Every day I am privileged to see how the power of software technology can accelerate change and help to solve some of our society's most pressing issues. Technology is a key tool for social and economic development. It can help people get a better education, learn new skills to earn a living wage, or start a business. It also can enable organizations, NGOs in particular, to better meet community needs. Many nonprofits already embrace technology, improving their productivity and easing their constant struggle to do more with less.
But today's technologies have potential to do much more -- they have the potential to achieve dramatically greater impact through new business and service models. New nonprofit business models such as those being pioneered by Kiva, the first person-to-person micro-lending web service; M-PESA, a mobile payment solution for people who do not have bank accounts; and NetHope, a consortium of 27 leading nonprofits engaged in global humanitarian and development issues are having a profound impact on delivering aid and resources to the people who need it most.
Of course, this impact doesn't happen by accident. Our NGOs and nonprofits need to keep advancing their technological capabilities. Meanwhile, technology companies need to understand and honor their responsibility to ensure that their products and services are both affordable and accessible to the nonprofit community. Microsoft takes this responsibility seriously and last year, donated nearly US$400 million worth of software to more than 30,000 organizations. We also partner with other technology companies in the industry as well as innovative organizations like NetHope, Npower, telecentre.org and TechSoup who are helping advance technology access for NGOs.
But while ensuring NGOs have access to this technology is essential, there is another critical factor in how we can help NGOs to increase the impact of technology on their activities.
Bill Gates once said, "At Microsoft there are lots of brilliant ideas but the image is that they all come from the top -- I'm afraid that's not quite right." To create a shift that has the potential to change the world, we need your help. Do you have creative ideas about how software technology can help make a significant, positive dent in your community or on society's most pressing issues? If so, we want to hear from you.
To celebrate the launch of Windows 7 tomorrow, we are launching a new online competition -- "7 Ways to Change the World" - that gives you an opportunity to submit those ideas. We'll take the 7 best, as chosen by our judges, and give you - and a related, eligible nonprofit of your choice - the resources to help implement change. The 7 people with the best submissions will each win a new PC running Windows 7. In addition, each winner's chosen community organization will receive a $7,000 grant.
"7 Ways" challenges people like you to share their innovative ideas on how software technology can make a greater impact in the community. It's simple, just record a short video explaining or illustrating your idea on how a nonprofit could use software technology to help them do their work in the community more effectively. It could be as simple as helping a food bank to better manage their inventory or helping a local community organization to deliver after school services. The possibilities are endless.
Once you've recorded your idea, visit the competition web site (http://www.7waystochangetheworld.com) and submit your video. All the videos will be available online, providing a great resource for nonprofits and community organizations to discover new ways they themselves can harness the power of technology to support their work and drive social and economic change.
In that way, your ideas will not only help your local community, but also have the potential to impact the global community. Now that's changing the world.
Follow Akhtar Badshah on Twitter: www.twitter.com/akhtarbad