divide is an issue in this regard.It is an issue.We have to make sure that we’re all putting appropriate focus on making sure that computers and access to the Internet and these applications are more and more broadly available.We’ve been very active in helping to put computers into libraries and other public places, to improve the situation, to grant better access to these technologies.There are examples of government institutions doing it in rural communities, in inner cities communities.President Clinton is talking today at the Windows World conference, in Chicago, and he’s talking specifically about this issue of the digital divide.So we must be sensitive to it, we must invest, but I think we must also make sure that we’re, nonetheless, thinking through the process of how to take every aspect of the government and in touch with the constituents, and really putting that online and making it available.
The good news is, from a technology perspective, there is an incredibly important innovation which has happened largely, has been completely adopted largely over the last year or two, which will make it much more possible to link web sites and to link consumers to Web sites in rich, interesting ways.And that’s this notion of what’s called XML.HTML was really the first pioneering protocol, or pioneering presentation set on the Internet.And HTML talks about how you present a set of information to a user.XML really talks about how you wrap the semantics of the information that you’re trying to give to a user, and in that way it becomes sort of the universal medium by which Web sites and users of Web sites communicate.
We think about people wrapping their information in XML, so that it can be passed from one agency to the next.So it can be passed from federal authorities to state authorities.So it can be passed from the tax authorities to a business that needs to not just get a view of information, but needs to get real information that it can really work on, as it prepares its appropriate tax filings, et cetera.Because XML wraps the semantics of information, XML is also very important in terms of targeting new devices.When you pass the XML to a cell phone it doesn’t have to try to present a Web page, it tries to take the semantics of that information, and renders them then on a small screen.
So XML and a set of work that we think we’ll do, and probably many other industry participants around XML, will be the key to really getting the world of e-commerce and e-government to the next level.It will be that universal medium of exchange that will let the Web in some senses get “cut and paste.”And if cut and paste was the application metaphor of the mid-’80s, with the Macintosh and Windows, XML will allow a similar kind of revved up and stepped up level of interoperability between applications in the Internet world, in the year 2000 and beyond.
MR. BALLMER: It’s very important to government services; you really want people as they interact with you to be able to have their information stored securely.You want to make sure that you give the user a personalized view of information.People don’t really want to have to navigate everywhere.They want to have one password.They want to have profiles with different parts of the government that are based upon, and personalized views that are based upon their identity, and who they are.They want to be able to use tools, and choose user interfaces that are appropriate for them to do the work they need to do before they interact with government.And they do want that quite broadly available on a variety of devices.
So, take an example that might be very interesting, I want to apply for an appropriate license, I want to be notified if there are any changes to the regulations or laws or standards under which I am going to be held once I have received my license.I want to be notified instantly upon any such changes.I want to make sure that I get the regulations and the forms and the models, not just in a way where I can see them, but where there’s any intelligence or any applications, I want to be able to get the application, take it into my business, and integrate it with the rest of the processes inside my business.That requires an infrastructure of identities, of notification, of eventing that you can run inside the government, and that can transition outside the government and allow for security and identity and events to pass between you and the constituents that you want to work with.
We have a few examples that I would cite of people who are doing leading-edge work in terms of electronic interaction with constituencies.The Marine Fisheries Department offers the ability for people to sign up for commercial fishing licenses online.They capture landing reports actually with a voice response system, and they have a range of technologies that we’ve worked with them on built up around the Windows platform, Windows servers talking to PCs and other devices in which fishermen can literally interact electronically with the Marine Fisheries Department.
The second one I would mention is a little bit broader, even, and more ambitious, and that’s what the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania refers to as the PA Power Port, which is what the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania refers to their portal as.And this is an integrated portal for government information, whether it’s from state, from local agencies, you get online permitting, online applications, you can register your car online, you get local community information, there are tools that actually help small businesses in the State of Pennsylvania come online and have a web presence.So, it’s literally a portal to the whole Commonwealth of Pennsylvania from a government and small business perspective.
Now, we’ve worked closely with the Commonwealth on this project, both in terms of Windows, the set of services, some MSN services to help small businesses sign up for these things.It’s been an incredible effort for us and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.I think it will be a while before we can dream about having a
what shall I call it
— U.S. Power Port, a portal to the whole U.S. federal government.I’m not recommending that kind of ambitious effort, but I am recommending that each and every one of you really think through how to put more and more of what you do online.Certainly, we’ll be there to provide common technologies to help you develop the software and to help maintain some notion of common identity and events, et cetera, across government agencies.
Second area I want to turn to is this notion of empowering knowledge workers.In a sense, you see my speech takes in from a time perspective backwards.I wanted to first focus in on today’s newest state, the Internet and e-commerce opportunities, but I don’t want us to lose sight of the day before yesterday’s big opportunities, which is the PC and the knowledge worker.And we’ll talk about digital operations, because I don’t want us to lose sight of sort of the traditional data processing role.In every one of these ways, there’s a chance to remake government.We talk about the need to continue to push to make knowledge and information easier to find, easier to share, and to get the right information to people at the right time.And there’s a variety of technologies that we’re working on in Windows, in Office, to try to help with that, search technologies, electronic paper technologies.
We’re still not at a paperless world.You can’t think you’ve empowered the knowledge worker if you’re still having them rummage around looking through random pieces of paper.It’s still all too hard for a knowledge worker to get feedback from customers, from partners on what’s working, and what’s not working.What’s the number one thing that a knowledge worker does?Go to meetings, at least if your life is at all like mine, I think that’s a fair characterization.And yet, we have not really put information technology to work in a dramatic enough fashion to revolutionize and improve the kinds and nature of meetings that people have.We need to make sure that people can get the right information at the right time, not have to search hither and yon, and to have the right tools to filter the information of the world, so that you get a view of the world that focuses in on the things that are important to you.We call that the digital dashboard concept.
It’s an important one.I think it reflects a dramatic change that we’re going to see in information technology, the PC puts the user in control, but the world of the Internet today, and the world of traditional data processing today is, you look at the world my way.I’ll publish information to you.We need to invert that so that people can use the power of the personal computer to filter and look at the information of the world the way they want to see it.So, all of these challenges are areas in which I think we and our industry have an opportunity to make great progress and to help you in fairly dramatic ways over the next several years.
Again, there are some projects that we’ve worked on with some agencies that I think are really leading edge in this regard.I’ve had the pleasure myself of working with folks from the NAVAIR team now for a number of years.Recently, we’ve been working with the F-14 program office at NAVAIR on a set of integrated management tools to maintain, to track, and to help deploy that particular fleet.The project that we participated with the team on saves the Navy about $270 million, and one them won one of the Hammer Awards
for hammering out the bureaucracy involved in some of these processes.And this is an important part of the tool set that’s being used to really make this a premier strike fighter.We do work with the Navy on the project, they built applications that use products like our SQL Server, our Exchange products, Windows, Office, those are all important elements to the solutions we’ve built together with NAVAIR.
The second project I want to highlight in this regard and, again, it’s an information management, let’s get some information to people, right time, right place, kind of project, is a project that was done with the Defense Intelligence Agency called Merlin.And this one I’m particularly excited about.Merlin is a system that helps collect a variety of both strategic and tactical information that a war fighter might need in mapping a battlefield, and literally gives you a screen that shows all of that information synthesized and integrated in the right way.You get human intelligence, you get information that’s coming in off feeder sources about radar collection data, you get real-time supply information that gets fed into the system, and then it’s all put together for you on an appropriate screen to literally give a war fighter the kind of integrated view they need to make the decisions that are important in a battlefield scenario.We’re very excited about it, and it’s the kind of tool that I think will exemplify what we need to do for knowledge workers.In some senses you could say it’s the digital dashboard of the war fighters.Give me the battle information I need, filtered, viewed in a way I need to view it to make the key decisions in real-time that we need to make in order to both prevail and to prevail with the appropriate respect for the human lives that are at stake.So we’re super excited about the work we’ve had a chance to do with DIA on that project.
Let me turn now to the third opportunity, and this is the opportunity to continue to use IT to improve the basic operations in your business.Now, some of you might say at this stage, ho hum, ho hum, ho hum, we’ve had mainframes for 35 years.We have DB shops.We’ve got it down.All of that’s stable, that’s the part of the business we don’t need to touch.We hear you about this e-government stuff.We hear you about the knowledge workers.But we’ve got this down.Well, that’s the good news.The even better news is that this XML technology that I talked about earlier does have, again, the potential to revolutionize your own internal operations systems, and data processing systems.XML is not only for the outside world, but even inside your operation and across agencies, it will give us the potential for a type of interoperability and workflow across data processing applications that we haven’t had before.And we think a lot about XML information, how do you wrap it?How do you pass it from application to application?The jihad of a few years ago was that interoperability would come from
— I don’t know, you go back 10 years ago, it was probably IBM’s strategic application architecture.And if you go back three years ago, JAVA was going to be the universal medium for exchange.And six years ago it was CORBA.I actually think we’re on to something that will really solve the problem this time, and that’s this XML standards.It will provide, and programming infrastructure around it will provide that medium for interoperability between mainframe systems and UNIX systems, and PC-based systems that allows us to really stitch together applications in very new ways.
There are a couple of folks that we’ve had a chance to work with in this regard that I want to highlight.The first one is HUD, where we’ve worked together on a data collection process that pulls together information from Public Housing Authority, almost 18
and sort of it’s responsible for the backbone system for collecting, monitoring and administering over $18 billion in HUD funds, good project done in conjunction with our partners at Andersen Consulting.We’ve worked together with HUD to save about $5-1/4 million in administration costs.They think they’ve reduced fraud by about $3 million in terms of false applications for funds, et cetera.
The second example is really sort of square, on-target, good example of an early use of XML specifically, and some technologies that we’re building that we call the BizTalk Tool Set that works against XML information.But it’s a project that we’ve done with the Government Printing Office, that we are doing with the Government Printing Office that automates the workflow between federal agencies, the printing office, and over 5,000 vendors.And it is essentially a workflow system that collects up the information that is needed by the printing office to render something, and then goes ahead and schedules, and does the job.They’re using the XML interchange system, and they’re using our BizTalk tool set to stitch together this production application for the automation of the Government Printing Office.
I would now like to invite on stage with me one of our folks, Augie Torano, from Microsoft Federal Systems.Augie is going to show you some work that we’ve been doing over with the Veterans Affairs group on a project that we call e-Vet.It’s a good example, I think, of a digital operation, involves some of the other kinds of scenarios that I talked about as well.But I’m going to let Augie tell you about it and show you.I think it will wet your whistle for some of the possibilities inherent in this.
MR. TORANO: Thank you.
I wanted to tell you a little bit about an exciting project that Microsoft has been involved with for the Department of Veterans Affairs.The Department of Veterans Affairs has more than 150 hospitals nationwide, and they have data that’s collected in each one of those individual medical centers.Well, when a patient comes in for treatment, it’s really important for the doctor to see all the different items for treatment that has occurred with that individual patient.So, what we’ve tried to do with Health Event is produce a consolidated view of disparate information.And we’ve used Microsoft technologies, and we’ve used XML to make requests to the various medical centers where the data resides, and ship the data back, using XML to a very secure repository.
Now, one of the things that we really have tried to do is to make the site secure.And in doing that, we have used some of the features in Windows 2000 with the Crypto API and security services.We used Active Directory because the VA right now currently treats about 25 million veterans.So, with Active Directory we needed to be able to scale up to identify each one of those patients as an object, and be able to classify them and give them security, and privileges, and be able to control the access.
There are a lot of medical web sites that have been cropping up on the Web.One of the problems or the limitations of a lot of these sites though is as they accumulate information what they require, in a lot of cases, is you have to type the information in.And nobody likes to do that. There are some other interesting facts about medical data in general, 36 percent of Web use revolves around medically related facts.Now, why is that?There’s a lot of different reasons, the main one is, when you go to see a doctor, you go to an HMO and you have a visit, the average visit with a doctor is about seven minutes, and after that 7 minutes that’s usually when you think about the questions.
MR. BALLMER: Seven minutes with the doctor, two hours on the Internet.
MR. TORANO: And you’re not limited on the Internet, it’s really a nice scenario for you to go through.And what we’re trying to do is not just display information, I’m going to give a short little demo of that, but we link to other portals so that you can get more descriptive information rather than just looking at the data.Some other interesting facts are the United States spends $3 to $5 trillion over a 5 year period on computerized patient records.So it’s actually a hot area of activity.And also, probably the most staggering fact is that medical data error kills more people than AIDS and highway accidents.So these are preventable errors, these are areas where information technology can really sort of curb that, or at least reduce the number of errors.
Really the key to Health Event is to put this kind of data and information online in a very secure way.When you go for treatment you don’t always go to the same doctor, you don’t always go to the same place and you have to consolidate.One of the things that makes healthcare costs rise is that a doctor may not know, he asks if you had a blood test last year and you may or may not recall.If you do recall you had taken a test, you may not recall what the value is.If the doctor can’t find it in the medical chart, you’ll have to be tested again.But a system like Health Event where we have a Web accessible record, you can look at that, and you can get up to date information, and hopefully try to reduce some of those costs.
Now the in the design of this particular system we had to talk to the VA’s legacy database, which is a humongous database that resides in 150 medical centers.So we had to send messages out, and wrap the data up, and ship it back.The patient has the ability to submit data, so if they’re taking vitamins or they’re taking some off the shelf drug it can all be in there.And it can be VA providers, non-VA providers, and a particular patient can also add data as they see fit.One of the other things we had in the design of the site is to make it content rich.A lot of times it’s not just looking at numbers on a Web site, and I’m going to show some examples of how the graphing and fax results.The medical community uses faxes an awful lot.If you go to a doctor and get a consult, they’ll fax results to the hospital.
So what I’m going to do is I’m going to do a little demo with Health Event, and I’m going to show an example where Joe Veteran goes on a fishing trip and becomes ill.You may or may not recognize him.The problem with Joe Veteran is he went on a fishing trip and fainted, and he’s far away from home, he’s in Alaska on the fishing trip.So his buddies take him to the doctor’s office, but the patient can’t remember the medications he’s taking.Well, the doctor, the first thing he’s going to want to do is find out what Joe Veteran is on, and find out if it was triggered by some adverse reaction, or whatever.But, since they’re in Alaska and Joe can’t remember what’s going on with his particular medication profile, he’s going to go to Health Event.And I’m going to show you how that scenario would happen.
This is the Health Event Web site and it’s going to be available on the web.It’s still sort of an early prototype that we’re still working on.But, you go to www.healthevent.va.gov, and you have to log in, because it’s a secure site you have to actually be authenticated.So we’ve logged in.I put in a pass code, a verify code that’s unique to Joe Veteran, that identifies him in the vault.Now every patient that’s in the vault has their own
encoding key, which has made some interesting problems for us when we get the data out of the particular medical center, because I can’t actually put it in Joe Veteran’s record, because only you hold the private key.So we’ve had to sort of keep that in a second encoding key, and then later on Veteran is going to actually…
MR. BALLMER: Sounds like an opportunity for technology.
MR. TORANO: That’s exactly what it is.So we’re going to look at the patient’s profile.And the patient profile is just basic demographics, but this can be useful, if you were brought in unconscious
they might want to call an emergency contact or whatever.So there’s a lot of things in here, any allergies could be in here.So we go to medications and we see there’s only one, but you tell me that you’re taking more.Well, that just means that an update hasn’t happened for your particular scenario.So what I’m going to do is I’m going to request that update actually occur here.So what I’ll do is I’ll request an update, and an XML message, sort of data gram, can go out to the targeted sites, which you’ve had to register for.No data actually flows out of the medical center until a patient voluntarily says I want to enroll in this.That way they look at your ID. They match it up. They say, okay.So now, if we go back to the merge update page, and this is happening right here just on my local server, but in reality it would actually go out through the Internet if that were to actually happen.
So we go back to the merge update page we see there’s a new file in it.Before when I called that screen up there wasn’t a file in it.If I click on this file, you can see that the data came back as XML.It will come back as encrypted XML, but for the sake of the demo we thought it would be better
— now we’re going to merge that data that’s in that XML data file, and when we go back and look at your medication profile, we see that you have a lot more medications, and we can expect that maybe you’ve had an interaction.It turns out that maybe you took Dramamine before you went on the boat.
So just looking at raw data is really not all that useful, because you may not know what any of these things really do, and so how do you get more information about
— it’s also come from different sites.So what we’ve done is we’ve made hyperlinks, and we can make these hyperlinks through any Web portal that has rich information content, and we can draw that information content and link it to the data that’s on the Web.So when I do that, I click on the hyperlink, it goes out to the Web MD site, and it tells us information, and the patient didn’t actually have to type it in, we use SQL Server 7 to
and actually target, go out and look at that specific drug and tell us what some interactions might be, what the healthcare professional should know
— it provides a lot more information.
One other thing that I would like to show is that content doesn’t have to be text.It could be, like I said, a rich array of different data content.So we could come here and you could have medical images, I could look at cell tissues if I need to.These could be special files, they could be used with special viewers that the Web browser can activate that you can see various types of data in there.And so we’re not
So actually the doctor makes this little diagnosis with what’s happening with Joe Veteran here, and finds out that he took Dramamine, which is probably not a good thing for someone
— so Joe Veteran goes out there and catches this big fish.
MR. BALLMER: There is so much going on under the covers in that demonstration, but I hope it gives you something of a sense.You’re putting knowledge, the user and the doctor, you’re interacting across the boundaries, so to speak, across the government agencies and the citizens, and in some sense you really are changing the operational back end by letting the user self edit their data.It’s really quite an amazing situation.
The backbone for us in terms of enabling these scenarios is Windows 2000.We have a range of new things we’ve got coming, which are going to be very important.As Augie was talking about the security problems, I was excited about all the great security technologies we have in Windows 2000, and I was challenged to understand how much more we need to do to facilitate these Internet-based security opportunities.Windows 2000 is three things; it’s simply the best version of Windows that we’ve ever done.Number two, it’s a version of Windows at the server level that really is up to the biggest enterprise, e-commerce, and e-government challenges, and number three, it’s really a bridge to this next generation of the Internet.It starts the process of enabling XML and a set of services around XML that really lets you conveniently build the kinds of applications that Augie just showed you.
Windows 2000 has pretty incredible scalability.With the launch of Windows 2000 and our new SQL Server release, SQL Server 2000, we actually have the highest performance benchmark, not the highest price performance where Windows has always done well, but the highest performance database scalability benchmark for both Windows 2000 based systems.
MR. BALLMER: In Compaq systems to Sun systems you’ll see that there’s anywhere between four and five times the price performance.That is you get the same performance at roughly one-quarter of the cost running Windows and Compaq gear versus Sun gear.We’re talking up to very large systems, systems that could have up to 96 CPUs in a variety of sort of multiprocessor and clustered fashions.So we feel like the scalability is now there at the very highest level, with still the incredible price performance that the PC has always provided.
Particularly in many government applications the issues of information assurance are more important maybe even than in the commercial world.That’s not just a Defense Department issue, I think it’s also true with civilian agencies.And there was a lot of work that went into Windows 2000 to focus in on information assurance, the way in which we participated to get
— and criteria, the focus we’ve had on many of the important DoD security protocols, and federal security protocols.We put in place a dedicated program team that focused in on nothing but the information assurance requirements of the U.S. Federal Government.We’ve been very active, had an R & D team split between Washington, D.C., and Seattle to really focus in.
And if you look at the things we’ve done in Windows 2000, with the directory, with the PKI infrastructure, with the work that we’ve done for IT sets, with the integration of log in with smart card in our implementation of Kerberos security, in all ways we’ve just taken an incredible step forward in terms of providing you the kind of rich infrastructure you need that will allow you to protect the privacy of your user’s data.And I really encourage you to check out and push our people if this is an area of concern for you, because I think today we have sort of a richer security options available on Windows 2000 of any operating system in the market.
The last topic I want to turn to and talk to you both as a general issue, but also as a technology issue, is the notion of accessibility.There are over 20 million citizens in this country for whom accessibility of these devices and these applications is an issue.And we have learned through the course of our involvement that accessibility can’t be an afterthought.You’ve got to really define in, design in the accessibility options.We don’t build all of the accessibility tools in the world.There’s a thriving third party industry that does that.But, if we don’t design in the key hooks that allow people to do innovative work to make these systems and these experiences more accessible it just can’t happen.We think the next ten years are key not only in getting computers to everybody based on socioeconomic status, but also everybody based upon their ability to control and manipulate the devices that are involved.And I think if you look at recent advances, both in the way computers are working, and the way computers are being used in
— wheelchairs, the importance of information technology in the world of supporting the disabled is simply growing.
I’d like to invite now on stage to join me Greg Vanderheiden.Greg is a professor at the University of Wisconsin.Greg is an expert in the field of accessibility, and he’s going to talk to you about some of the issues, and give you a feel of some of the things that can be done now.
Please welcome Greg.
MR. VANDERHEIDEN: Hi.The Trace Center is one of
— engineering research centers around the country, that’s funded by the National Institute on Disability and
— Research.The Trace Center’s charge is to work with industry to figure out how to design standard products so they can be made accessible and usable by people with disabilities, too.Now, that’s a particularly interesting challenge.The first goal is to try to create designs that will be highly competitive, very comparable, and will have accessibility built into their natural components, rather than something added on, or adding cost.
Now, with the coming of the coming of the 50(a) regulations there’s a lot of concern about do-ability and cost, in terms of building access into things.And so the Trace Center has been working with many businesses, including Microsoft, in building access into their standards products for some time.Many of you may be aware of some of this.If you go into your access and you go into the settings, you go into the control panel, you’ll find the first control panel that you find on there is an accessibility program, built into every Windows 95, 98, et cetera, you’ll find over a dozen different features, for people with low vision, blindness, physical disabilities, hearing disabilities, et cetera.It’s all in there and many of you may not even know it’s in there.And so it’s just a standard part of the operating system.
Now, they’ve asked me to come today to talk to you, provide a little more information about some of our more recent research, and show how you can build access into standard products, and some of the ways Microsoft is helping support that in the way they architect their software.Now if you look at the screen over here
an ATM, now this is a cross disability ATM.This one can be used by people with low vision that are blind, people with physical disabilities; it’s cross disability accessible.In fact, you can take someone who is blind, who has never even used an ATM before, and tell them that this is accessible.They walk up, plug their little headphones into it, and are able to use it, withdraw money, check your account balance, purchase tickets, anything that you can do on the ATM.
Now, the question is, what does it cost to do that?Well, let’s take a look.There’s two parts to the cost, hardware and software.First of all, in the hardware area we have the headphone attachment.If the computer doesn’t have a sound card then you need to add a sound card.The three button interface for that would make it obvious, but if you’re using a touch screen ATM —
— so you can, for hardware, add headphone jack, sound card —
— now for software you have two things.First of all, you have to put in a voice synthesizer.Now, the cost of those things is dropping very rapidly.Lucent is now making one for $5.You then modify the ATM software.
Now, this is the key point, the first time you try to build access in there’s always cost, because you’ve never done it before.There’s huge up front cost for some time as you learn, then cost drops off very significantly.So because of the way Microsoft has build on
because of the way it is architected the voice and those kinds of technologies are very inexpensive, and it won’t be long before all operating systems have voice built in as a standard part of the operating system.This is going to make access for people with low vision or reading problems, or blindness easier still.
Now, very importantly, adding access to the ATM does not change the way the ATM behaves for anybody else.So if you went up to this ATM it’s going to operate exactly the same way the other ones like it do.But, as you age, or as illness strikes you, you’d also find that as you start losing your abilities you’ll be able to do as well.Now, some of you may think that this doesn’t apply to you, but I have something here to show you.
This is function limitations as a function of age, and this is the way we think of the world, as a small percentage of the people having disabilities or severe disabilities, but what happens as we age is that percentage starts to creep up.Those of us who want to live past 54, anybody interested in living to 69, how many people here would love to live past 75, and how many of you would still like to be able to use these things in your environment.
Well, as you can see, 72 percent of us are going to have function limitations, and 41 severe function limitations, and these tend to look like vision, hearing, physical disabilities.So we really want to take a look at how we want this to look.Now, here’s one way of envisioning it, if you look up on the screen here, just pick one of those individuals to represent you, go ahead, just pick one.And when we turn to 75, this is what you will look like, did you end up with a severe disability, a disability, or is it just all of your neighbors that have one?
Now, being that this is a government IT conference, one of the most important interactions that any citizen and government can have is through voting.And we want to make sure that the 30-40 million plus individuals with disabilities have the opportunity to participate in that.So, you may not be aware of it, but in many states, if you are blind and walk into a voting booth by yourself, you, in fact, have to take a Republican and a Democrat into the voting booth with you.Really, well, someone has to help you figure out where you’re supposed to mark, and everybody trusts everybody else, right?
Okay, so on stage here we have a voting booth, and this is a touch screen version.One of the things they’re going to now is, you’ve seen it more and more, they want it so that you vote and it then tallies it.So, we have here a touch screen-voting booth, and the basic voting kiosk, which was designed by Quad Media, has a touch screen.It has a keyboard so that you can do write in votes if you want to.There’s a PC running the Windows operating system underneath.And then there’s special secure voting software that’s triply, redundantly records the results, and makes sure that nobody can get in and change it.That’s done by Election
Now, to that we add a voice synthesizer, and a three-button interface, like the one you saw there, to make it very straightforward.So this is the first time that somebody is going to see this as they walk into the booth, and you don’t want three people in there again helping them use it, and a handset, or a headphones can also be used in which you control the privacy.Now, we’ve plugged it into the PA system here, but you typically wouldn’t do that when you’re voting.
Now, to vote, you just touch the screen, and then I can pick who I want to vote for.I can pick somebody here, vote on my ballot, and then when I’m all done, it gives me a chance to doubly check and make sure I’m done.And there, I’m done.So you can go through and vote in fashion.
However, what if when you go to the voting booth it looks something like this.Now, this is actually English spelling.All I’ve done is to swap a new character set in so that it might look to you as it might look to somebody who had a reading problem.So, this is English that you’re looking at, but you have no idea what it is.So, you can just press the button and you can also touch.Okay, it’s an alderperson.So, you can pick the one you want, and you just vote.You go on to the next one.And you can go on through like this.
Now, it may be that you don’t have a reading problem. You just have low vision.And rather than messing up the optics, you just put this gray screen on it so that you can see the information on the screen, but you can’t figure out what it says.So, again, you can do the same thing.You left your reading glasses at home.Okay.
Now, you can either
— this is the only safe way that I can cast a vote on stage here.
MR. BALLMER: You’d better hit the Democrat button, too, or we’re going to look partisan.
MR. VANDERHEIDEN: So, again, I can either do it that way or, if I only have one hand, or want to, I can just step through.I can step through the items.Or even if somebody is completely blind, so that they can see nothing at all, they can use the same button as we are using now.So anyone can now vote for the people they want to.You can also use it if you have physical disabilities.And let’s say you have cerebral palsy, or you have Parkinson’s, or something else, and you’re just having trouble accurately using the screen, you can step through, pick out the ones that you want, step through, and go through and cast your vote.So, you have the ability to use this in all of those ways.
Now, there are still also ways, there’s a new technology being developed called an alternate interface access protocol by the National Community on Information Technology Standards.And it is developing a mechanism that lets you talk to screen devices wirelessly, as in Universal Plug and Play.This is a device that might be used by someone who is blind, or deaf/blind.And interestingly it is also done on Windows CE.And so this would be the display.Think of this as a notebook computer, and here is your display, a little tactile Braille display, and here’s your keyboard.Well, a person could walk up to a device, again, with a secure link, and be able to use this to be able to cast their vote without actually touching the ATM itself.The only thing you need to do, of course, you need to arm so that it’s ready to go.
Or people like Christopher Reeve, who is unable to
— he can use his tip-and-top wheelchair to move around, but he can’t cast a vote like that.Today, you would be able to come in, use the link, be able to access the views, and cast a vote.
So, now, the important thing to note is that all of this is done not with ten different techniques, one for each disability, but actually with just one hybrid technique, which works across disabilities.And, it didn’t require that you reengineer the whole thing, you just built in an ability to step among the objects, and use voice technologies that are in there.You can use voice synthesizers, or you can use recorded speech.So, what do we add, we add switches, we’re using a headphone jack, you don’t have that.If you’re using recorded speech, you don’t even have to use a voice synthesizer, you just use the architecture that’s built into the operating system today to make it accessible.The cost is minimal once you’ve built
So, in closing, let me say that there are simple techniques that are being built into a very wide variety of products, techniques like this, Productivity Works, for example, has a Web kiosk so you can walk up and browse the Web, but not
— we have phones, they are, without adding any hardware, just changing the software in the phone, you can make these
— pocket computers, copiers, again, you can make a copier by adding large amounts of technology to it, or you can just change the instructions a little bit, add a little bit
— there’s even a little $3 chip that can be used with a product to make them accessible, fax machines a buck more.And the advances in both speech technology and software and software architecture are making it easier and cheaper every day.
And it also makes it nicer for all the rest of us.The new help features, have you ever had a device you went up to and it had these buttons on them, and you can’t figure out what the buttons are all for?The same technique is used too, name it if you can’t see it, it can be used to touch it multiple times, and it will give you help about that, so it makes it friendlier for all of us today, and for all of us at VA.
MR. BALLMER: Wonderful, thank you very much.
Microsoft has had a commitment for over 10 years now to accessibility.It’s a very important area, and I know it’s a new regulation, it’s very important to everybody in this room.We’ve tried to build the right platform, and really build the enabling technologies in to allow folks like Greg and many others to participate and do this incredible work for folks with disabilities.We are today announcing a grant, we’re making a grant of a half a million dollars, which will be able to be used to help train people on developing applications that do comply with the new 508 requirement.I encourage you to talk with some of the folks in our federal group who will be around afterwards to learn more about that.
I think the partnership between Microsoft, our partners, and the government is more important even in the 21st century than it has been for the last 10 or 20 years.The role of the Internet, the role of the personal computer, the new device, whether it’s for knowledge, for operations, or citizen interaction, whether it’s for citizens who have disabilities or not, we think we’re providing a platform on which you can build, and together we can do great work.And certainly our entire team here in the federal district as well as our support and R & D folks around the world stand ready to serve you, and I’m certainly very glad to have had an opportunity, hopefully, to wet your whistle a little bit, and give you a couple of things to think about that might be useful for you in terms of rethinking the way you go forward and drive IT in the government.
With that, I’ll say thanks and enjoy the rest of the conference.
(Applause and end of event.)