The Impact of Microsoft in Asia Pacific

The Accelerating Asia Pacific summit is a media and analyst gathering showcasing how Microsoft, through technology and partnerships, is making a real and positive impact in Asia. I’m honoured to be selected as one of the student bloggers to attend this great event and to share the stories through my blog.  Here are the standout topics and discussions from day 1 of the event.

It’s always interesting to learn more about the latest innovation in Microsoft Research. Prior to this event, I interned at Microsoft Research India for three months so I’m very excited to learn about their latest innovations. Edward Cutrell, Microsoft Research India, shared more about the project call, CGNet Swara, which will enable everyone to report local news or issues in their local language. I can see how this could have an impact in India where a lot of news happens every day but goes unheard by the authorities because it is never covered by the local newspapers. Jonathan Tien also shared about the project Engkoo from Microsoft Research Asia, which enables learning of English in China through translation knowledge from billions of web pages.

Another topic which I thought was really interesting was raising awareness of Microsoft’s efforts in building in features which few people are aware of, such as Narrator, into their operating systems. Tan Siew Ling’s, Society for the Physically Disabled, experience on using features such as Narrator enables visual impaired people to use the computer freely left a deep impression on me, and a greater appreciation for Microsoft and the efforts the company is making to cater to the disabled.

Here’s an interesting thought that came out of a panel discussion on investing in students, start-ups and entrepreneurs – parents in Asia are likely to ask their children if they want to become an engineer or doctor in the future, but never an entrepreneur. This was one of the key barriers for students in Asia Pacific identified by Johnathan Lee from Cradle Fund. Johnathan went on to highlight that some of the fundamentals of starting a business included funding and support which Microsoft’s BizSpark program provides, creating a lower risk opportunity for all entrepreneuers.

The panel discussion “We don’t wait for change, we make change” was one of my favourites from day 1 as it involved two ex-Imagine Cup winners – Levi Tan Ong (Imagine Cup 2010 Game Design category) and James Pinto (Imagine Cup 2008 Embedded Development) together with Hunter Walkengorst from qutbluebox discussing how students can turn their ideas into reality. Because I’m part of the Microsoft Student Partners Social Media Team for Imagine Cup, it was really inspirational to see past competitors take their ideas to the next level and start a business from it.

Next up was my panel discussion on technology engaging students. This was my first time as a panelist and I was really nervous about it but Jason Trump from Microsoft guided me all the way through and I think the discussion went well. I had the opportunity to meet some great people from this panel discussion such as Mechai Viravaiddya from Population and Community Development Association, who started the bamboo school which educates students with all the skills required to earn a living on their own in Thailand. I also met Dr. Vu from HCMC University of Education also shared how technology can help in learning and education. All in all, a fantastic experience for me.

Education through gaming? Yeah, sign me up for that! Kids nowadays play games more than everything else, education through gaming will be more effective now. I strongly agree with the point made by Khong Yee Jian from Creative Robotics Education that with technology like Microsoft’s Kinect, kids can enjoy the game while learning something useful and get some exercise! Levi gave the example of how we can even learn something from a first person shooter game, like Gears of War, through throwing a flash bang before entering the house to rescue the hostages while taking down the enemy at the same time. Hmm, the point seems right to me, although is not something common will happen, but this is something anyone can pick up in the game without realizing it.

The most inspiring thing from day 1 had to be Feng Yan-Ting from Taiwan sharing how technology changed her life. Yan-Ting was diagnosed with cerebral palsy since but this never stopped her from learning computer technology. Through Unlimited Potential program, she can now type e-mail messages and communicate with her family members and friends. Now I’ve always believed that the computer is accessible for everyone, the only question is whether people want to learn it. If Yan-Ting can overcome all her pain and difficulty to learn computer technology, then others who are luckier than her should do it too.

I would say that Microsoft is really making a different to help NGOs, partners and students to achieve their goals through Microsoft technologies. I have no doubts that Microsoft is creating a big impact in Asia as seen through the sharing by the panelists from different countries, fields and background. I’m happy to say that this is all just the beginning, through Microsoft technologies and partnership with NGOs, I strongly believe Microsoft will create a bigger impact in Asia and reach out to everyone who needs the help.

by Ooi Keng Siang (Microsoft Student Partners) via Ooiks’s Blog

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