Harnessing and commercializing cloud computing, artificial intelligence (AI) and other technology innovations, is more than a profit-generating business strategy for Microsoft. Brad Smith, president and chief legal officer at the Redmond, Wash. software giant, believes they can also help solve some of world's most pressing problems.
In a new edition of A Cloud for Global Good, the company reveals some of the priorities that will guide Microsoft's corporate social responsibility efforts in 2018 and beyond.
In October 2016, Microsoft published A Cloud for Global Good policy road map, an e-book containing a set of recommendations for policy makers and the IT industry that spans cloud computing, AI, data privacy, education, sustainability and several other themes. The recommendations also reflect the software maker's outlook on technology and how it can be brought to bear on societal issues.
In the 2018 update, Microsoft is tackling some of the negative consequences of using AI and other technologies based on the tumultuous year the IT industry experienced in 2017.
"We continue to witness cyber-attacks by nation-states on citizens, critical infrastructure and the institutions of democracy. We read on an almost daily basis about the criminal hacking of companies and governments to steal private and sensitive information of customers," wrote Smith in the 2018 update to the e-book. "We listen to the concerns about the loss of jobs to automation and the disruptive impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on entire sectors of the economy."
In terms of cyber-security, Microsoft continues to honor its commitment to spend $1 billion in the IT security field each year. If necessary, the company is poised to use legal means to disrupt nation-state attacks.
Backed by their governments, nations-state attackers are becoming a growing concern for enterprises, especially those that operate critical infrastructure.
During the NetEvents Global Press and Analyst Summit in September 2017, members of the intelligence community warned that nation-state hackers and cyber-thieves are teaming up, combining the sophistication of skilled financial hackers with the practically unlimited resources of a nation state to potentially disastrous effect. FireEye recently warned of the spread of the TRITON malware, which appears to target vital industrial systems and bears the hallmarks of "a nation-state preparing for an attack," in a Dec. 14 security advisory.
When it comes to AI, Microsoft is tackling the technology's reputation as a job- and privacy-killer.
To help mitigate the potential damage that the technology can do to the employment market, Microsoft is advocating "amplifying human ingenuity through artificial intelligence." The software giant hopes policy makers will invest in training and skills development, as well as putting AI to work for the benefit of underserved communities and people with disabilities.
Microsoft also calls for privacy laws that protect user information and the development of "human-centered AI" through industry initiatives like the Partnership on AI.
Established in 2016, the nonprofit Partnership on AI initiative explores how the technology can benefit society and conducts research on ethics and inclusivity, privacy and other areas. The alliance is backed industry heavyweights, including as well as Microsoft.