We live in an amazing time when technology is changing almost every aspect of our lives—at breathtaking speed.
Advances in healthcare, education, communication, and productivity have increased life expectancy around the globe and helped lift hundreds of millions of people out of poverty and into the middle class.
For many, the ability to connect to the people we care about and the information we’re looking for instantly from any location is so commonplace that we already take it for granted.
Now, with the advent of cloud computing, we’ve arrived at the beginning of an era of even more profound transformation. A new generation of technology innovation is delivering capabilities that promise new ways to expand access to economic opportunity and address some of humanity’s most pressing problems.
However, the cloud is creating disruption in other ways as well. People question the safety of their community, the sustainability of their job, and the future prospects of their children. There are deep concerns about whether and how this technology can be used to benefit everyone, rather than just the fortunate few. Clearly, we’ve reached a critical crossroads where we must rethink how people interact, companies conduct business, and governments protect public safety, manage economic growth, and deliver services.
From Horses to Cars
There are echoes of our current era of technology-driven change in a pair of photographs taken in New York City in the early part of the last century. The images are of the Flatiron Building viewed from across the intersection of Broadway, Fifth Avenue, and East 23rd Street, and they are strikingly similar except for one important feature.
In the first image, taken in 1905, the primary mode of transportation is equine—horses haul carts laden with freight, horse-drawn carriages convey people, and horse-drawn cabs sit curbside waiting for fares. In the second image, taken 20 years later, not a single horse can be seen. Instead, a long line of automobiles snakes down Broadway, parked cars jam the curbs, and a stretch of pavement in front of the Flatiron Building has been converted to a parking lot.
What happened in between was a period of profound transformation and disruption. In 1905, it took more than 100,000 horses to move goods and people through New York City. Tens of thousands of people were employed feeding and cleaning up after them. Thousands more worked as blacksmiths, wheelwrights, saddle-makers, and carriage builders. Nationwide, one quarter of the country’s agricultural output was dedicated to growing crops to feed horses.
Two decades later, a new form of horsepower predominated. The result fueled innovation that gave rise to new industries, generated vast numbers of new jobs, and transformed the economy. But it was also a 20-year span that saw the end of a generations-old way of life and the dawn of a new kind of society—not just in New York but in cities around the world. During that time, entire categories of work that had provided a good living for people for centuries all but disappeared.
A Technology Revolution for all
The emerging realities of a society that suddenly moved at the speed of cars rather than the trot of horses meant that new laws had to be enacted, new infrastructures built, and new social norms developed.
At Microsoft, we are fundamentally optimistic about the future. But we also recognize that the cloud must be used to drive societal and economic benefits. What’s needed is a balanced set of policy and technology solutions that will promote positive change and ensure that the benefits of cloud computing are broadly shared.
We believe that to achieve this change, we must work together to create a cloud that is trusted, a cloud that is responsible, and a cloud that is inclusive. In other words, we must work together to create a cloud for global good.
The publication of a book by Microsoft titled “A Cloud for Global Good” was launched in October 2016. The document has been designed as a roadmap to help policymakers take full advantage of the transformational benefits of the cloud. The book offers a set of 78 recommendations in 15 policy categories that will provide the foundation for a regulatory environment that leads to a trusted, responsible, and inclusive cloud.
In addition, we share examples of how the cloud is already transforming the way governments engage with citizens, how businesses become more productive, and how nonprofits deliver more effective services.
At Microsoft, our mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more. As we seek to realize this mission, we could not think of a more important time to convene a discussion and encourage governments, industry, and civil society to work together to realize a true cloud for global good.
To learn more about “A Cloud for Global Good”, visit our website.