Microsoft’s chief executive has used a speech in the UK to hail cloud computing as a powerful tool that will help people transform the world.
Speaking at Microsoft’s Transform conference in London, Satya Nadella said that artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning will soon become vital parts of society but maintained that they will still be controlled and shaped by humans for our benefit.
“We are not building an AI-first world, we are building a people-first world with AI everywhere,” he told the digital-focused event in Canary Wharf on Thursday. “Ultimately, technology is in the hands of humanity. It is up to us to imagine the future and shape it using technology.”
Speaking to an audience of nearly 500 developers, business leaders and journalists, Nadella said he was excited by how UK organisations are continuing to embrace the cloud.
Microsoft unveiled multiple data centres in the UK last month, offering Azure and Office 365. Dynamics CRM Online will join the line-up in the first half of 2017. Nadella announced on Thursday that more than 1,000 public and private organisations – including the Ministry of Defence, Aston Martin and Capita – have already signed up to the data centres and moved work into its secure cloud.
Microsoft now has more data regions than any other cloud provider and has invested more than £3bn in the infrastructure in Europe alone.
On Thursday, Nadella highlighted three examples of how the cloud, artificial intelligence and machine learning are being used to improve UK businesses and society.
- MyCareCentric Epilepsy, a project run by a private/public consortium, is using Microsoft Band and Azure to try to predict when epilepsy patients will have a seizure
- Eyes on the Seas helps developing nations target illegal fishing vessels by using Azure
- Recognition, a new exhibition at The Tate in London, uses Azure and artificial intelligence to match photos of current events to rarely-seen pieces of art in the museum’s archive
The Tate exhibition was “one of best examples of AI allowing humans to get the most out of their lives rather than replacing them”, Nadella said.
However, governments, business and society had a responsibility to ensure the growth and change new technology creates will benefit everyone, regardless of who they are and where they live, he added.
Earlier this week, Nadella and Microsoft President Brad Smith launched a book entitled A Cloud for Good – a blueprint for how cloud computing can be used to improve health, education and the environment across the world, with 78 policy recommendations.
“One thing we care deeply about is how we use technology to truly create benefits for society,” Nadella told Transform. “It’s not about our technology, it’s about what people do with it. Those are the outcomes that we want to empower and be relevant in.”
Transform is aimed at helping businesses change how they work to become digital first and achieve more. The sold-out event heard from many speakers, including Nadella, Matthew Gould, the Government’s Director General of Digital and Media Policy, Andrew Spooner, Technical Evangelist at Microsoft, Carsten Maple, Chairman of the Council of Professors and Heads of Computing, and Andrew Blake, Director of the Alan Turing Institute.
The Alan Turing Institute
Announcing a “revolution in the age of the cloud”, Blake revealed at the conference that Microsoft had handed the Turing, the UK’s national data science centre, $5 million of Azure credits to make the country become a global leader in defence, technology and health.
Meanwhile, Maple highlighted the problems with employment among computer science graduates, and how that is affecting the UK as a whole.
“Computing is one of the most widely taught subjects, but computer science graduates are not getting jobs,” he said.
Pointing to the Shadbolt Review, an independent study led by Sir Nigel Shadbolt that looked at the accreditation arrangements for computer science degrees to ensure they are fit for the future, he issued a “call to arms” to business leaders.
“Does the industry have a correct perception of what a computer science graduate is?” he asked. “We need to extend and promote work experience, offer careers advice and give graduates visibility of opportunities.
“What will be the skills needed in five to 10 years’ time. It’s important that we all work together to benefit from the terrific talent pool in the UK.”