Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has revealed a three part philanthropic initiative whereby the tech giant will donate $1 billion (£704m) of cloud computing resources towards non-profit organisations and education over the next three years.
The Redmond firm argues the cloud is a vital resource for “unlocking the secrets held by data”, in terms of communications and problem solving, better delivery of services, and helping organisations work in a more productive and efficient manner.
The initiative comes from the recently formed Microsoft Philanthropies unit, and will include access to Microsoft Azure, the Enterprise Mobility Suite (EMS), and CRM Online for non-profits and non-governmental organisations, as well as further access to Office 365.
“Cloud computing has emerged as a vital resource for addressing the world’s problems,” said Brad Smith, Microsoft president and chief legal officer in a company blog post. “It is vital that the cloud serve the public good in the broadest sense. While the marketplace is reaching a rapidly growing number of customers around the world, it is not yet benefiting everyone.
“If we’re going to realise Microsoft’s mission of empowering every person and organisation on the planet to achieve more, we need to reach those that the market is not yet reaching,” he added.
Microsoft is certainly not the first company to be promoting a philanthropic cause – Facebook’s continued quest to get the entire planet online being a case in point – but the more cynical in the industry have previously asked quite how altruistic such goals are; “business dressed as charity”, as The Verge put it back in 2013. In 2014, Rackspaceoffered investment for a data science boot camp, admitting that while the key was to get the knowledge out to market, it would be no bad thing if the graduates were recruited by the managed cloud vendor.
Among the projects Microsoft has already contributed to are a biodiversity research program in Brazil, a research laboratory at the University of Texas, and leveraging cloud-based health records management in Botswana.