Jean-Philippe Courtois, executive vice-president and president of Microsoft global sales, marketing and operations, provided a compelling vision with his opening keynote at the historical United Nations ITU AI for Good Global Summit (AI4G), hosted May 28-31 2019 at UN ITU HQ Geneva.

The AI for Good Global Summit is the only AI summit bringing together governments, industry, academia, media, and all 37 United Agencies, ACM (number one in computing science) and XPRIZE (leader in global challenge prizes) as partners. In its third iteration, Microsoft contributed as the first platinum sponsor, opening keynote, daily workshops / educational sessions and demonstrations.

The 2019 edition with more than 120 countries represented will reach more than 2 billion citizens and influence the entire world’s population. The focus is on implementing AI to help solve the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Microsoft led corporate engagement at AI4G and follows on their social impact work recognized by the 2019 Ethisphere Award for most ethical company. This continues the global trend on social responsibility and responsible innovation. As one example, the YPO, world’s largest CEO organization with 27,000 members representing US $9 Trillion in annual revenue released their seven leadership trends for 2019 which is worth noting. They are signalling their shift towards social impacts through business from their 2019 Global Leadership Survey released in Davos in January 2019. Another example is from Larry Fink, CEO of BlackRock, the world’s largest investment fund with US $6.5 trillion, who emphasized social impact last year and again this year.

Key resonating themes in Jean-Philippe’s speech sparked active engagement and conversations:

  • Every company is becoming a software company by adopting technology and, also building their own technology – what Microsoft refers to as Tech Intensity
  • AI is core to this transformation and is being used today enabling new generation of business agents, enabling person, object, and activity detection, enabling AI assisted professionals, and enabling autonomous systems.
  • Microsoft is helping business leaders through the AI Business School to build their AI business strategy and during the keynote Microsoft announced the availability of a new learning path tailored for government leaders.
  • Microsoft is taking a principled approach to AI that starts in the application of ethical decision making.
  • And through their AI for Good initiative, Microsoft has committed $115 million to empower people around the world with AI to tackle some of society’s biggest challenges including environmental sustainability, empowering persons with disabilities and helping people through humanitarian action.

“ACM is honored to be a partner and Gold sponsor for the 3rd annual AI for Good Global Summit,” said Vicki Hanson, CEO of the global organization ACM. “By bringing together AI technologists with leaders in government, industry, and humanitarian initiatives, new ways to apply AI to pressing world challenges are imagined and realized.  Our work together here exemplifies a popular motto among ACM’s members in 190 countries: ‘We see a world where computing helps solve tomorrow’s problems, where we use our skills and knowledge to advance the profession and make a positive impact.’”

Additional major themes relating to industry in Jean-Philippe’s speech included:

Skilling:

  • Need to establish a strong skills ecosystem to fuel the change​.
  • No single industry, government or entity can do it alone. ​
  • Need a critical mass of leaders from all fields working together to navigate this change.​
  • At Microsoft, they are fully committed to closing the skills gap by ensuring that everyone has the chance to gain digital skills and access digital opportunities. Both through their own initiatives and through partnerships.​
  • Microsoft leads initiatives that are both global and local, from basic digital literacy to advanced computer science, and soft skills. With the purpose of enabling all – young women, racial or ethnic minorities, young people from rural communities, low-income backgrounds and educators.
  • Last year they helped 6 million young people access computer science education.
  • Their DigiGirlz program gives girls the opportunity to learn about careers in technology; meet Microsoft employees and take part in workshops. Last year they hosted 125 global workshops.
  • Through YouthSpark, Microsoft supports students through industry-recognized technology education, skills, and certifications they need to succeed in their future careers.
  • They are also partnering with skills leaders. ​Education Organizations like General assembly – Microsoft just announced their commitment to have 15K certified AI individuals over the next three years. Workforce and Industry Boards like CNI in Brazil.​ All to establish a pipeline of talents for the jobs of the future and AI jobs which are in super high demand​.

Moreover, Microsoft has their AI for Good Idea Challenge that is currently live now.

Microsoft’ commitment to AI for Good is further accentuated due to their continuing innovations in AI.

Microsoft’s AI strength is hallmarked by the diverse offerings within their Azure Cloud Platform to democratize AI, making tools for all manner of solutions readily accessible to all organizations.

Initially AI was more readily implemented by large organizations and governments due to its complexity. This is being addressed by Microsoft so AI can be readily implemented. The planning and processes to implement AI are noted by famed AI pioneer Andrew Ng in his December ACM Webinar. Neil Sahota, past global business development head for IBM Watson, Master Inventor and a founder for AI for Good, has his just released book Own the AI Revolution, which maps out how to implement AI in any organization. Neil was on hand at AI4G to talk about his book and the many useful lessons he shares.

In addition, Microsoft topped the latest AI language translation challenge at the 2019 fourth Conference on Machine Translation (WMT19) in May; they are making significant advances with their chat agent to be indistinguishable from a human assistant and can better humans in translations. Microsoft is also a founder of the AI interoperability initiative ONNX to maximize the ability to work with any platform or business.