At Microsoft, we are committed to driving inclusive recovery in the Asia region. To do that we are empowering our most important resource: people including those with lower incomes, women, and underrepresented minorities. As of 2019, Asia’s workforce stood at 1.69 billion, close to half of the world’s working population. It faces tough challenges from the impacts of COVID-19. Regional GDP is tipped to slide 3-10% in 2020, triggering major job losses. The pandemic respects no border and has shone a harsh light on what was already a widening skills gap around the world – a gap that will need to be closed with even greater urgency to accelerate economic recovery.
As an organization that drives digital transformation, Microsoft has a responsibility to help transform society and bring everyone into the digital future.
Skilling the workforce for the future
Microsoft has announced plans to bring digital skills to 25 million people worldwide by the end of the year 2020. By combining existing and new resources from LinkedIn, GitHub, and Microsoft, the initiative will provide free access to learning content for job seekers, as well as access to employability tools and low-priced industry-recognized certifications.
In Asia, Microsoft is contributing to this goal by providing inclusive, equitable access to learning resources for workers to gain the skills required for in-demand jobs. Microsoft Asia has worked with governments and more than 30 non-profits across Asia to increase the employability of 1.2 million people entering labor market. Leveraging LinkedIn data, Microsoft trained these people on skills we know are in demand in real time.
In particular, our partnership with Grab and universities in Southeast Asia aims to equip its 9 million driver-partners with foundational digital skills to increase their employability, and potentially transition out of the gig economy. Over 379,000 driver-partners in Indonesia have now completed Microsoft digital literacy training. Microsoft will also support the transition of 100 driver-partners into software developers, in partnership with Singapore’s SkillsFuture program.
Microsoft’s partnership with NASSCOM Foundation involves working with the Ministry of Skills Development in India to support underserved young women students at Industry Technology Institutes (vocational schools). They are offered opportunities to acquire technical skills and industry-recognized certifications that can increase their employability.
Microsoft’s annual Imagine Cup competition challenges high achieving students across the world to use technology to tackle some of the world’s biggest social, environmental, and health challenges. It’s an opportunity to connect with a community of like-minded young innovators. Work by 2020 Asia finalists included the development of a neck-wearable device that restores the ability to speak for those who have lost their voices, and a platform that hosts a mental health companion and therapist for at-risk youth.
Enabling remote collaboration
COVID-19 has ushered in a new era of remote working. Across Asia, business continuity goes on thanks to collaboration tools and cloud-based solutions that keep employees and the public engaged and productive.
These tools and services support real-world needs. In the Maldives, Microsoft Teams enables parliament to continue its work remotely while safeguarding the health and safety of government officials and citizens.
For two hospitals in China’s western Sichuan Province – Chengdu Third People’s Hospital and Huili County People’s Hospital — real-time telemedicine is deployed as a remote consultation platform built on Microsoft Azure, which helps provide expert consultations online and in real-time to patients anytime and anywhere via their laptops.
Sri Lanka is also brewing change during the pandemic. Industry leaders there have deployed a virtual e-auction system that keeps buyers and sellers of tea safely apart and socially distanced, via Teams.
Remote collaboration extends beyond work – at short notice, teachers and schools in Hong Kong and India also converted classrooms into interactive virtual learning spaces on Teams and ensured that their students’ education continued to be of a high quality.
Advocating diversity and inclusion
Diverse and inclusive companies are not only more innovative and profitable, they are also better at retaining top talent. Microsoft sees the value in having different perspectives that challenge and stretch our thinking.
We believe that diversity and inclusion starts at home. Our latest Diversity and Inclusion Report details our commitment to consciously and intentionally enable equal opportunities in the region. This includes an Inclusion Index that measures the effectiveness of Microsoft’s efforts and equal pay data expanded to represent 80% of Microsoft’s global workforce. In Asia Pacific, our Diversity & Inclusion Council promotes accessibility to the differently abled, LGBT representation, and female empowerment as key imperatives for our workplace culture and our business.
Additionally, we strive to close the equality gap with our efforts in underserved communities and youth, ensuring that they have access to good technology while developing the right digital skills to be future-ready. From within the organization to the community beyond, Microsoft is investing in its people so everyone on the planet can achieve more.