Residents living in the deep southern community of Avocat in Fyzabad were treated to a free cultural performance courtesy the Indian High Commission recently.
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Five questions with: Racquel Moses country manager, Microsoft T&T
1. Microsoft is a global giant of the technology industry. What role does the T&T market play from a corporate perspective?
Microsoft has been operating within T&T for the past 18 years, which demonstrates our commitment not only to the technological transfer in the market, but also to that of economic development. Throughout our existence here, Microsoft has also recognised that technology plays an important role in a country’s development.
T&T’s role within Microsoft has been and remains significant. Our country has always been seen as a place that punches well above its weight in terms of global performance in the oil and gas industry as well as in our Olympic performance as examples.
Our CEO Satya Nadella is also a huge cricket fan. In the September issue of Fast Company they referenced that among the few books he is reading right now includes “Trinidadian author CLR James’s literary take on cricket.”
T&T has also produced a great deal of talent that Microsoft has deployed globally. Our team here serves the Caribbean primarily, but provides services and consultation to many markets external to the region as well.
Given the level of sophistication and the role innovation will play in further developing the society, we have invested in not only creating a partner eco-system that will unlock the next phase of digital transformation but in a country with untapped potential.
2. The company opened an Innovation Centre in Freeport in 2014 essentially focused on merging the worlds of technology and entrepreneurship. How successful would you say the centre been in accomplishing its goals thus far, and what have been the tangible results?
Our partnership with Cariri to launch the Microsoft Innovation Centre (MIC) has been incredibly successful and the results so far are quite exciting. The centre has served over 10 cohorts with more than 75 graduates.
Fifty per cent of those graduates have implemented their ideas which continue to grow and gain momentum. Examples of successful projects include the Health in Pregnancy TT (HiPTT) application which utilises Microsoft Azure technology.
Diabetes is a major public health problem with pregnant women being a particularly vulnerable group. This app, launched in October 2016, is a collaborative effort that allows doctors, laboratories and patients to manage and review medical results on a mobile device or computer.
There is also OperAid, a tablet-based compliance assurance software, specifically for production, maintenance or manufacturing processes and Zippy Math, a kinesthetic Kinect education game for primary schools based on the curriculum.
Cariri and the MIC are also currently building an electronic health record system using Azure as the hosting and database provider. The remaining 50 per cent of projects are still in development with the MIC providing vigilant guidance.
The MIC has also launched a pilot programme in biotechnology which is showing real promise. All of these are the tip of the iceberg. We have 116 such innovation centres worldwide, and we’re currently working to connect our local MIC with the others to share ideas and innovations. We have as much to share as we have to learn which is truly exciting as our projects have the ability to generate international recognition for the work we are doing here.
3. As the head of the local arm of one of the world’s largest technology companies, how does T&T stack up in terms of technological penetration, and general willingness to adopt new technology?
This is what excites me. Not where we are necessarily, but where we have the potential to go. Our penetration and willingness aren’t as high as I’d like them to be, but we’re in a unique position at this point in our technological development.
We have the opportunity to learn from others that have gone before us and leapfrog ourselves to technology with tangible financial and societal benefits. Many of our global counterparts have made vast investments in hardware that is beyond obsolete.
While we would have made investments, our relatively low levels of adoption and technological penetration means that we’re in a position to adopt the latest technologies at a fraction of the investment of other countries that we wish to compete with. Notwithstanding these issues, there are some bright spots that inspire me.
Our mobile and social media penetration levels are very high, well over 100 per cent for mobile. The global average for mobile penetration is under 60 per cent. It means we have greater access to technology in the palms of our hands. We are at the nexus of our cloud first, mobile first world and well poised to take advantage of our positioning.
I can’t signal enough how important the concept of digital transformation is for organisations as it speaks to the potential for companies to generate significant profits by utilising the right tools to harness their data and enhance productivity.
According to a report by the IDC, organisations have an opportunity to gain US$1.6 trillion in top-line revenue over the next four years by combining diverse data streams, using new data analytics tools and delivering data insights to more people internally while improving the speed of data processing.
4. Promoting STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and math) has become a thrust of many technology companies globally. Has Microsoft T&T gotten involved with/developed any such initiatives locally?
Definitely. It’s a huge part of our social responsibility and certainly where we see the future. We’re heavily vested and invested in STEM education, and my personal passion would obviously be getting more girls into STEM to ensure that we have gender parity. Our education programmes place the students at the centre of learning, enabling them to question, interact and build the world they want to see.
We also engage in various initiatives in T&T including professional development activities for teachers who utilise technology in their classrooms and app development and coding competitions for youth that spark their imagination and coding skills.
My predecessor would have participated and provided thought leadership in a number of events on how to leverage STEM to create a fertile ecosystem for business innovation and economic opportunities.
5. What sort of outreach activities does the company involve itself in from a corporate social responsibility perspective?
Most of our outreach is in education. Last week, for example, I attended a prize giving function that we sponsor with the Ministry of Education for excellence in technology. It was an event that would have inspired the most dispassionate among us. The talent and range were undeniable, there were second and fourth formers creating applications with real world ability to scale globally. These things make me so incredibly proud both to work at Microsoft and to be Trinidadian when I see the talent we produce and what we’re capable of when we invest in educating our youth.
Bigger picture though, in T&T we’ve invested over $19.5 million in technology and training.
Last year, we had just under 3,000 online learning participants and in the last 10 years we’ve invested over $20 million in NGOs.
We are also about to launch with Cariri through the MIC an Hour of Code event in an effort to reach as many of our high schoolers to learn how easy it is to code with Minecraft, one of several events of its kind that we have held.
An example of one of the projects referenced above is our support to Eshe’s Learning Centre, an institution established in Woodbrook over 30 years ago to provide differently-abled children with a first-rate education. Microsoft and CMR & Company Ltd donated HP laptops equipped with Windows 8 to the school.
In addition to the laptops, Microsoft also embarked upon a “Train the Trainer” programme at the school with teachers receiving training on the development of mobile applications using Microsoft’s browser-based platform, Windows App Studio.
Our technology is used in 98 per cent of schools worldwide. Here in T&T, the company also supports other initiatives that empower the students of today to create the world of tomorrow.