“We are hearing from governments that they need a lot of help in technology automation. And if put in place rightly, the opportunities that can be offered through e-Government initiatives are tremendous. In my view, small countries are often those that do the best at e-Government as it is a lot easier in terms of working to break down the barriers between the departments”. Says Peter Moore, Regional Managing Director, Public Sector APAC, Microsoft, in an exclusive interview with egov magazine
Could you brief our readers about the broad vision and mission of public sector initiatives by Microsoft?
Microsoft’s mission is to enable people and businesses throughout the world to realise their full potential. One way we fulfill our mission is by developing innovative software that transforms the way people work, learn and communicate. Another way is by using our resources and expertise to help expand social and economic opportunities in communities around the world.
The initiatives that my team drives here in Asia Pacific (APAC), together with similar teams across the rest of the world, play an important role in helping us realise our mission. By partnering with governments and educational institutions around the world, Microsoft is committed to finding technology solutions that help to improve the operations of government and the delivery of services to its citizens, expand the quality and reach of educational opportunities and find new ways to grow local economies.
What are the major activities you have done in the public sector, particularly in the Asia Pacific?
In Asia Pacific, we have developed a lot of campaigns and initiatives that reach out to governments and educational institutions.
For example – we recognise that teachers play a very crucial and important role in determining or changing the lives of young students. We also acknowledge the role that technology can play in schools and in learning especially if teachers are equipped with the right technology skills. With that in mind, we have a programme called the Innovative Teachers Conference that we organise every year. This event brings together all the innovative teachers across the region. We hope that with this get-together, teachers are able to establish a network and are able to exchange information or learn from each other, new or innovative ways and methods of teaching in schools and in their countries. We have gone one step further this year by launching the Innovative Teachers’ portal where we are able to, through our software and technology, provide a central network portal where teachers are able to interact, communicate and share information across the region.
We recently held the Microsoft Government Leaders Forum (GLF) in Asia, an annual event that we put together for government leaders across the region. The event, which was held in Beijing, China, provides a dynamic discussion platform for government and education leaders across Asia to exchange experiences and discuss issues related to governance and service delivery through interactive panel discussions, practical case studies and presentations by visionary keynote speakers. Similar GLF events are also organised in other regions as well.
At this same event at GLF Asia, we also recently announced SoftwareAP. net, an initiative for bridging the gap between entrepreneurial high-tech growth companies, venture capitalist and government ecosystems to give small companies access to the cross border growth in the Asia Pacific region. This joint initiative shows Microsoft’s commitment to growing local software companies and is aimed at accelerating the growth of software and web service providers. The programme will also provide access to qualified funding networks and government assistance, as well as low cost, high value business development services. This is just an example of some of the work that we do across Asia Pacific that will help drive software companies in the countries to thrive, with the assistance from governments.
Do you think e-Government initiatives are necessary for the developing countries to serve their citizens better? Do you have any specific e-Government projects for the developing countries?
We are hearing from governments that they need a lot of help in technologyautomation. And if put in place rightly, the opportunities that can be offered through e-Government initiatives are tremendous. In my view, small countries are often those that do the best at e-Government as it is a lot easier in terms of working to break down the barriers between the departments. It is breaking down the barriers between the different levels of government. It is also about getting the people who work in the government to exercise leadership so that they are excited about these improvements and so that the measures that they look at, the reduction of paperwork, the increase of responsiveness that their readers get them to feel like those are great things and show them the product, show them the opportunity that, as they embrace these changes, that will be something that they get credit for as they deliver in a new way.
Pulling this technology together, connecting up to the existing government systems requires great software approaches. It requires standards for interoperability; it requires very clever ways of making sure that the transition can be made easily. Our strategy that talks to this is a seamless service delivery to reduce red tape, and we have created an e-Gov framework that allows existing applications to be plugged into that one at a time, so that you can do this in an evolutionary way, although with a model of where you want to get to and making sure that everything fits that.
What are the major obstacles you are facing while working with the governments in both the developed and developing countries?
It is mostly about the mindset of the people who run the organisation. We need to have a group of people who are willing to drive change and structure of the organisation to accommodate and embrace the technology change. Often, we have governments come to us to say, I would like to embrace technology automation but I’d like everything to be status quo. That is not possible. embracing technology change means embracing a change in mindset.
Tell us about the Microsoft Unlimited Potential programme in India (MUPP) and the impact it created?
Our Unlimited Potential programme aims to accelerate our commitment to facilitate sustained social and economic opportunity for the more than 5 billion people living in every country around the world that do not today benefit from technology.
We recently announced at our Government Leaders’ Forum recently, an expansion of the programme which looks like extending, renewing and accelerating Microsoft’s longterm commitment to use technology, training and partnerships to transform education, foster local innovation, and enable jobs and opportunities to sustain a continuous cycle of social and economic growth for everyone. The expanded programme aims to focus on three areas – education, innovation and jobs and economic opportunity. In India, we have a programme called Project “Shiksha” which is focused on delivering access to technology in education. Project ‘Shiksha’, aims to accelerate computer literacy by providing an end to end solution which includes software solutions, comprehensive training for teachers and students, IT curriculum development, and scholarships for teachers and students across India, reaching out to over 80,000 school teachers and 3.5 million students across government schools.
Can you share your experiences in the public sector around the world in the context of e-Readiness?
This goes back to my earlier point about what I commonly hear as the main issue raised by the governments I speak to. They are ready to embrace technology automation and ready to look at e-Gov infrastructure and network. However, they also need to remember that this also means that they will need to be ready for it from a mindset perspective. This requires a whole new shift in thinking as well as restructuring the organisation for better efficiency and operations.
What are your future plans for the public sector, especially for emerging markets in Asia?
We are making big bets in driving strong government initiatives in the next few years. An example is the recent Unlimited Potential announcement we made. Through the Partners in Learning programme, Microsoft announced the Microsoft Student Innovation Suite, an affordable and reliable software package for governments purchasing and giving Windows-based PCs to primary and secondary students for their personal use at home and for schoolwork. The education suite includes Windows XP Starter Edition, Microsoft Office Home and Student 2007, Microsoft Math 3.0, Learning Essentials 2.0 for Microsoft Office, and Windows Live Mail desktop. Available in the secondhalf of 2007 Microsoft will offer this suite for US$3 to qualifying governments that purchase and supply PCs directly to students.