2021 in review: Popular stories and videos from Microsoft On the Issues

In 2021, Microsoft on the Issues published stories about the potential of open data, the rise of ransomware attacks and what needs to happen for the world to get to net zero.

As we say goodbye to another year, here is a collection of stories and videos on these issues and more.

Keeping your vote safe and secure: A story from inside the 2020 election

The eyes of the world were on the 2020 U.S. presidential election. Less visible were the people who worked behind the scenes to prevent cyberattacks, protect voter registration websites and safeguard the reporting of election results.

This feature from On the Issues in June 2021 delves into efforts of state officials and election technology providers. It explains how, aided by Microsoft experts, they worked to protect those on the front lines of the election and ensure the smooth running of the vote.

A doctor, a researcher and an activist: Perspectives on how sharing data is advancing health care

When the right data is made more accessible for research and collaboration, the benefits can be transformative. The Microsoft Open Data Campaign provides tools and support to organizations that need to access data to innovate. In June 2021, On the Issues spoke to three health care professionals who can attest to the power of more open data.

Data science never mattered so much as it does now – Dr. Lance Baldo

Experts from Adaptive Biotechnologies, Answer ALS and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, explained how they are putting shared data into action. Working on Covid-19, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (a degenerative motor neuron disease) and childhood cancer respectively, they are paving the way for the future of medicine. As Dr. Lance Baldo from Adaptive Biotechnologies told us: “Data science never mattered so much as it does now.”

Wait, what does that mean? Ransomware edition

In May 2021, a major ransomware attack disabled Colonial Pipeline – one of the largest fuel pipelines in the U.S. It provides almost 50% of the East Coast’s fuel supply. In the week that followed, another ransomware attack hit one of the largest meat producers in the world causing it to shut down several sites in the U.S., Australia and Canada.

Ransomware – a type of malware that holds computer systems or data hostage with demands for payment – is making more and more headlines like this.

So, what are Microsoft and other organizations doing to fight it? And how can individuals and companies protect themselves? As part of an ongoing series of explainer articles published on LinkedIn, this look at ransomware from July 2021 explores some of the solutions.

Other pieces in this series break down topics including affordable housing, the digital skills gap and open data.

How do we get from climate pledges to net zero?

To move from climate pledges to climate progress, and to reach net zero, we will all need to speak the same carbon language.

This was the message of Microsoft president Brad Smith at Web Summit 2021. You can watch the highlights of his speech in this video. Record, report, reduce and remove carbon emissions was Smith’s urgent call to the world.

Addressing the cybersecurity skills crisis

Cybersecurity attacks were a consistent threat again in 2021. One challenge the U.S. faces in tackling this situation is a serious workforce shortage – for almost every two cybersecurity jobs in the country today, a third job is sitting empty because of a shortage of skilled people.

Microsoft launched a cyberskilling initiative to help community colleges train professionals in the skills needed to fill the positions. Microsoft president Brad Smith explains more in this video from November 2021.

For more on how technology is empowering people and organizations to achieve more, visit Microsoft On the Issues. And follow @MSFTIssues on Twitter.