Microsoft’s  Global Good Cloud – A Brave New World?


What happens when one of the giant vendors in our industry turns visionary? Well with the release of Microsoft’s “A Cloud for Global Good” policy positioning document I think we are at the start of finding out.

Microsoft is taking a bold step in setting their aspirations for how we, as users might use cloud technology in the future and also calling out the ground rules to those who seek to supply us with the service that live on these platforms.

It’s a fairly big document and a concentrated read, but if you are remotely interested in where the giant vendors in this market are taking this technology it’s well worth investing the time. It couches what it believes are the challenges and answers to them in high level Government lead regulation and compliance which for me was the only curious part of the whole announcement because I believe that Governments should only intervene with legislation if and industry can’t sort it out themselves.

If this is Microsoft’s hope, then I think it will be a tall order. If we can’t get all the Governments in the world agreeing on something as critical as climate change then it’s going to be a long haul to get an agreement on the use of Cloud!

Having said that, here are some stand out parts that if can be developed, I feel would improve the prospects and prosperity of everyone that traverses the World Wide Web be that in their work, commerce or socially.

Dealing with data cross borders

For UK companies, it’s a really important topic, even more so post Brexit. Microsoft explains in a piece of research by the McKinsey Global Institute:  the international flow of data contributed will rise from 2.8 trillion U.S. dollars to an estimated 11 trillion U.S. dollars by 2025, so dealing with cross boarder data traffic is definitely up there as a global requirement.

Microsoft couch the challenges with data across boarders as the need to “strike a balance” between the smooth flow of data and the need to protect privacy at all levels. This also includes the need to preserve it in part of the statement, which focuses down on the best practices of handling and storing data whilst maintaining the security around stored data that still eludes some of the biggest cloud providers out there, for example, Yahoo.

But they also cite old laws created before the capabilities of data transfer that we enjoy today as being part of the problem and think ultimately that these should be removed. In reality there is a substantial consensus that allowing foreign governments’ access to local in country data, via legislation such as the Patriot act, should be prevented at all costs.

The recently signed EU – US Privacy Shield puts the onus of security firmly on the company holding the data but allows the Federal Agencies access to this data: “Following the appropriate oversite” which I consider muddies the pond even further.

Digital transformation

The Microsoft document likens this era of digital transformation to that of the invention of the steam engine and its hand in the industrial revolution. The dominant feature of this chapter is that it places analytics, mobility, interconnected sensors and the Internet of Things along with all the other emerging technologies as a catalyst for humans to look at old problems in new ways and with modelling, genomics, 3-D printing and geolocation providing the new steam engine to envision capabilities that until now, were impossible to imagine.

However, the caution in their opening statement: “History tells us that the full impact of an industrial revolution takes years to unfold” and we are now only beginning to understand the global cost of a rapid and enthusiastic advance to industrialisation in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The clean-up of the last industrial revolution will  transcend and impact the digital revolution as we all come to term that we can’t consume natural resources at the rate we are used to.

But digital transformation in education and health has the opportunity to bring hugely positive results for students all over the world. Check out Jamie Smith’s blog on our site about how technology can change the way education is provided as it echoes what Microsoft discusses in the document.

The ability to break free from the limits of traditional teaching by the leaders of education embracing cloud computing as one of the vehicles to connecting students around the world with first class teaching resources provide everyone with access to great educational opportunities.

It’s very telling that with all the connection Microsoft has into educational organisations throughout the world they comment that up to now the impact of cloud computing on education has mostly focused on cost and efficiency.

In healthcare, the expanding use of digital technologies has now reached the point where it is considered an essential component of healthcare policy in the European Union, a key part of the Affordable Care Act in the United States, and a pillar of the World Health Organization’s long-term approach to improving health around the world.

An inclusive cloud

Picking one area of policy singled out by Microsoft which is fundamental to the ubiquitous success of the digital economy is to ensure the benefits are broadly shared and equitably accessible to everyone, everywhere, regardless of location, age, gender, ability, or income.

It’s probably one of the most profound statements in the entire read and should be the cornerstone mission statement of every company that wants to provide value to those who traverse the internet.

Microsoft called this out as acknowledgment that in a time of rapid technology innovation, inevitable disruption will occur and it is this aspect that Microsoft warns the market against developing services that don’t have the ability to encompass all users.

In reality there is a long road ahead before we can hail the success of many of the policies that Microsoft have been bold enough to outline and we should all congratulate them on starting the journey for us.

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