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AI COVID-19 tech bolsters social distancing, supply chains

While we’ve had many pandemics in the past, none have been so life-changing as the struggle against the latest novel coronavirus, COVID-19. The impacts of the pandemic have significant economic and public health consequences — including widespread effects on education, e-commerce and global supply chains.

With the world’s attention on this virus, artificial intelligence researchers, companies and solution providers of all sorts are looking to apply AI and machine learning to the vast range of challenges that the world faces. Many companies are applying AI capabilities to medical and health needs, while others are applying AI to the ongoing challenges faced in the economy. AI-based COVID-19 solutions are bolstering industries to provide healthcare, enterprise communication and ensure social distancing.

AI helping keep people safe and distant

At this moment, there is no vaccine to combat the COVID-19 virus; the primary way to get control over the spread of the virus is through mitigation and suppression. The most effective treatment so far has been to practice self-isolation and to avoid crowded areas through social distancing. In the case of being tested positive, patients are told to quarantine themselves if they are showing manageable symptoms.

U.S.-based Athena Security is repurposing its security-based imaging solution to the healthcare field by analyzing thermal imagery to detect and track potentially sick patients. The company uses thermal imaging combined with algorithms that analyze the body temperatures of people to flag potentially sick individuals traveling in high traffic areas such as airports, stadiums, train stations and other locations.

Other regions have taken much more intrusive — some might say draconian — measures in monitoring and policing communities. Among the solutions employed by China were a surveillance system that used facial recognition and temperature detection for the identification of people who may have a fever. This technology was combined with mobile device tracking data and other information to not only spot those who were potentially sick, but match to facial records databases and indicate everyone who they might have potentially infected. In the Sichuan province, officials used AI-powered smart helmets that could identify people with a fever.

Using data analytics and big data, the Chinese government instigated a program whereby they monitored the risk each individual had of contracting the disease. This identification could be made based on the individual’s travel history, time spent in virus hot spots and exposure to people who had already contracted the disease. Based on this, the government assigned codes like red, yellow or green to indicate whether individuals are put in quarantine or advised self-isolation. Across China, drones are also used with thermal imaging to track infected patients, as well as to patrol public spaces for curfew compliance. This social tracking approach will probably become more commonplace as countries look to be more forceful and proactive in keeping infected people home and preventing the spread of disease.

How AI is assisting the fight against COVID-19
AI-based technology is assisting diagnosis, detection, supply chains and telemedicine.

Handling the wave of healthcare and employment claims

When a pandemic hits, no aspect of the global economy is untouched. Health insurance providers and healthcare officials are backlogged by numerous cases of claims that they must process immediately. Likewise, the growing unemployment caused by work closures is resulting in an exponential increase in jobless claim filings. A lot of resources are needed to verify these claims, process them and provide benefits. Furthermore, with government staff themselves working from home and away from internal governmental systems, many of those needed benefits are stuck behind process bottlenecks that require human intervention.

RPA and more cognitive process automation tools that utilize the power of natural language processing for document handling, and more nimble solutions that can dynamically adjust to process changes are being applied to help move claims forward, while minimizing human workload. While RPA adoption has been moving at a fast pace over the past few years, it is expected that the global pandemic and work-from-home requirements will give cognitive automation even more of a push this year.

The growth of video conferencing and chatbots

Likewise, the shift to work-from-home and home education has skyrocketed the demand for online conferencing and education platforms. This has in turn skyrocketed the consumption of the internet and is taxing global broadband providers. While internet providers work to adjust to the new normal of stay-at-home workers, the growth in online platforms is presenting additional opportunities enabled by AI.

As an increasing number of employees work from home, the load on their organization’s IT service desks are likewise increasing. Getting employees functional at home is vital to the running of the organization, but this is challenged by the fact that many IT service and operations staff are also working from home. As a result, companies are employing AI-based self-service solutions that can address common and critical IT service needs and resolve them autonomously without human interaction. These intelligent systems can provide step-by-step instructions from IT knowledge bases and the AI-backed digital assistants can help solve these queries freeing up IT for more complex cases.

Routine healthcare has been disrupted by the closure of many traditional doctors’ offices, while hospitals must deal with more urgent needs for COVID-19 patients. As such, there’s been an increased demand in telemedicine and health-based chatbots that can address a wide range of health concerns. Using these chatbots and intelligent assistants, less face-to-face interaction is needed between patients and medical staff, thereby reducing risks to these individuals. These tools are helping to reduce the overwhelming number of patients that hospitals and medical personnel may face. By employing bots and conversational AI tools it can help assess people with symptoms and address health needs without necessarily requiring an in-person doctor visit. Now, patients that can be managed at home will be advised to stay at home and free up vital resources for more severe cases.

One example of where we are seeing this in action is the Healthcare Bot service by Microsoft that uses AI-enabled chatbots to provide healthcare advice and some telemedicine capabilities. The system uses a natural conversation experience to impart personal health-related information and the government’s protocols on dealing with the pandemic.

AI and the supply chain

The demand for online commerce has increased tremendously as people shelter in place. The normal supply routes and logistical supplies suffer as a result of unprecedented lockdowns, closure of nonessential services and even curfews in extreme conditions. One way to address these restrictions is to use technology and robotics driven by AI for the safe provision of supplies, medical drugs and food supplies to those in lockdown.

Terra Drone is providing these services especially in the transportation of high-risk quarantined material and medical samples to and from these sites to Xinchang County’s disease control center. This considerably reduces the risk of medical personnel getting harmed by infected people or quarantined stuff. Other companies are utilizing AI to help speed up their logistics and warehouse functions and deliver goods reliably and safely with little disruption to the status quo.

AI seeking cures and treatments

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy has urged researchers to employ AI to find solutions to issues relating to COVID-19. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) have likewise asked AI researchers to assist in vaccine research to combat the virus. There are almost 29,000 research documents that need to be analyzed and scrutinized to find information about the novel coronavirus. Computers can extract the required information much faster than humans. To meet this challenge, a Kaggle competition called “CORD-19” was developed to generate potential solutions from interdisciplinary fields to provide input to the available data set as part of this challenge.

One of the most potent capabilities of machine learning is its ability to find patterns in big data. As such, researchers are applying AI in the discovery of potential vaccines and effective treatments. Google subsidiary DeepMind, known for its AlphaZero and research into artificial general intelligence, recently put efforts to find a vaccine through the sequencing of six protein structures linked to COVID-19. Usually, research into vaccines can take a significant amount of time, but using significant GPU-based horsepower and powerful algorithms that can make sense of tremendous amounts of big data, new vaccines could be developed faster using this AI approach.

Companies of all sizes, including startups, are jumping in to help. In February 2020, British startup BenevolentAI published two articles that identified approved drugs that could potentially be used to target and block the viral replication of COVID-19. The AI system mined a large quantity of medical records and identified the patterns and signals which could imply potential solutions. Their system identified a total of six compounds that could block the cellular pathways that allow the virus to replicate. The company is reaching out to potential manufacturers of the identified drugs to pursue clinical trials that can test their efficacy.

Likewise, Insilico Medicine is also applying AI techniques to find a vaccine for COVID-19 and similar viruses. In February 2020, the company generated an extensive list of molecules that could bind a specific protein of the COVID-19 virus. Using their AI-based drug discovery platform utilizing deep learning, the company filtered the potential list of molecules down to just a hundred. They then seek to test seven molecules, which could be put on trial by medical labs for viability as a suitable vaccine for COVID-19.

Other startups such as Gero Pte. Ltd., based in Singapore, are using AI to spot potential anti-COVID-19 compounds that have previously been tested in humans. Using machine learning and AI-based pattern matching, the company identified medicines such as the generic agents niclosamide, used for parasite infections, and nitazoxanide, an antiparasitic and antiviral medicine, that could slow the new virus’s replication.

Applying AI to diagnosis and detection

A study published in the journal Radiology wrote that artificial intelligence-based deep learning models can accurately detect COVID-19 and differentiate it from forms of community-acquired pneumonia. The model, which is called the COVID-19 detection neural network (COVNet), extracts visual features from 4,356 computed tomography (CT) exams from 3,322 patients for the detection of COVID-19. To make the model more robust, community-acquired pneumonia (CAP) and non-pneumonia CT exams were included.

With COVID-19 first spreading like wildfire through China, Chinese companies hurried to provide innovative solutions to tackle the problem. Infervision introduced an AI-based solution that uses a machine learning model to increase the speed of medical image analysis and assist with the diagnosis of COVID-19 in patients. The use of AI-enhanced medical imaging reduces time needed to get positive results and can handle the large number of cases that need diagnosis at great speed and efficiency. As a result, hospitals and labs with scarce resources can quickly screen suspected COVID-19 patients and expedite treatment.

In addition to analyzing radiology imagery, AI systems can handle a range of other health-related data and diagnostics. A recent study presented by researchers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst aims to predict illness based on cough patterns. Other AI systems are listening to coughs and can potentially indicate patients who have the coronavirus from other patients who might have coughs originating from other illnesses. The combination of inputs from thermal images and audio input by microphones can assist clinics and other locations in identifying and segregating sick patients.

As can be seen above, the impacts of a global pandemic are widespread, impacting almost every corner of our society and economy. AI is being applied in a widespread manner as well, handling everything from the treatment and prevention of the virus to dealing with the impacts of the pandemic across the ecosystem. No doubt this is AI’s moment to shine and show how it can add transformational value across the globe.

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Live from BETT: What’s new in EDU–Fostering an accessible, inclusive classroom that works for all students | | Microsoft EDU

It’s Day 3 of Bett, where we’ve been bringing you updates and insights into how to use the latest and most effective ed tech tools and resources. It’s our final day live streaming from London. We explored how educators can help students develop communication, and collaboration skills while using free tools like Office 365 Education and Microsoft Teams in our Day 1 episode here and we shared how you can prepare students for jobs of the future in our Day 2 episode here. Today, we want to talk about how to use built-in accessible tools at no extra cost and the power of joining an innovative and caring community of like-minded innovators in education.

Today, we’ll dive into ways to provide students with personalized learning, how to foster inclusion to meet the needs of all the learners in your classroom, and the power of joining a global community devoted to improving equity in education. At Microsoft, we’re committed to providing you and your students with built-in accessibility tools at no extra cost. These can improve language, literacy and numeracy skills and give students of all abilities independence and the opportunity to learn without stigma.  

In this episode we will show you how:  

  • You can use available Immersive Reader features in the new Microsoft Edge  
  • You can now use Office 365 Education online for free, from anywhere, with built-in tools for accessibility  
  • You can promote student confidence and capacity to learn and improve independently with powerful learning tools 

For starters, we want to share this inspiring story about Louis Riel School Division in Winnipeg, Manitoba, where the entire community is focused on creating equitable, inclusive and accessible learning environments. Check out this case study and video below to learn about how the district went about meeting the needs of all students and how administrators support teachers in accessing education technology in ways that advance teaching and learning goals. 

Video for Live from BETT: What’s new in EDU–Fostering an accessible, inclusive classroom that works for all students

The new Microsoft Edge– supporting inclusive learning 

The web should have built-in flexibility and accessibility to support you and every student in your classroom. The new Microsoft Edge web browser supports inclusive classrooms with built-in Microsoft Learning Tools and helps every student learn and benefit from the web. Immersive Reader capabilities in Microsoft Edge help students, particularly struggling readers, stay engaged and promote reading skills. While using Microsoft Edge, teachers and students can use Immersive Reader to change text size to improve readability and hear text read aloud. Additional Immersive Reader capabilities that allow users to customize their experience will come later this year. 

Learning Tools 

Today’s classrooms have students with diverse learning needs, and as teachers, we know you have a strong desire to effectively reach every one of your students. Microsoft Learning Tools enable teachers to provide differentiated support to all students in reading, writing, and math as well as communication. We have updates below! 


Immersive Reader 

We’re thrilled that the Immersive Reader learning tool continues to come to more platforms. The full-screen reading experience improves the readability of content in many ways, including by enabling users to tailor text size, fonts, spacing, line focus, read-aloud capabilities and more.

Here’s some additional Immersive Reader news: 

  • Spotlight on The Young Women’s Leadership School of Astoria and Azure AI partner Buncee: We’re inspired by the way that schools like the Young Women’s Leadership School of Astoria (TYWLS) are using Immersive Reader to empower readers of all ages and reading abilities. Learn more about their story and how Azure AI is enabling partners to build accessible applications in our blog.

Video for Live from BETT: What’s new in EDU–Fostering an accessible, inclusive classroom that works for all students

  • Six new immersive Reader partners: Today we are excited to highlight six new partners who are integrating the Immersive Reader: FlocabularyHaldorHelperbirditsLearningKidblog and Pear Deck.  These are the latest of six partners that have integrated the Immersive Reader, which is an Azure Cognitive Service.  To see the growing list of Immersive Reader partners, bookmark this link
  • Office Lens for iOS and Android both now have the full Immersive Reader experience integrated with the latest updates for both iPhone and iPad. Office Lens on Android (all platforms) will be shipping a similar update in spring. Office Lens is a free mobile scanning app. It offers a great way to capture text from a document or elsewhere without manually having to retype it. 
  • Language updates: Parts of speech in Immersive Reader allows students to label nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs. We’ve rolled out parts of speech for Arabic. We’ve also added the ability to translate to and from the Maori and Gaelic languages in the Immersive Reader. These will also be available in Live Presentations in PowerPoint for the Web. 
  • Immersive Reader for Microsoft Forms is now available globally for students and educators, so they can leverage Immersive Reader tools as they create or take a quiz.  


Dictation (speech to text) is an important technology that allows people to easily type with their voice. It is especially helpful for those with dyslexia, dysgraphia or mobility impairments. In addition to about a dozen languages already available, we are rolling out Dictation support in public preview for five new languages: Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Norwegian, and Swedish. These languages will start rolling out in Word, OneNote, Outlook and PowerPoint Desktop and web in late January.   


Equation Tools in OneNote for Windows 10  

We’re thrilled to let you know that we’re starting to roll out Equation Tools in OneNote for Windows 10. Equation Tools allows students to input and make changes to math equations more easily than by typing those in with a keyboard. To get started, all you do is press the Equation button in the ribbon Insert tab in OneNote on your Windows 10 device and choose from a range of structures and math symbols to build up equations.  

We believe an inclusive math class is one where students have a variety of methods for inputting equations because we know different learners have different styles and needs, and we’re so glad to add this resource to the classroom toolbox!  

Math Assistant in OneNote for iPad 

We’re excited to announce we’re bringing Math Assistant in OneNote to iPad users this spring. We heard you say you wanted Math Assistant on this platform, and we worked hard to make it happen. It’s easy to use–all you do to get started is log into your Office 365 Education account in OneNote on your iPad and press the Math button on the ribbon Draw tab. 

You’ll be able to use the tool to help you solve equations and see solution steps to help build student understanding. Look out for additional updates to the app, such as the ability to graph equations and generate practice quizzes, which is popular on other platforms, after Bett and ahead of back-to-school season.  

For more on inclusive math tools, check out this interactive guide.  

Windows graphing calculator for Windows 10 

We’re excited to announce that Windows Calculator is getting a new feature: graphing mode. We’re adding this feature to every Windows 10 and 10S PC for students and teachers to help with instruction related to graphing concepts. Educators and students will be able to use this free tool right from their devices, without having to buy an expensive graphing calculator. It will help users plot and analyze multiple equations and manipulate equation variables to help understand how changes to equations affect graphs. 

The graphing mode in Windows Calculator is available now through our Microsoft Insider program and will be refined and released for a general audience before back-to-school season.  

We’re excited to make this feature available to Windows 10 users, offering a built-in, easy-to-use tool that can help create a more inclusive learning environment. Many of you have asked if educators can disable the feature if they need to, for assessments for example, and the answer is yes. It’s yours to use with your students, as that makes sense. 

We welcome your feedback. We’ve open sourced the Windows Calculator app on GitHub, which means those of you who are computer science educators, or have some background knowledge, can study the source code, build system, unit tests and product roadmap and offer new ideas for improvements. We always enjoy seeing educators, and sometimes their students, get involved in this kind of collaboration. If you see a feature that is missing, build it yourself and add it to the graphing calculator! You can read more here


OneNote Live Captions. As we noted in our Bett kickoff post, a recent study at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg (USFSP), found that 42 percent of students use closed captions to help maintain focus and 38 percent use interactive transcripts to help them better retain information. In addition, student outcomes improve with the use of transcripts. This month, we are rolling out a private preview of OneNote that allows any student to connect OneNote to a Microsoft Translator captions via a Join Code and receive the captions and translation stream.  

This allows captions from the educator speaking to flow directly into OneNote for reading, while still allowing the student to take notes. In addition, the student can pause the captions, highlight portions, and then have the entire transcription saved as a page into OneNote. This feature will benefit all learners but especially those who may be hard of hearing or speak multiple languages. We’ll start by rolling out OneNote Live Captions in private Beta in early February with more general availability to follow.  

Empower Every Voice with Flipgrid: Microsoft’s free video discussion platform!

NEW! Edit captions, launch the Immersive Reader on video transcripts, and more. Flipgrid enables you to empower every voice in your classroom by recording and sharing short, awesome videos … together! Since last year, Flipgrid revolutionized the camera, adding trimming and rearranging clips, whiteboard mode, live inking, and more. Furthermore, every video is now automatically transcribed and close-captioned by Microsoft Azure. Take engagement to the next level by “sticking” videos ANYWHERE with the transformative Flipgrid AR. Inspired by your feedback and ideas, the Flipgrid team is constantly innovating and improving for you, your community, and your peers from 190 countries around the world.

Wrapping it up 

Thanks for checking out our latest episode of What’s New in EDU, live from Bett 2020 and those we brought you earlier in the week. We’ve enjoyed meeting so many innovative and passionate educators here in London. And we hope you found the information we brought you to be helpful. Please check out our new tech tools, free teacher training resources, STEM and computer science materials and advice on boosting future-ready skills in your students. As always, share your feedback with us on Twitter by tagging @MicrosoftEDU! 

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Author: Microsoft News Center

Dawn of a Decade: The Top Ten Tech Policy Issues for the 2020s

By Brad Smith and Carol Ann Browne

For the past few years, we’ve shared predictions each December on what we believe will be the top ten technology policy issues for the year ahead. As this year draws to a close, we are looking out a bit further. This January we witness not just the start of a new year, but the dawn of a new decade. It gives us all an opportunity to reflect upon the past ten years and consider what the 2020s may bring.

As we concluded in our book, Tools and Weapons: The Promise and the Peril of the Digital Age, “Technology innovation is not going to slow down. The work to manage it needs to speed up.” Digital technology has gone longer with less regulation than virtually any major technology before it. This dynamic is no longer sustainable, and the tech sector will need to step up and exercise more responsibility while governments catch up by modernizing tech policies. In short, the 2020s will bring sweeping regulatory changes to the world of technology.

Tech is at a crossroads, and to consider why, it helps to start with the changes in technology itself. The 2010s saw four trends intersect, collectively transforming how we work, live and learn. Continuing advances in computational power made more ambitious technical scenarios possible both for devices and servers, while cloud computing made these advances more accessible to the world. Like the invention of the personal computer itself, cloud computing was as important economically as it was technically. The cloud allows organizations of any size to tap into massive computing and storage capacity on demand, paying for the computing they need without the outlay of capital expenses. 

More powerful computers and cloud economics combined to create the third trend, the explosion of digital data. We begin the 2020s with 25 times as much digital data on the planet as when the past decade began.

These three advances collectively made possible a fourth: artificial intelligence, or AI. The 2010s saw breakthroughs in data science and neural networks that put these three advances to work in more powerful AI scenarios. As a result, we enter a new decade with an increasing capability to rely on machines with computer vision, speech recognition, and language translation, all powered by algorithms that recognize patterns within vast quantities of digital data stored in the cloud.

The 2020s will likely see each of these trends continue, with new developments that will further transform the use of technology around the world. Quantum computing offers the potential for breathtaking breakthroughs in computational power, compared to classical or digital computers. While we won’t walk around with quantum computers in our pockets, they offer enormous promise for addressing societal challenges in fields from healthcare to environmental sustainability.

Access to cloud computing will also increase, with more data centers in more countries, sometimes designed for specific types of customers such as governments with sensitive data. The quantity of digital data will continue to explode, now potentially doubling every two years, a pace that is even faster than the 2010s. This will make technology advances in data storage a prerequisite for continuing tech usage, explaining the current focus on new techniques such as optical- and even DNA-based storage.

The next decade will also see continuing advances in connectivity. New 5G technology is not only 20 times faster than 4G. Its innovative approach to managing spectrum means that it can support over a thousand more devices per meter than 4G, all with great precision and little latency. It will make feasible a world of ambient computing, where the Internet of Things, or IoT devices, become part of the embedded fabric of our lives, much as electrical devices do today. And well before we reach the year 2030, we’ll be talking about 6G and making use of thousands of satellites in low earth orbit.

All of this will help usher in a new AI Era that likely will lead to even greater change in the 2020s than the digital advances we witnessed during the past decade. AI will continue to become more powerful, increasingly operating not just in narrow use cases as it does today but connecting insights between disciplines. In a world of deep subject matter domains across the natural and social sciences, this will help advance learning and open the door to new breakthroughs.

In many ways, the AI Era is creating a world full of opportunities. In each technological era, a single foundational technology paved the way for a host of inventions that followed. For example, the combustion engine reshaped the first half of the 20th century. It made it possible for people to invent not just cars but trucks, tractors, airplanes, tanks, and submarines. Virtually every aspect of civilian economies and national security issues changed as a result.

This new AI Era likely will define not just one decade but the next three. Just as the impact of the combustion engine took four decades to unfold, AI will likely continue to reshape our world in profound ways between now and the year 2050. It has already created a new era of tech intensity, in which technology is reshaping every company and organization and becoming embedded in the fabric of every aspect of society and our lives.

Change of this magnitude is never easy. It’s why we live in both an era of opportunity and an age of anxiety. The indirect impacts of technology are moving some people and communities forward while leaving others behind. The populism and nationalism of our time have their roots in the enormous global and societal changes that technology has unleashed. And the rising economic power of large companies – perhaps especially those that are both tech platforms and content aggregators – has brought renewed focus to antitrust laws.

This is the backdrop for the top ten technology issues of the 2020s. The changes will be immense. The issues will be huge. And the stakes could hardly be higher. As a result, the need for informed discussion has rarely been greater. We hope the assessments that follow help you make up your own mind about the future we need collectively to help shape.

1. Sustainability – Tech’s role in the race to address climate change

A stream of recent scientific research on climate change makes clear that the planet is facing a tipping point. These dire predictions will catapult sustainability into one of the dominant global policy issues for the next decade, including for the tech sector. We see this urgency reflected already in the rapidly evolving views of our customers and employees, as well as in many electorates around the world. In countries where governments are moving more slowly on climate issues, we’re likely to see businesses and other institutions fill the gap. And over the coming decade, governments that aren’t prioritizing sustainability will be compelled to catch up.

For the tech sector, the sustainability issue will cut both ways. First, it will increase pressure on companies to make the use of technology more sustainable. With data centers that power the cloud ranking among the world’s largest users of electricity, Microsoft and other companies will need to move even more quickly than in recent years to use more and better renewable energy, while increasing work to improve electrical efficiency.

But this is just the tip of the iceberg. Far bigger than technology’s electrical consumption is “Scope 3” emissions – the indirect emissions of carbon in a company’s value chain for everything from the manufacturing of new devices to the production of concrete to build new buildings. While this is true for every sector of the economy, it’s an area where the tech sector will likely lead in part because it can. And should. With some of the world’s biggest income statements and healthiest balance sheets, look to Microsoft and other tech companies to invest and innovate, hopefully using the spirit of competition to bring out the best in each other.

This points to the other and more positive side of the tech equation for sustainability. As the world takes more aggressive steps to address the environment, digital data and technology will prove to be among the next decade’s most valuable tools. While carbon issues currently draw the most attention, climate issues have already become multifaceted. We need urgent and concerted action to address water, waste, biodiversity, and our ecosystems. Regardless of the issue or ultimate technology, insights and innovations will be fueled by data science and artificial intelligence. When quantum computing comes online, this will become even more promising.

By the middle or end of the next decade, the sustainability issue may have another impact that we haven’t yet seen and we’re not yet considering. This is on the world’s geopolitics. As the new decade begins, many governments are turning inward and nations are pulling apart. But sustainability is an issue that can’t be solved by any country alone. The world must unite to address environmental issues that know no boundaries. We all share a small planet, and the need to preserve humanity’s ability to live on it will force us to think and act differently across borders.

2. Defending Democracy – International threats and internal challenges

Early each New Year, we look forward to the release of the Economist Intelligence Unit’s annual Democracy Index. This past year’s report updated the data on the world’s 75 nations the Economist ranks as democracies. Collectively these countries account for almost half of the world’s population. Interestingly, they also account for 95 percent of Microsoft’s revenue. Perhaps more than any other company, Microsoft is the technology provider for the governments, businesses, and non-profits that support the world’s democracies. This gives us both an important vantage point on the state of democracy and a keen interest in democracy’s health.

Looking back at the past decade, the Economist’s data shows that the health of the world’s democracies peaked in the middle of the decade and has since declined slightly and stagnated. Technology-fueled change almost certainly has contributed in part to this trend.

As we enter the 2020s, defending democracy more than ever requires a focus on digital tech. The past decade saw nation-states weaponize code and launch cyber-attacks against the civilian infrastructure of our societies. This included the hacking of a U.S. presidential campaign in 2016, a tactic Microsoft’s Threat Intelligence Center has since seen repeated in numerous other countries. It was followed by the WannaCry and Not-Petya attacks in 2017, which unleashed damage around the world in ways that were unimaginable when the decade began.

The defense of democracy now requires determined efforts to protect political campaigns and governments from the hacking and leaking of their emails. Even more important, it requires digital protection of voter rolls and elections themselves. And most broadly, it requires protection against disinformation campaigns that have exploited the basic characteristics of social media platforms.

Each of these priorities now involves new steps by tech companies, as well as new strategies for and collaboration with and among governments. Microsoft is one of several industry leaders putting energy and resources into this area. Our Defending Democracy Program includes an AccountGuard program that protects candidates in 26 democratic nations, an ElectionGuard program to safeguard voting, and support for the NewsGuard initiative to address disinformation. As we look to the 2020s, we will need continued innovation to address the likely evolution of digital threats themselves.

The world will also need to keep working to solidify existing norms and add new legal rules to protect against cybersecurity threats. Recent years have seen more than 100 leading tech companies come together in a Tech Accord to advance security in new ways, while more than 75 nations and more than 1,000 multi-stakeholder signatories have now pledged their support for the Paris Call for Trust and Security in Cyberspace. The 2020s hopefully will see important advances at the United Nations, support from global groups such as the World Economic Forum, and by 2030, work on a global compact to make a Digital Geneva Convention a reality.

But the digital threats to democracy are not confined to attacks from other nations. As the new decade dawns, a new issue is emerging with potentially profound and thorny implications for the world’s democracies. Increasingly government officials in democratic nations are asking whether the algorithms that pilot social media sites are undermining the political health of their citizenries. 

It’s difficult to sustain a democracy if a population fragments into different “tribes” that are exposed to entirely different narratives and sources of information. While diverse opinions are older than democracy itself, one of democracy’s characteristics has traditionally involved broad exposure to a common set of facts and information. But over the past decade, behavioral-based targeting and monetization on digital platforms has arguably created more information siloes than democracy has experienced in the past. This creates a new question for a new decade. Namely, will tech companies and democratic governments alike need new approaches to address a new weakness for the world’s democracies? 

3.  Journalism – Technology needs to give the news business a boost

While we look to improve the health of the world’s democracies, we need to also monitor the well-being of another system playing a vital role in free societies across the globe: the independent press. For centuries, journalists have served as watch dogs for democracies, safeguarding political systems by monitoring and challenging public affairs and government institutions. As Victorian era historian Thomas Carlyle wrote, “There were Three Estates in Parliament; but, in the Reporters’ Gallery yonder, there sat a Fourth Estate more important far than they all.”

It’s clear that a healthy democracy requires healthy journalism, but newspapers are ailing – and many are on life support. The decline of quality journalism is not breaking news. It has been in slow decline since the start the 20th century with the advent of the radio and later when television overtook the air waves. By the turn of this century, the internet further eroded the news business as dotcoms like Craigslist disrupted advertising revenue, news aggregators lured away readers, and search engines and social media giants devoured both. While a number of bigger papers weathered the storm, most small local outlets were hard hit. According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Employment Statistics, in 2018, 37,900 Americans were employed in the newsroom, down 14 percent from 2015 and down 47 percent from 2004.

The world will be hard pressed to strengthen its democracies if we can’t rejuvenate quality journalism. In the decade ahead the business model for journalism will need to evolve and become healthier, which hopefully will include partnerships that create new revenue streams, including through search and online ads. And as the world experiments with business models, we can’t forget to learn from and build on the public broadcasters that have endured through the years, like the BBC in the United Kingdom and NPR in the United States.  

Helping journalism recover will also include protecting journalists, as we’ve learned through Microsoft’s work with the Clooney Foundation for Justice. Around the world violence against journalists is on the rise, especially for those reporters covering conflict, human rights abuses, and corruption. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 25 journalists were killed, 250 were imprisoned, and 64 went missing in 2019. In the coming decade, look for digital technology like AI to play an important role in monitoring the safety of journalists, spotting threats, and helping ensure justice in the court of law. 

And lastly, it’s imperative that we use technology to protect the integrity of journalism. As the new decade begins, technologists warn that manipulated videos are becoming the purveyors of disinformation. These “deepfakes” do more than deceive the public, they call all journalism into question. AI is used to create this doctored media, but it will also be used to detect deepfakes and verify trusted, quality content. Look for the tech sector to partner with the news media and academia to create new tools and advocate for regulation to combat internet fakery and build trust in the authentic, quality journalism that underpins democracies around the world.

4. Privacy in an AI Era – From the second wave to the third

In the 2010s, privacy concerns exploded around the world. The decade’s two biggest privacy controversies redefined big tech’s relationships with government. In 2013, the Snowden disclosures raised the world’s ire about the U.S. Government’s access to data about people. The tech sector, Microsoft included, responded by expanding encryption protection and pushing back on our own government, including with litigation. Five years later, in 2018, the guns turned back on the tech sector after the Cambridge Analytica data scandal engulfed Facebook and digital privacy again became a top-level political issue in much of the world.

Along the way, privacy laws continued to spread around the world. The decade saw 49 new countries adopt broad privacy laws, adding to the 86 nations that protected privacy a decade ago. While the United States is not yet on that list, 2018 saw stronger privacy protections jump from Europe across the Atlantic and move all the way to the Pacific, as California’s legislature passed a new law that paves the way for action in Washington, D.C.

But it wasn’t just the geographic spread of privacy laws that marked the decade. With policy innovation centered in Brussels, the European Union effectively embarked on a second wave of privacy protection. The first wave was characterized by laws that required that web sites give consumers “notice and consent” rights before using their data. Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR, represented a second wave. It gives consumers “access and control” over their data, empowering them to review their data online and edit, move, or delete it under a variety of circumstances.

Both these waves empowered consumers – but also placed a burden on them to manage their data. With the volume of data mushrooming, the 2020s likely will see a third wave of privacy protection with a different emphasis. Rather than simply empowering consumers, we’re likely to see more intensive rules that regulate how businesses can use data in the first place. This will reach data brokers that are unregulated in some key markets today, as well as a focus on sensitive technologies like facial recognition and protections against the use of data to adversely impact vulnerable populations. We’re also likely to see more connections between privacy rules and laws in other fields, including competition law.

In short, fasten your seat belt. The coming decade will see more twists and turns for privacy issues.

5. Data and National Sovereignty – Economics meet geopolitics

When the combustion engine became the most important invention a century ago, the oil that fueled it became the world’s most important resource. With AI emerging as the most important technology for the next three decades, we can expect the data that fuels it to quickly become the 21st century’s most important resource. This quest to accumulate data is creating economic and geopolitical issues for the world.

As the 2020s commence, data economics are breeding a new generation of public policy issues. Part of this stems from the returns to scale that result from the use of data. While there are finite limits to the amount of gasoline that can be poured into the tank of a car, the desire for more data to develop a better AI model is infinite. AI developers know that more data will create better AI. Better AI will lead to even more usage for an AI system. And this in turn will create yet more data that will enable the system to improve yet again. There’s a risk that those with the most data, namely the first movers and largest companies and countries, will overtake others’ opportunity for success.

This helps explain the critical economic issues that are already emerging. And the geopolitical dynamics are no less vital.

Two of the biggest forces of the past decade – digital technology and geopolitics – pulled the world in opposite directions. Digital technology transmitted data across borders and connected people around the world. As technology brought the world together, geopolitical dynamics pulled countries apart and kindled tensions on issues from trade to immigration. This tug-of-war explains one reason a tech sector that started the decade as one of the most popular industries ended it under scrutiny and with mounting criticism.

This tension has created a new focus that is wrapped into a term that was seldom used just a few years ago – “digital sovereignty.” The current epicenter for this issue is Western Europe, especially Germany and France. With the ever-expanding ubiquity of digital technology developed outside of Europe and the potential international data flows that can result, the protection and control of national data is a new and complicated priority, with important implications for evolving concepts of national sovereignty.

The arrival of the AI Era requires that governments think anew about balancing some critical challenges. They need to continue to benefit from the world’s most advanced technologies and move a swelling amount of data across borders to support commerce in goods and services. But they want to do this in a manner that protects and respects national interests and values. From a national security perspective, this may lead to new rules that require that a nation’s public sector data stays within its borders unless the government provides explicit permission that it can move somewhere else. From an economic perspective, it may mean combining leading international technologies with incentives for local tech development and effective sovereignty protections.

All this has also created the need for open data initiatives to level the playing field. Part of this requires opening public data by governments to provide smaller players with access to larger data sets. Another involves initiatives to enable smaller companies and organizations to share – or “federate” – their data, without surrendering their ownership or control in the data they share. This in turn requires new licensing approaches, privacy protections, and technology platforms and tools. It also requires intellectual property policies, especially in the copyright space, that facilitate this work.

During the first two decades of this century, open source software development techniques transformed the economics of coding. During the next two decades, we’ll need open data initiatives that do the same thing for data and AI.

The past year has seen some of these concepts evolve from political theory to government proposals. This past October, the German Government proposed a project called GAIA-X to protect the country’s digital sovereignty. A month later, discussions advanced to propose a common approach that would bring together Germany and France.

It’s too early to know precisely how all these initiatives will evolve. For almost four centuries, the world has lived under a “Westphalian System” defined by territorial borders controlled by sovereign states. The technology advances of the past decade have placed new stress on this system. Every aspect of the international economy now depends on data that crosses borders unseen and at the speed of light. In an AI-driven economy and data-dependent world, the movement of data is raising increasingly important questions for sovereignty in a Westphalian world. The next decade will decide how this balance is struck.

6. Digital Safety – The need to constantly battle evolving threats

The 2010s began with optimism that new technology would advance online safety and better protect children from exploitation. It ended with a year during which terrorists and criminals used even newer technology to harm innocent children and adults in ways that seemed almost unimaginable when the decade began. While the tech sector and governments have moved to respond, the decade underscores the constant war that must be waged to advance digital safety.

Optimism marked the decade’s start in part because of PhotoDNA, developed in 2009 by Microsoft and Hany Farid, then a professor at MIT. The industry adopted it to identify and compare online photos to known illegal images of child exploitation. Working with key non-profit and law enforcement groups, the technology offered real hope for turning the tide against the horrific exploitation of children. And spurred on by the British Government and others, the tech sector took additional steps globally to address images of child pornography in search results and on other services.

Yet as the New York Times reported in late 2019, criminals have subsequently used advancing video and livestreaming technologies, as well as new approaches to file-sharing and encrypted messaging, to exploit children even more horrifically. As a result, political pressure is again pushing industry to do more to catch up. It’s a powerful lesson of the need for constant vigilance.

Meanwhile, online safety threats become more multifaceted. One of the decade’s tragic days came on March 15, 2019 in Christchurch, New Zealand. A terrorist and white supremacist used livestreaming on the internet as the stage for mass shootings at two mosques, killing 51 innocent civilians.

Led by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, the New Zealand Government spearheaded a global multi-stakeholder effort to create the Christchurch Call. It has brought governments and tech companies together to share information, launch a crisis incident protocol, and take other steps to reduce the possibility of others using the internet in a similar way in the future.

All of this has also led to new debate about the continued virtues of exempting social media platforms from legal liability for the content on their sites. Typified by section 230 of the United States’ Communications Decency Act, current laws shield these tech platforms from responsibilities faced by more traditional publishers. As we look to the 2020s, it seems hard to believe that this approach will survive the next decade without change.

7. Internet Inequality – A world of haves and have-nots

In 2010, fewer than a third of the world’s population had access to the internet. As this decade concludes, the number has climbed to more than half. This represents real progress. But much of the world still lacks internet access. And high-speed broadband access lags much farther behind, especially in rural areas.

In an AI Era, access to the internet and broadband have become indispensable for economic success. With public discussion increasingly focusing on economic inequality, we need to recognize that the wealth disparity in part is rooted in internet inequality.

There are many reasons to be optimistic that there will be faster progress in the decade ahead. But progress will require new approaches and not just more money.

This starts with working with better data about who currently has interest access and at what speeds. Imagine trying to restore electric power to homes after a big storm without accurate data on where the power is out. Yet that’s the fundamental reality in a country such as the United States when we discuss closing the broadband gap. The country spends billions of dollars a year without the data needed to invest it effectively. And this data gap is by no means confined to North America.

Better data can make its best contribution if it’s coupled with new and better technology. The next decade will see a world of new communications technologies, from 5G (and ultimately 6G) to thousands of low Earth orbiting satellites and terrestrial technologies like TV White Spaces. All of this is good news. But it will be essential to focus on where each technology can best be used, because there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all approach for communications technology. For example, 5G will transform the world, but its signals travel shorter distances, making it less than optimal for many scenarios in rural areas.

With better data and new technology, it’s possible to bring high speed internet to 90 percent of the global population by 2030. This may sound ambitious, but with better data and sounder investments, it’s achievable. Internet equality calls for ambition on this level.

8. A Tech Cold War – Will we see a digital iron curtain down the Pacific?

The new decade begins with a tech question that wasn’t on the world’s radar ten years ago. Are we witnessing the start of a “tech cold war” between the United States and China? While it’s too early to know for certain, it’s apparent that recent years have been moving in this direction. And the 2020s will provide a definitive answer.

The 2010s saw China impose more constraints on technology and information access to its local market. This built on the Great Chinese Firewall constructed a decade before, with more active filtering of foreign content and more constraints on local technology licenses. In 2016, the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress adopted a broad Cyber Security Law to advance data localization and enable the government to take “all necessary” steps to protect China’s sovereignty, including through a requirement to make key network infrastructure and information systems “secure and controllable.” Combined with other measures to manage digital technology that have raised human rights concerns, these policies have effectively created a local internet and tech ecosystem that is distinct from the rest of the world.

This Chinese tech ecosystem in the latter half of the decade also grew increasingly competitive. The pace and quality of innovation have been impressive. With companies such as Huawei, Ali Baba, and Tencent gaining worldwide prominence, Chinese technology is being adopted more globally while its own market is less open – and at the same time that it’s subject to Chinese cyber security public policies. 

As the 2010s close, the United States is responding with new efforts to contain the spread of Chinese technology. It’s not entirely different from the American efforts to contain Russian ideology and influence in the Cold War that began seven decades ago. Powered in part by American efforts to dissuade other governments from adopting 5G equipment from China, tensions heightened in 2019 when the U.S. Department of Commerce banned American tech companies from selling to Huawei components for its products.

In both Washington and Beijing, officials are entering the new decade preparing for these tensions around technology to harden. The implications are huge. Clearly, the best time to think about a Tech Cold War is before it begins. The Cold War between the United States and Soviet Union lasted more than four decades and impacted virtually every country on the planet. As we look ahead to the 2020s, the strategic questions for each country and the implications for the world are no smaller.

9. Ethics for Artificial Intelligence – Humanity needs to govern machines

For a world long accustomed to watching robots wreak havoc on the silver screen, the last few years have brought advances in artificial intelligence that still fall far short of the capabilities seen in science fiction, but are well beyond what had seemed possible when the decade began. While typically still narrow in scope, AI enters a new decade with an increasing ability to match human perception and cognition in vision, speech recognition, language translation, and machine learning based on discerning patterns in data.

In a decade that increasingly gave rise to anxiety over the impact of technology, it’s not surprising that these advances unleashed a wave of discussions focused on AI and its implications for ethics and human rights. If we’re going to empower machines to make decisions, how do we want these decisions to be made? This is a defining question not just for the decade ahead, but for all of us who are alive today. As the first generation of people to give machines the power to make decisions, we have a responsibility to get the balance right. If we fail, the generations that follow us are likely to pay a steep price.

The good news is that companies, governments, and civil society groups around the world have embraced the need to develop ethical and human rights principles for artificial intelligence. We published a set of six ethical principles at Microsoft in January 2018, and we’ve been tracking the trends. What we’re seeing is a global movement towards an increasingly common set of principles. It’s encouraging.

As we look to the 2020s, we’re likely to see at least two new trends. The first is the shift from the articulation of principles to the operationalization of ethics. In other words, it’s not sufficient to simply state what principles an organization wants to apply to its use of AI. It needs to implement this in more precise standards backed up by governance models, engineering requirements, and training, monitoring, and ultimately compliance. At Microsoft we published our first Responsible AI Standard in late 2019, spelling out many of these new pieces. No doubt we’ll improve upon it during the next few years, as we learn both from our own experience and the work of many others who are moving in a similar direction.

The second trend involves specific issues that are defining where “the rubber meets the road” for ethical and human rights concerns. The first such issue has involved facial recognition, which arguably has become a global policy issue more rapidly than any previous digital tech issue. Similar questions are being discussed about the use of AI for lethal autonomous weapons. And conversations are starting to focus on ethics and the use of algorithms more generally. This is just a beginning. By 2030, there will likely be enough issues to fill the table of contents for a lengthy book. If there’s one common theme that has emerged in the initial issues, it’s the need to bring together people from different countries, intellectual disciplines, and economic and government sectors to develop a more common vocabulary. It’s the only way people can communicate effectively with each other as we work to develop common and effective ethical practices for machines.

10. Jobs and Income Inequality in an AI Economy – How will the world manage a disruptive decade?

It’s clear that the 2020s will bring continued economic disruption as AI enables machines to replace many tasks and jobs that are currently performed by people. At the same time, AI will create new jobs, companies, and even industries that don’t exist today. As we’ve noted before, there is a lot to learn from the global economy’s transition from a horse-powered to automobile-driven economy a century ago. Like foundational technologies before it, AI will likely create something like an economic rollercoaster, with an uneven match between prosperity and distress during particular years or in specific places.

This will create many big issues, and two are already apparent. The first is the need to equip people with the new skills needed to succeed in an AI Economy. During the 2010s, technology drove globalization and created more economic opportunity for people in many developing economies around the world, perhaps especially in India and China. The resulting competition for jobs led not only to political pressure to turn inward in some developed nations, but to a recognition that economic success in the future requires more investments in education. As we saw through data published by LinkedIn, in a country like the United States there emerged a broadened interest in Europe’s approach to apprenticeships and technical skills and the pursuit of a range of post-secondary credentials. Given the importance of this trend, it’s not surprising that there was also broader political interest in addressing the educational costs for individuals pursuing these skills.

There’s every reason to believe that these trends will accelerate further in the decade ahead. If anything, expanding AI adoption will lead to additional economic ripple effects. We’re likely to see employers and governments alike invest in expanded learning opportunities. It has become a prerequisite for keeping pace.

In many ways, however, this marks the beginning rather than the conclusion of the economic debates that lie ahead. Four decades of technological change have already contributed to mounting income inequality. It’s a phenomenon that now impacts the politics of many communities and countries, with issues that range from affordable housing to tax rates, education and healthcare investments, and income redistribution.

All this raises some of the biggest political questions for the 2020s. It reminds us that history’s defining dates don’t always coincide with the start of a new decade. For example, one of the most important dates in American political history came on September 14, 1901. It was the day that Theodore Roosevelt succeeded to the United States Presidency. More than a century later, we can see that it represented the end of more than 30 years that combined advancing technology with regulatory restraint, which led to record levels of both prosperity and inequality. In important respects, it was the first day of the Progressive Era in the United States. Technology continued to progress, but in a new political age that included stronger business regulation, product liability laws, antitrust enforcement, public investment, and an income tax.

As we enter the 2020s, political leaders in many countries are debating whether to embark on a similar shift. No one has a crystal ball. But increasingly it seems like the next decade will usher in not only a new AI Era and AI Economy, but new approaches to politics and policy. As we’ve noted before, there’s a saying that “history doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes.” From our vantage point, there seems a good chance that the next decade for technology and policy will involve some historical poetry.

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Author: Microsoft News Center

Tallying the momentous growth and continued expansion of Dynamics 365 and the Power Platform – The Official Microsoft Blog

We’ve seen incredible growth of Dynamics 365 and the Power Platform just in the past year. This momentum is driving a massive investment in people and breakthrough technologies that will empower organizations to transform in the next decade.

We have allocated hundreds of millions of dollars in our business cloud that power business transformation across markets and industries and help organizations solve difficult problems.

This fiscal year we are also heavily investing in the people that bring Dynamics 365 and the Power Platform to life — a rapidly growing global network of experts, from engineers and researchers to sales and marketing professionals. Side-by-side with our incredible partner community, the people that power innovation at Microsoft will fuel transformational experiences for our customers into the next decade.

Accelerating innovation across industries

In every industry, I hear about the struggle to transform from a reactive to proactive organization that can respond to changes in the market, customer needs, and even within their own business. When I talk to customers who have rolled out Dynamics 365 and the Power Platform, the conversation shifts to the breakthrough outcomes they’ve achieved, often in very short time frames.

Customers talk about our unique ability to connect data holistically across departments and teams — with AI-powered insights to drive better outcomes. Let me share a few examples.

This year we’ve focused on a new vision for retail that unifies back office, in-store and digital experiences. One of Washington state’s founding wineries — Ste. Michelle Wine Estates — is onboarding Dynamics 365 Commerce to bridge physical and digital channels, streamline operations with cloud intelligence and continue building brand loyalty with hyper-personalized customer experiences.

When I talk to manufacturers, we often zero in on ways to bring more efficiency to the factory floor and supply chain. Again, it’s our ability to harness data from physical and digital worlds, reason over it with AI-infused insights, that opens doors to new possibilities. For example, Majans, the Australian-based snackfood company, is creating the factory of the future with the help of Microsoft Dynamics 365 Supply Chain Management, Power BI and Azure IoT Hub — bringing Internet of Things (IoT) intelligence to every step in the supply chain, from quality control on the production floor to key performance indicators to track future investments. When everyone relies on a single source of truth about production, inventory and sales performance, decisions employees make drive the same outcome — all made possible on our connected business cloud.

These connected experiences extend to emerging technologies that bridge digital and physical worlds, such as our investment in mixed reality. We’re working with companies like PACCAR — manufacturer of premium trucks — to improve manufacturing productivity and employee training using Dynamics 365 Guides and HoloLens 2, as well as Siemens to enable technicians to service its eHighway — an electrified freight transport system — by completing service steps with hands-free efficiency using HoloLens and two-way communication and documentation in Dynamics 365 Field Service.

For many of our customers, the journey to Dynamics 365 and the Power Platform started with a need for more personalized customer experiences. Our customer data platform (CDP) featuring Dynamics 365 Customer Insights, is helping Tivoli Gardens — one of the world’s longest-running amusement parks — personalize guest experiences across every touchpoint — on the website, at the hotel and in the park.  Marston’s has onboarded Dynamics 365 Sales and Customer Insights to unify guest data and infuse personalized experiences across its 1,500-plus pubs across the U.K.

The value of Dynamics 365 is compounded when coupled with the Power Platform. In late 2019, there are over 3 million monthly active developers on the Power Platform, from non-technical “citizen developers” to Microsoft partners developing world-class, customized apps. In the last year, we’ve seen a 700% growth in Power Apps production apps and a 300% growth in monthly active users. All of those users generate a ton of data, with more than 25 billion Power Automate steps run each day and 25 million data models hosted in the Power BI service.

The impact of the Power Platform is shared in the stories our customers share with us. TruGreen, one of the largest lawn care companies in the U.S., onboarded Dynamics 365 Customer Insights and the Microsoft Power Platform to provide more proactive and predictive services to customers, freeing employees to spend more time on higher value tasks and complex customer issue resolution. And the American Red Cross is leveraging Power Platform integration with Teams to improve disaster response times.

From the Fortune 500 companies below to the thousands of small and medium sized businesses, city and state governments, schools and colleges and nonprofit organizations — Dynamics 365 and the Microsoft Cloud are driving transformative success delivering on business outcomes.

24 business logos of Microsoft partners

Partnering to drive customer success

We can’t talk about growth and momentum of Dynamics 365 and Power Platform without spotlighting our partner community — from ISVs to System Integrators that are the lifeblood of driving scale for our business. We launched new programs, such as the new ISV Connect Program, to help partners get Dynamics 365 and Power Apps solutions to market faster.

Want to empower the next generation of connected cloud business? Join our team!

The incredible momentum of Dynamics 365 and Power Platform means our team is growing, too. In markets around the globe, we’re looking for people who want to make a difference and take their career to the next level by helping global organizations digitally transform on Microsoft Dynamics 365 and the Power Platform. If you’re interested in joining our rapidly growing team, we’re hiring across a wealth of disciplines, from engineering to technical sales, in markets across the globe. Visit careers.microsoft.com to explore business applications specialist career opportunities.

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Author: Microsoft News Center

A Look Inside Tools and Weapons: The Promise and the Peril of the Digital Age

A day we’ve long anticipated has finally arrived. Today, the new book that Carol Ann Browne and I have written, Tools and Weapons: The Promise and the Peril of the Digital Age, publishes by Penguin Press and Hodder & Stoughton in North America and English languages around the world. We chose the phrase “Tools and Weapons” to capture the paradox of technology. While tech companies like Microsoft create products and services to serve humanity, that same tech is being weaponized to inflict harm. And more indirectly, many of the issues people debate today, like income equality, trade, immigration and globalization, are all enabled and fueled by technology.

These challenges affect us all, no matter where we live, fostering a new age of anxiety. Tools and Weapons starts with the proposition that if your technology changes the world, you bear a responsibility to help the world navigate these changes. We wrote the book to make these issues more accessible to people and to examine ways to address them.

As we worked on the book, Carol Ann and I reflected on several stories drawn from current events, issues faced by Microsoft, and history. Why history? As we delved into the issues, we realized most have parallels from the past. The horse lost its job to the car, trains forced interstate regulation, the public revolted against the radio in the 1940s, and people feared that early cameras and the advent of street lamps would invade their privacy. But what’s different today is the speed of change. In a way, the issues created by today’s technology aren’t unprecedented, things are just moving a lot faster.

Tools and Weapons opens with a tour of what has become the world’s filing cabinet – the cloud. While the cloud is the underpinning of almost every aspect of society, most people don’t understand what it truly is: a massive fortress of concrete and steel. And while there is no cloud without a data center, these complexes are shrouded in mystery. We realized that to understand how the world really works today, you need to visit a data center. That’s why we open the book by taking the reader on the type of tour that typically is available only to a few industry insiders.

I hope that when people read this book, they will gain not only a better understanding of the forces changing our world, but also a sense that there is a promising way forward. It is a path that requires the entire technology sector to change and take on more responsibility. It’s also a path that requires governments to do more, to move faster and change as well. Fundamentally, it’s a path that requires that we work together in very concrete ways to bring together people who create technology, people who use technology, people who govern technology, and people who are impacted by it. As the book illustrates with concrete and colorful stories, we believe that this will provide the best approach to address issues that range from privacy and security to the development of artificial intelligence and the impact of technology on our jobs and international relations between nations, including the U.S. and China.

And there is one other thing that was very near and dear to our hearts. For all of us who like to read, as Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has said, we all buy more books than we start and we all start more books than we finish. We had a clear goal throughout our writing process and that was to write a book that we hope people will enjoy reading. I hope you enjoy it. Please tell us what you think on LinkedIn or Twitter.  

Tools and Weapons is available today in the English language at retailers including Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and International Booksellers. Editions in additional languages will publish in the coming months. To learn more, visit the Tools and Weapons website and register for public events in your city.

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Author: Microsoft News Center

Expanding Xbox Voice Commands to Hundreds of Millions of Smart Devices: Xbox Now Connects with Cortana and Alexa-Enabled Devices – Xbox Wire

Here at Team Xbox, we’ve had a long history in offering voice controls as a way to interact with your Xbox console through Kinect and headsets. Today, starting with select Xbox U.S. Insiders, we’re expanding voice support by introducing the Xbox Skill, which enables you to navigate and interact with Xbox One using voice commands through your Cortana and Alexa-enabled devices.

With the Xbox Skill, you can use voice commands to power your Xbox One console, adjust volume, launch games and apps, start and stop broadcasts on Mixer, capture screenshots, and more. It’s the fastest way to get into your games and one of the easiest ways to interact with your console for everyday tasks. For example, if you have the skill enabled on your Echo and you’re a part of the Insider preview, just say “Alexa, start Rocket League.” and this command will automatically turn on your console, sign you in, and launch your game.

The Xbox Skill integrates with your Cortana and Alexa-enabled device such as a Windows 10 PC, Amazon Echo, Harman Kardon Invoke, Sonos One, or Cortana and Alexa apps on iOS and Android, enabling voice commands to control your Xbox One console.

For Xbox Insiders* in the U.S. who want to try the Xbox Skill with Cortana or Alexa, here’s how to get started:

If you use Cortana:

  1. Sign into the Xbox you want to control.
  2. On your Windows 10 PC, click here and sign in with your Microsoft account to link the skill.
  3. Try your first command! “Hey Cortana, tell Xbox to open Netflix.”

If you use Alexa:

  1. Sign into the Xbox you want to control.
  2. Click here, sign in with your Amazon Account, and click Enable.
  3. Sign in with your Microsoft account to link the skill.
  4. Let Alexa discover your console, then follow the instructions to pair your console with Alexa.
  5. Try your first command! “Alexa, start Rocket League.”

Wondering what else the Xbox Skill can do? Just say “Ask Xbox what can I say?” to discover more commands for your console. For a full list of commands, troubleshooting assistance, and to give the team feedback and ideas, you can visit the Xbox Insider Subreddit.

As always, your feedback is important to us and our partners as we continue to evolve this experience and grow our voice integration across devices, digital assistants and voice services.

*Note to Xbox Insiders: We will be rolling the Xbox Skill out to Xbox Insider rings gradually. If the Digital Assistant setting is visible on your console in Settings -> Devices, then you are currently eligible to test the Xbox Skill. If it doesn’t appear, then please be patient as we are working quickly to add more Insider rings to the beta.

Getting Started with Microsoft in the Classroom |

Want to get started with Microsoft in the classroom? We’ve pulled together a list of upcoming training sessions hosted by Microsoft Learning Design Specialists Troy Waller & Megan Townes. In these session you will get to know how you can make the most of Microsoft in your classroom.

Tuesday 4th September 2018, 8:00-9.30PM AEST

This online workshop is aimed at educators for whom Office 365 is relatively new and who are looking to implement solutions to classroom problems right away. It is designed to give educators an understanding of how Office 365 can provide the right environment for better learning outcomes. Educators will learn to become more innovative with cloud-based tools, regardless of the device they use. We will explore Office 365 through hands-on activities that will introduce educators to Office Online and OneDrive.

This workshop will be facilitated by Microsoft Learning Design Specialist Troy Waller.

Register now: https://www.eventbrite.com.au/e/getting-started-with-office-365-registration-48795432452

Monday 17th September 2018, 8:00 pm – 9:30 pm AEST

Minecraft: Education Edition is an open-world game that promotes creativity, collaboration, and problem-solving in an immersive environment where the only limit is your imagination. Students can play in a secure environment along with their classmates, collaborate on projects, and record and reflect on their learning within the game. This workshop is designed specifically for K-12 teachers who would like to introduce Minecraft: Education Edition into their classroom. Learning objectives: Participants will learn why Minecraft enhances learning experiences for both students and educators. Explore digital resources available to educators. Learn about the unique features of Minecraft: Education Edition. Tour through a world demonstrating curriculum applications of the game.

This workshop will be facilitated by Microsoft Learning Design Specialist Megan Townes.

Register now: https://www.eventbrite.com.au/e/getting-started-with-minecraft-registration-48796774466  

Tuesday 2nd October 2018, 8:00 pm – 9:30 pm AEST

Microsoft’s mission is to empower all people and all organisations to achieve more. The classroom is no different. Microsoft Windows and Windows-based applications like Office, together with other assistive technologies, offer features that make computers easier to use for everyone – giving teachers the opportunity to provide personalised learning, and students an improved experience and equal opportunity in the classroom. Join our session to see how Windows 10 and Office 365 can transform students’ educational experience and personalise learning.

This workshop will be facilitated by Microsoft Learning Design Specialist Troy Waller.

Register now: https://www.eventbrite.com.au/e/creating-an-inclusive-classroom-with-microsoft-technologies-registration-48796816592

Monday 15th October 2018, 8:00 pm – 9:30 pm AEDT

Learning is more powerful and dynamic with tools that are already right in front of you – and it’s up to educators to impress this on students in the classroom. With Microsoft OneNote, educators can create digital notebooks that support academic standards and education outcomes across disciplines and tasks, such as writing, reading, mathematics, science, history, CTE, and elective courses. Students may use OneNote across content areas and grade levels, and use OneNote to compile and organize unstructured information, research, and content. OneNote also supports research, collaboration, information management, communication, note taking, journaling, reflective writing, and academic requirements. 

This workshop will be facilitated by Microsoft Learning Design Specialist Megan Townes.

Register now: https://www.eventbrite.com.au/e/getting-started-with-onenote-registration-48796971054

Monday 15th October 2018, 8:00 pm – 9:30 pm AEDT

OneNote Class Notebooks have a personal workspace for every student, a content library for handouts and a collaboration space for lessons and creative activities. It is designed to help teachers and lecturers save time and be even more efficient with their classes. This workshop will introduce teachers to the basic features of Class Notebook and allow time for exploration to get hands-on with ideas and examples for classroom use.

This workshop will be facilitated by Microsoft Learning Design Specialist Troy Waller.

Register now: https://www.eventbrite.com.au/e/getting-started-with-class-notebook-registration-48797026219

Monday 12th November 2018, 8:00 pm – 9:30 pm AEDT

How do we support teachers and students who are challenged to learn in an increasingly collaborative and mobile environment? Microsoft Teams creates an ideal digital hub for teachers to deliver instruction, enhance learning, and interact in a rich and engaging online space. Participants will engage in a series of immersive learning activities that will build a strong understanding of how to use Microsoft Teams to improve collaboration with colleagues and meet the learning needs of their students. 

This workshop will be facilitated by Microsoft Learning Design Specialist Megan Townes.

Register now: https://www.eventbrite.com.au/e/getting-started-with-teams-registration-48797109468

Remember to follow our social channels for live streams as well as updates on upcoming events and training sessions; Facebook & Twitter. Alternatively if you’re looking for the Right Device for your classroom, you can see our future ready solutions here.

This post was originally published on this site.

July Xbox Update Rolling Out Today – Xbox Wire

E3 may be in our rear view like a fall leaf in Forza Horizon 4, but we’ve been busy updating the Xbox experience and adding features that you’ve requested.  The July Xbox Update adds features that make finding content even easier and offers a host of improvements to Mixer. Here’s what’s new:

FastStart UI on Xbox One

FastStart Enabled for Select Titles
Announced back at E3 2018, FastStart is a new innovation from our Xbox Platform team that allows you to jump into your games twice as fast and play after downloading just a fraction of it. FastStart works by identifying which files are needed to begin playing and prioritizes the download of those files first, enabling you to quickly jump into full-fidelity gameplay while the remainder of your title downloads in the background. Simply find the FastStart-enabled title you want to play in our catalog, hit ‘Download’ and your console will take care of the rest. It’s that simple. What’s more, it’s now enabled for select English language titles in our Xbox Game Pass catalog, and will expand to more games in more languages over time. You can learn more about FastStart here.

Group Your Games and Apps
With so much content available, fans have asked for more options to organize libraries of games and apps.  Today, we’re introducing a powerful new enhancement to Pins, which we call “Groups.” With Groups, you can create multiple collections of content made up of anything from within My Games & Apps. You can also assign custom names to each Group, organize and order them, and add individual Groups to Home. Groups will appear across My Games & Apps, Home and Guide, so you’ll be able to access your Groups at a moment’s notice. Best of all, Groups are tied to your Xbox Live account, so they will automatically sync across multiple Xbox One consoles. We’ve started you off with a Group that should look very familiar — your Pins!

Search Improvements on Xbox One

More Search Options
Searching for content is now even easier!  Now pressing the Y button anywhere in the dashboard will bring up the search dialog, allowing you to easily launch your content, sift through Settings, or find products in the Store.  This process is found in many apps, but now you can do it anywhere within the dashboard.  Not seeing enough results for your search? Hit enter or click the “more results” button to view a full page for your search results.

Mixer Share Controller Improvements
We’ve made it easier to use Share Controller on the web. First, we’ve enabled full mouse and keyboard support for PC users, along with Share Controller Key Bindings.

Second, we’ve added multi-touch support for touch-enabled devices. This allows multiple controls to be used at the same time! For example, you can control the joystick and press A at the same time on your touch laptop.

And lastly, we’ve added a per-channel leaderboard that spotlights viewers who have contributed to a streamer’s channel the most during a Share Controller session.

Full Screen Broadcasting on Mixer
Mixer streamers can now go full screen with their webcam while broadcasting. You can switch to full screen webcam broadcasting at any time you want. While in this mode game audio is muted, making it perfect for talking to your audience while switching from game to game or setting up before you start playing. You can even do all IRL broadcasts!

For the best experience we recommend using one of these cameras:

  • Microsoft LifeCam Studio
  • Logitech HD Pro Webcam C922
  • Logitech Webcam C930e
  • Microsoft LifeCam HD-3000

Console broadcasting quality and stability improvements
We’ve made a number of changes and fixes to improve overall broadcast video quality.  You will now experience improved performance when broadcasting bandwidth-heavy multiplayer.

All of these updates are available because of the Xbox Insiders who have helped shape these features, so big thanks to all of you for your valuable input.  If you’d like to help create the future of Xbox and get access to early features, download the Xbox Insider Hub app on your Xbox One or Windows 10 PC.  You can also visit the Xbox Insider blog here for the latest release notes and to learn more. Happy gaming!

Better Together on Nintendo Switch!

We’ve put together this handy FAQ with everything you need to know to enjoy the new version of Minecraft on Nintendo Switch!

Q: What is the Bedrock version of Minecraft?

A: The Bedrock version of Minecraft has been the codebase on mobile and Windows 10 since 2012, also known as our Bedrock Engine.  We brought this version to Xbox One with the Better Together Update last fall and now we’re launching it on Nintendo Switch.

Q: How is this version different than the one I already own?

A: Minecraft delivers a united experience to players on all platforms that the Bedrock codebase is used. Build with friends via cross-play with Xbox One, Windows 10, VR and mobile devices, and customize how you play with community content available through the in-game marketplace. Servers will become available via a post-launch update at a later date.

 Q: I already own Minecraft: Nintendo Switch Edition, how do I get this new version?

A: Players who already own Minecraft: Nintendo Switch Edition can download the new version of Minecraft free of charge. Either follow the prompts in-game to download or find it directly in the Nintendo eShop.

Q: Will DLC content I currently own transfer over to the new version of Minecraft?

A: All of the existing DLC content will be transferable from Minecraft: Nintendo Switch Edition to the new version of Minecraft.

Q: What’s a Microsoft Account and why do I need it for a Nintendo Switch?

A: A Microsoft Account is a free account you can sign-in on device that allows Minecraft players on Switch to play with others on non-Nintendo devices like iOS, Android, Xbox One and Windows 10 via cross-play, Realms or Servers. Having a Microsoft Account also enables the portability of your MINECOINS and marketplace purchases to other devices and platforms. To create an account click here.

Got more questions? Head over to our FAQ page.

We’d also like to thank SkyBox Labs for their outstanding help developing the new version of Minecraft for Nintendo Switch!

Power and simplicity—updates to the Office 365 user experience – Microsoft 365 Blog

Technology is changing the way people get things done. We’ve picked up the pace. Our work is more collaborative. And we’re blurring the boundaries of time and place. When we ask customers why they continue to choose Office for their most important work, they tell us that they love the power the Office apps offer. The breadth and depth of features is unmatched in the industry and allows them to do things that they just can’t do with other products. But they also tell us that they need Office to adapt to the changing environment, and they’d love us to simplify the user experience and make that power more accessible. Today, we’re pleased to announce user experience updates for Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook rolling out gradually over the next few months. These changes are inspired by the new culture of work and designed to deliver a balance of power and simplicity.

Office is used by more than a billion people every month, so while we’re excited about these changes, we also recognize how important it is to get things right. To guide our work, we came up with “The Three Cs”—a set of guiding principles that we use as a north star. Because these principles will make this process feel different than any previous user experience update, we thought it would be useful to share them with you.

CustomersWe’re using a customer-driven innovation process to co-create the design of the Office apps. That process consists of three phases: initial customer research and analysis; concepting and co-creation; and validation and refinement.

ContextCustomers love the power of Office, but they don’t need every feature at the same time. We want our new designs to understand the context that you’re working in, so you can focus on the job at hand. That means surfacing the most relevant commands based on the work you’re doing and making it easy to connect and collaborate with others.

ControlWe recognize that established skills and routines are powerful—and that the way someone uses the apps often depends on specific parts of the user interface. So we want to give users control, allowing them to toggle significant changes on and off.

These updates are exclusive to Office.com and Office 365—the always up-to-date versions of our apps and services. But they won’t happen all at once. Instead, over the next several months we will deploy new designs to select customers in stages and carefully test and learn. We’ll move them into production only after they’ve made it through rigorous rounds of validation and refinement.

The initial set of updates includes three changes:

Simplified ribbon—A new, updated version of the ribbon is designed to help users focus on their work and collaborate naturally with others. People who prefer to dedicate more screen space to the commands will still be able to expand the ribbon to the classic three-line view.

The first app to get this new experience will be the web version of Word and will start to roll out to select consumer users today on Office.com. Select Insiders will then see the simplified ribbon in Outlook for Windows in July.

Word, Excel, and PowerPoint for Windows offer our deepest, richest feature set—and they’re the preferred experience for users who want to get the most from our apps. Users have a lot of “muscle memory” built around these versions, so we plan on being especially careful with changes that could disrupt their work. We aren’t ready to bring the simplified ribbon to these versions yet because we feel like we need more feedback from a broader set of users first. But when we do, users will always be able to revert back to the classic ribbon with one click.

Image of the simplified ribbon in Office 365.

New colors and icons—Across the apps you’ll start to see new colors and new icons built as scalable graphics—so they render with crisp, clean lines on screens of any size. These changes are designed to both modernize the user experience and make it more inclusive and accessible.

The new colors and icons will first appear in the web version of Word for Office.com. Then, later this month, select Insiders will see them in Word, Excel, and PowerPoint for Windows. In July, they will go to Outlook for Windows, and in August they will begin rolling out to Outlook for Mac.

Search—Search will become a much more important element of the user experience, providing access to commands, content, and people. With “zero query search,” simply placing your cursor in the search box will bring up recommendations powered by AI and the Microsoft Graph.

Commercial users can already see this experience in action in Office.com, SharePoint Online, and the Outlook mobile app, and it will start rolling out to commercial users of Outlook on the web in August.

Image of the search function in Office 365.

For an overview of these changes, check out the video below by Jon Friedman, our chief designer for Office.

To develop these initial designs, Jon’s team worked closely with customers. They collected data on how people use the apps and built prototypes to test new concepts. While we have plenty of work left to do, we’ve definitely heard encouraging things from customers using early builds:

“It’s simpler and I feel like I can open it and immediately get my bearings and move forward. Not a lot of extra information. The tasks are obvious on this screen.”

“The toolbar provides the most frequently used features…maximizing the screen real estate for the actual content.”

“I like the extra space. What I do find is that the feature to toggle it off/on is helpful because occasionally I can’t figure out (quickly) where something went.”

We plan on carefully monitoring usage and feedback as the changes roll out, and we’ll update our designs as we learn more.

Technology is changing the way people get things done at work, at school, and at home, resetting expectations for productivity. Inspired by these changes, these updates are designed to deliver a balance of power and simplicity. But what’s most exciting for us is that over the next few months we’ll be co-creating and refining these new experiences with our customers—and making the power of Office more accessible for everyone.