Bill Gates, Microsoft and God’s Work = Social Innovation

Bill Gates recently said in a British newspaper interview, “I have no use for money. This is God’s work.” He has already given away $28bn, his estimated wealth; two Kenyas, three Trinidads and a dozen or so Montenegros are worth some $65 billion, for comparison. He is now driven to use his wealth for the hope of extending the lives of others less fortunate than himself and says, “Money has no utility to me beyond a certain point. Its utility is entirely in building an organisation and getting the resources out to the poorest in the world.”

So the work of Microsoft at the Social Innovation Summit last December is definitely worth a mention: it announced the winners of the second annual Microsoft Imagine Cup Grants Worldwide Finals, a three-year, $3 million competitive grant program that provides students with funding and support to help transform their projects into social enterprises or not-for-profits that will address a specific social issue. The Imagine Cup Grants program is part of Microsoft’s YouthSpark initiative that aims to create opportunities for 300 million youth during the next three years.

More than 40 Imagine Cup teams applied for the grants last year. The top prize grant of $100,000 went to Team Graphmasters, from Germany for its solution called nunav that reduces vehicle carbon emissions through a social innovation navigation system. Second place of $75,000 went to Team StethoCloud from Australia, who developed a solution to diagnose childhood pneumonia. There were also grants of $50,000 to TeamVivid from Egypt, who built a mobile app to access medical records using the cloud and Team Cipher256 from Uganda got a grant for its mobile app and listening device to analyse foetal heart rates. Dan’l Lewin, Corporate Vice President, Strategic and Emerging Business Development, Microsoft says, “The Imagine Cup Grants helps students evolve a great idea for addressing a societal issue into a real-world business and we are excited to offer financial and other support to help them transform these ideas into businesses with real-world impact.”

The Imagine Cup Grants program is one way Microsoft helps young people pursue an education, find employment and foster entrepreneurship. In addition to the cash awards, the grant packages includes a raft of extras from software, cloud computing services, solution provider support to access to local resources such as Microsoft Innovation Centres. Microsoft also connects the grant recipients to its rich network of investors, non-government organisation partners and business partners. It works with the grantees to tailor individual support according to the progress each team has made with its project.

Microsoft is committed to empowering today’s youth to help fulfill their potential. Over the last decade, more than 1.65 million students from 190 countries have registered to compete for cash and other prizes. Bill Gates believes every child has the right to a healthy and productive life; and that technology and social innovation can help towards achieving that goal. Bill Gates has certainly put his money where his mouth is . . . .

Photo Credit: Microsoft's Imagine Cup Website

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