The beginning of a new year and a new decade is a time to reflect, set intentions and move forward with bold ambition.
Leaders everywhere are in the midst of a global conversation about the future of democracy and capitalism — a future interconnected and enmeshed within the context of digital transformation. What does it mean to be a global company contributing to each nation’s local interests? How can our products and tools help solve the most important challenges through the use of digital technologies?
For us, it’s an opportunity to reflect on our company’s purpose and mission: to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.
Our mission is enduring. It drives who we are and everything we do, emphasizing our passion to empower both the people and the lasting institutions they build.
As we consider the opportunities and the pressing challenges facing the world today — as we work to empower the 7 billion people on the planet — we must recommit to this sense of purpose and mission and redefine what “achieving more” means for the world. Oxford professor Colin Mayer’s definition of the purpose of a corporation is helpful. Mayer writes that the purpose of business is, “producing profitable solutions to problems of people and planet.”
Looking forward, we believe empowerment to achieve more has four interconnected components:
- Power broad economic growth through tech intensity
- Ensure that this economic growth is inclusive
- Build trust in technology and its use
- Commit to a sustainable future
1. Power broad economic growth through tech intensity
In the next decade, broad economic growth will happen if digital technology and software can be applied to empower every person and every organization in every industry, every community and every country.
We live in a world of ubiquitous computing. Consider that there will be 50 billion connected devices by 2030, more than double the number today, and that by 2025, the size of the global datasphere will reach 175 zettabytes, up from 40 zettabytes today. As a platform company, we’re building each layer of the tech stack for this new era. We are building the world’s computer to span the intelligent cloud and the edge; we are creating rich AI supercomputing; and we are making computing more ambient with multi-sense, multi-device experiences.
As people’s lives — including the places we go and the things we interact with — become digitized, they create new opportunities and new breakthroughs: from precision medicine to precision agriculture, from personalized e-commerce to personalized education, from connected manufacturing floors to connected homes. AI is the most transformative technology of our time. And we are focused not only on pushing the frontiers of this technology and building the next generation of data and AI workloads, but also creating new immersive experiences that transcend any single device and help us regain a sense of balance and control in our lives. We think deeply about how to ensure people can determine what is public and what is private and are able to use our technology in order to regain a balance between consuming content and creating it. This increasingly digitized and connected world will create new economic value from the data we generate — more accurate predictions, more personalized services and deeper insights. And it will ensure the digital economy’s growing hunger for data can offer everyone an opportunity to contribute productively and benefit economically.
At Microsoft, we call this dynamic tech intensity: adopting best-in-class digital tools and platforms for the purpose of building new, proprietary products and services. Companies, communities and countries can build their own technology products and services only if they have a skilled workforce to do so. Our own LinkedIn data shows that 60 percent of job openings for developers are outside the tech sector. By mapping every member, company, job and skill, LinkedIn is helping connect workers to economic opportunity in new ways. This broad-based availability of digital skills, jobs and the resulting economy that we look forward to in the coming decade will stand in stark contrast to the economic concentration seen in only a few regions like the West Coast of the United States and the East Coast of China. Every country can achieve independence in this increasingly interdependent world.
2. Ensure that this economic growth is inclusive
Broad economic growth fails if it is not inclusive. Every country, industry and citizen can prosper by leveraging their comparative advantage and by embracing tech intensity. Platform companies like ours have at their core a business model designed to drive comparative advantage and inclusive growth.
Within every region we operate, I seek out and celebrate the local jobs created by our ecosystem. This local digital ecosystem, in turn, makes it possible for their own region’s small businesses to become more productive, multinationals to become more competitive, the public sector to become more efficient, and health and educational systems to produce greater outcomes.
Inclusive growth requires that we equip everyone with the skills and technology required for the jobs of tomorrow, and to drive renewed productivity growth.
For example, there are more than 800 million people today who need to learn new skills for their jobs. Two-thirds of students today will apply for jobs that do not yet exist. Not only does this skills gap impact prospects for individuals, it has a systemic effect on the ability of companies, industries and communities to realize the full potential of this digital transformation. That is why Microsoft is investing in next-generation education and skills training — creating pathways to 21st century jobs.
Also consider that more than 500 million apps will be created in the next four years to drive transformation and productivity for every organization. To accelerate this, we have to create a new category of developers. We call them citizen developers — equipping domain experts in every sector with tools that are low-code or no-code to create solutions that solve their unique business needs.
Furthermore, there are 2 billion firstline workers in the world. They compose the majority of the global workforce in industries such as hospitality, manufacturing, retail and healthcare. Yet, 77 percent say they don’t have the technology needed to be productive. By equipping them with powerful technologies, such as mixed reality and a platform for collaboration, we are helping these workers acquire new skills and drive productivity for their organizations.
However, we must also enable everyone to participate and thrive in this growing economy.
There are more than 1 billion people around the world living with a disability, and as we celebrate the contributions of people with disabilities in the workplace, we must also build tools and products that reflect the diverse experiences of our customers and employees. It’s why we are prioritizing accessibility in our products and services, building diverse teams and seeking input from the accessibility community in the development process.
Access to high-speed internet is fundamental in an increasingly digital and connected world, and something many living in urban areas take for granted. We are working to bridge this divide, with Microsoft’s Airband Initiative, a five-year commitment to bring broadband access to 3 million people in unserved rural communities in the United States by July 2022.
Finally, we also must ensure that we support the success of our own communities, including the many people who work with Microsoft as vendors. We know that the health, well-being and diversity of our own employees contributes to Microsoft’s success, which is why we offer industry-leading benefits. We also know that we rely on the contributions from people working at our suppliers who are also critical to our success. That’s why we require our U.S. suppliers to provide a minimum of 12 weeks paid parental leave as well as paid vacation and sick leave for their employees. And in 2019 we announced a commitment to fund community-based affordable housing in the Puget Sound.
3. Build trust in technology and its use
At its core, every platform company must earn and sustain the trust of its customers and partners. Without trust, none of this progress is possible. There are three pillars to our approach: privacy, cybersecurity and responsible AI. Across each, our commitment goes beyond words to real actions, providing tools and frameworks for our customers and working collaboratively with the public sector to drive policy change.
The first pillar is privacy. We believe privacy is a fundamental human right. Our approach to privacy and data protection is grounded in our belief that customers own their own data and ensuring any product or service we provide is built with privacy by design from the ground up. Our privacy principles include a commitment to transparency in our privacy practices, offer meaningful privacy choices, and responsibly manage the data we store and process. It’s why we were early supporters of the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and why we were the first company to expand GDPR’s core rights to all our customers around the world. To date, more than 26 million people have used these tools and it’s why we will continue to advocate for new privacy laws to ensure customers enjoy the transparency and control they deserve.
The second pillar is cybersecurity — a central challenge in the digital age. Cybercrime affecting businesses, governments and individuals costs more than $1 trillion a year, up from $600 billion in 2018. We analyze more than 6.5 trillion signals each day, and process 630 billion authentications and scan 470 billion emails for malware and phishing each month. This massive signal generates insight that fuels security innovation across our platforms. However, technology is not enough to combat these increasing threats. It also requires partnerships for a heterogenous world — both with governments and industries. We called on the world to borrow a page from history in the form of a Digital Geneva Convention, with a goal of updating international law to protect people from cyberattacks. But as a technology industry, we must work together to create a safer internet. More than 100 global technology and security companies have signed the Cybersecurity Tech Accord, committing to advance online security and resiliency around the world.
Third, we build AI responsibly, taking a principled approach and asking difficult questions, like not what computers can do, but what computers should do? Fairness, reliability and safety, privacy and security, inclusiveness, transparency and accountability are the ethical principles that guide our work and are translated into the software development tools for our developer community.
4. Commit to a sustainable future
The scientific consensus is clear. The world today is confronted with an urgent carbon crisis. If we don’t curb emissions, and if temperatures continue to climb, science tells us that the results will be devastating.
To address the damaging effects of climate change, each of us must take action — including businesses. No one company can solve this macro challenge alone, but as a global technology company, we have a particular responsibility to do our part.
We are using technology and data to solve global environmental problems and accelerate progress toward a more sustainable future, focusing on the challenges of water, waste ecosystems and carbon in the atmosphere.
It starts with addressing the carbon footprint of our own technology and company. Since 2012, we’ve been carbon neutral across our own operations, imposing an internal carbon tax to drive behavior change. Datacenters that power the cloud are large consumers of electricity. We’ve also significantly expanded our use of renewable energy.
But we know we need to do more and move faster. This week we announced a commitment that by 2030, Microsoft will be carbon negative across our direct emissions and our supply chain. And we will go beyond that: By 2050, we will remove from the environment all of the carbon we’ve emitted directly or by electrical consumption since our company’s founding in 1975.
Solving this problem will also require new technology, and last week we also announced a new $1 billion Climate Innovation Fund to accelerate the development of carbon reduction and removal technologies.
We know that our most important contribution will come not from our own actions, but from empowering our customers around the world. Digital technology will play a critical role in tackling these issues, and we will work to develop and deploy technology that helps our customers reduce their own carbon footprint.
As corporations, our purpose and actions must be aligned to help solve the world’s problems, not create new ones. If the previous decade taught us anything, it is that technology built without the considerations outlined above can do far more harm than good.
This is the decade for urgent action. It is time to take bold steps forward to address our most pressing challenges. We know no one company can solve these socioeconomic challenges alone, but together we can make the 2020s the period when we drive broad, inclusive economic growth through technology, built on a foundation of trust and commitment to sustainability. We look forward to collaborating with our customers and partners on this journey. Because each of us must commit to do more, in order for us all to achieve more.