Empowering Social Entrepreneurs To Achieve More Using Technology

The Microsoft, through its Microsoft for Startups initiative, has announced the launch of its Global Social Entrepreneurship programme.

Around the world, startups are creating new businesses, built around powerful technologies and designed to make the world a better place, said a statement by Microsoft4Afrika.

Innovators and entrepreneurs are finding new ways to harness technology to drive purpose-led social enterprises that measure success not just by the profits they generate, but by the good they do. Microsoft is deeply inspired by the commitment of these social entrepreneurs, who are focusing their passion for positive change on improving human health and the environment, advancing social and economic equity, and much more.

But these are huge, complicated problems and far too large for any single organisation to hope to solve alone. So to empower social entrepreneurs, Microsoft is launching a new Global Social Entrepreneurship programme to offer qualified startups access to technology, skills, customers and grants.

The Global Social Entrepreneurship programme has benefits aimed specifically at elevating startups addressing an important social and/or environmental challenge through their products, services or operations.

“Solving global social and environmental challenges requires the synergy of the right technology, partners, conducive environment and technology. When startups work together with investors, enterprises, governments, non-profits and communities, we are able to unlock new potentials,” said Microsoft4Afrika Director Amrote Abdella.

This is just the beginning

This global initiative is designed to help social enterprise startups build and scale their companies to do good globally. Microsoft believes in providing the foundational building blocks to help social entrepreneurs create companies that can achieve worldwide impact. Social enterprises that become part of the Global Social Entrepreneurship programme will receive access to free Microsoft cloud technologies, including up to $120,000 in Azure credits, along with technical support and guidance.

A dedicated programme manager will help Global Social Entrepreneurship startups market and sell solutions and connect to large commercial organisations and nongovernmental organisations that are potential customers. Participants focused on sustainability, accessibility, and skills and employability will also be eligible for grants. Furthermore, the social enterprises that join the Global Social Entrepreneurship programme will be part of a worldwide community of like-minded innovators who come together to share ideas, foster connections and celebrate success.

The programme is available in 140 countries and will actively seek to support underrepresented founders with diverse perspectives and backgrounds.

Local startups experience benefits

ICE Commercial Power is a technology-enabled renewable energy provider scaling distributed solar micro-utilities in rural, underserved, and unserved regions of Nigeria. ICE deploys modular, cloud-connected solar power systems (called microgrids) to provide clean, reliable electricity to small businesses who have resorted to using dangerous and expensive self-generation with diesel/petrol generators. To achieve this strategy at scale, ICE incorporates strong community engagement in target communities by training and employing local youth to participate in the development of their communities. The ICE strategy delivers sustainable impact and job creation in communities that need it most.

“ICE has partnered with Microsoft to develop a robust cloud and software back-end to support the maintenance and management of deployed solar microgrids in the field. In addition, we are working with Microsoft to scale our youth training and employment efforts in target communities,” says ICE CEO Emmanuel Ekwueme.

Farmerline is a Ghanaian company that uniquely combines technology and a network of field agents to create lasting profits for farmers everywhere. Since its inception in 2013, the company has gone beyond serving farmers with information and resources that increase their yield. Now, they also provide global organisations with the tools they need to reach, engage and transform the agricultural last mile. Their Mergdata technology is used by over 70 organisations to reach and serve over 341,000 farmers in 16 countries. Mergdata has also been adjudged one of 100 best inventions of 2019 by TIME Magazine.

“Our partnership with the Microsoft Azure team opens up new possibilities to boost Farmerline’s Mergdata platform with AI and remote sensing capabilities that will increase our efficiency in creating solutions for farmers in rural Africa. With features such as fingerprint and facial recognition, we will be able to build unique economic identities for more than 341,000 farmers digitised on our platform. We also look forward to working with existing partners to further generate actionable insights from the one million acres of mapped farms around soil fertility mapping and yield prediction models,” says Alloysius Attah, CEO of Farmerline.

Criteria to qualify

Social impact startups from around the world are welcome to apply. The criteria to qualify for the programme includes a business metric that measures the impact on an important social or environmental challenge; an established product or service that will benefit from access to enterprise customers; and a commitment to the ethical and responsible use of AI. Qualified startups will be eligible for grants in the areas of sustainability, accessibility, skills and employability.

Through Global Social Entrepreneurship, Microsoft looks forward to working in close partnership with social enterprises from around the world. To find out more about the Global Social Entrepreneurship programme, or to apply, visit startups.microsoft.com/socialentrepreneurship

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