June 26, 2020

Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives

Official Microsoft Blog Addressing racial injustice – an email from Satya Nadella
With significant input from employees and leaders who are members of the Black and African American community, we have developed a set of actions that we believe are both meaningful to improving the lived experience at Microsoft, as well as driving change in the communities in which we live and work. Today, we are making commitments to address racial injustice and inequity for the Black and African American community in the United States. We will additionally take important steps to address the needs of other communities, including the Hispanic and Latinx community, across the company in the next five years.

The Seattle Times Microsoft vows to add $150 million on diversity, double Black leaders
Microsoft said it will add $150 million to its diversity and inclusion investment while working to double the number of Black employees in senior and leadership positions at the company by 2025. Microsoft and other large technology companies have come under fire for poor workforce diversity and hiring and promoting few Black executives and managers despite several years of public data reporting and pledges to improve.

COVID-19: Industry News & Response

CNBC Microsoft’s new Asia boss outlines business priorities in the age of coronavirus
In an environment where firms big and small have suffered tremendous disruption due to the coronavirus pandemic, Microsoft wants to enable its clients to stay in business and build long-term resilience, the company’s Asia president told CNBC.


Microsoft on the Issues Increasing election security monitoring in cloud computing
Today, we have an exciting announcement we believe will help increase election security while enabling election officials to take advantage of the advanced capabilities of cloud computing. For years, the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency and state and local governments throughout the United States have worked with the non-profit Center for Internet Security, Inc.

LiveMint Microsoft partners with CIS to increase election security in US
Microsoft has partnered with non-profit Center for Internet Security (CIS) in a bid to help increase election security in the US while enabling election officials to take advantage of the advanced capabilities of Cloud computing. For years, the US Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency and state and local governments throughout the US have worked with CIS to monitor the security of election-related data.


The Washington Post The Technology 202: Lawmakers unveil bipartisan proposal to make social media moderation more transparent
Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.), the Chair of the Senate Commerce communications subcommittee, and ranking member Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), introduced legislation that aims to make major social media companies more transparent about content moderation on their services. The bill would require companies to remove posts and other activity that the courts determine is illegal within 24 hours.

CNET Trump executive order suspending H-1B visas takes heat from tech giants
Many of the tech industry’s biggest and most influential companies are criticizing an executive order from President Donald Trump that temporarily halts issuance of work visas, including the H-1B for high-skilled workers, preventing immigrant workers from coming to the US until the end of the year.


Motherboard Over 1,000 AI Experts Condemn Racist Algorithms That Claim to Predict Crime
Over 1,000 technologists and scholars are speaking out against algorithms that attempt to predict crime based solely on a person’s face, saying that publishing such studies reinforces pre-existing racial bias in the criminal justice system. The public letter has been signed by academics and AI experts from Harvard, MIT, Google, and Microsoft, and calls on the publishing company Springer to halt the publication of an upcoming paper. The paper describes a system that the authors claim can predict whether someone will commit a crime based solely on a picture of their face, with “80 percent accuracy” and “no racial bias.”

The Los Angeles Times Why are Black and Latino people still kept out of the tech industry?
Talent sourcing is another major issue on the diversity and inclusion agenda, where gender stereotypes and biases can significantly impact recruitment outcomes. Analysing the data from thousands of applications around the world, Maersk learned that when women applied, they are as successful as men in being offered a role.

Axios End of broadband pledge could cut lifelines for families
Internet service providers’ pledges to waive fees and forgive missed payments end on June 30, likely cutting off service for some families who can’t pay their bills due to the economic impact of the pandemic. Cutting off internet service for families and students will worsen the loss of knowledge and academic skills that students face over the summer, as well as sever lifelines for those who need broadband connections for work, summer school, searching for jobs and getting news.

Telecompetitor Rural Broadband Bills Aplenty – Here’s a List of Them
The COVID-19 pandemic and stay-at-home orders have awakened Americans to the digital divide and the lack of high-speed broadband in some rural areas. Legislators have a wide range of ideas about how to address this, as evidenced by at least half a dozen new bills that have been introduced in the House and Senate in recent weeks.

The Washington Post America’s digital divide is an emergency
The virus has made us go virtual. We bank online, shop for groceries online, spend time with loved ones online, attend schools online and even access a ballot online. Today, the Internet is an essential service, a public good. Like electricity or water, no one should be excluded from using it.


The Brookings Institution

  • Blog on formal method applications for increased cybersecurity.
    Five years ago, cybersecurity researchers accomplished a rare feat. A team at the Pentagon’s far-out research arm, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), loaded special software into a helicopter’s flight control computer. Then they invited expert hackers to break into the software. After repeated attempts, the flight control system stood strong against all attempts to gain unauthorized control. This outcome was unusual. Experienced hackers who are given direct, privileged access to software almost always find a way in. The reason is simple. Decades after the birth of computer programming, modern software products are riddled with flaws, many of which create security vulnerabilities that attackers can easily exploit to slip through digital defenses. This is why reducing the error rate in software code is essential to turn the tide against relentless computer criminals and foreign adversaries that steal wealth and menace critical infrastructure with relative impunity. (Tech Stream – Formal methods as a path toward better cybersecurity, June 23, 2020)

The World Economic Forum

  • Blog on using tech to improve workplace diversity and inclusion.
    Firstly, I have let technology pass me by. Nowadays, whenever a new system is implemented, I take a deep breath before I dive in to realize its advantages. This is part of a natural reaction to change, but my first thought is often: “How much time am I going to have to invest in getting used to the new technology?” versus “what can this new technology do to drive change in diversity and inclusion?”. Secondly, and more recently, I have seen first-hand the results of biased technology in facial recognition. Earlier this year, I needed to have a passport-sized photo taken for a business travel visa. Shockingly, I ‘officially’ failed the biometrics. I am mixed race, and personally feel I was gifted with full lips; I kept my mouth closed for the photo, but unfortunately the technology decided that the ‘wider than acceptable’ parameters of my lips meant my mouth must be open, which was not acceptable.(Blog – Technology can be a great ally in the drive for greater inclusion and diversity, June 23, 2020)

Note: Voices for Innovation regularly shares a range of opinion articles and press releases from organizations in and publications covering tech policy. These pieces are meant to educate our audience, not to endorse specific platforms or bills.