Corporate Citizenship Lead for Microsoft Nigeria, Olusola Amusan tells Clifford Agugoesi at the 2016 Tech 4 Good Day in Lagos, Microsoft values Non Profits as an important constituency
Africa Telecom & IT: Briefly explain to us your role at Microsoft Nigeria.
I am the Corporate Citizenship Lead for Microsoft Nigeria. My work is to see to how the organization impacts the landscape called Nigeria, and how we basically extend our global mission to individuals and corporates in this landscape and to be socially responsible in this space; how we transform the space, support young people, promote access to technology and all other aspects that impinge on how Microsoft as a business is socially responsible in Nigeria.
AT & IT: You are an alumnus of the Federal University of Technology, Akure (FUTA). Tell us how your background influenced your current role at Microsoft?
OA: Usually I tell people I have two backgrounds: my academic background and then my passion background. Academically, I studied Computer Science in FUTA for 5 years and I basically learnt a lot of things through some of the initiatives that we started while on campus. One of these being the Software Developers Research Initiative for Nigeria, SDRIN, which is a group that basically promoted how students can learn by themselves, things that are not necessarily taught in school. That also connects with my passion background. I have a very strong passion for volunteering at a very young age, very strong passion for Non Profit work because of an organization I met when I was very young called Life & Guards in Osogbo, Osun State. I have been volunteering for NGOs, running different programmes, trying to understand the concept of capacity building for youths and all that, so getting into the university, I continued this. That’s what made us start the group SDRIN, it was a coalition of young people who wanted to learn what they were not taught in school; we started developing software for the campus, running series of seminars and workshops to partner with organisations outside the university, as a matter of fact, including Paradigm Initiative Nigeria. Gbenga Sesan, the Executive Director, came in at a time to run a series of workshops for us. We got connected with HIIT Lagos and a couple of other organisations. This created a solid background for me around providing capacity building for youth. So after graduation, I started working with The First Bank Research-an endowment fund for the university to research into cybersecurity and I also took part in some local and international conferences and workshops that prepared me to start my Non Profit. I was running a Non Profit called Chance To Change, which basically was reaching out to teenagers in high school, young people in universities and helping them to realize the importance of setting themselves on a good career path early, discovering themselves and providing access to training and support. It was right from there that the news of the role at Microsoft came, which essentially was something I felt within me would expand my reach, the right place to put my energy because, they were looking for young people who were passionate and able to support other young people advance the youth programmes within Microsoft. It has been an amazing time, a lot of learning, a lot of opportunities to change peoples’ lives.
AT & IT: How did the idea of Technology For Non Profits And Socially Responsible Businesses come about; was it Microsoft’s idea or an outcome of Microsoft’s partnership with other organisations?
OA: Long before I joined Microsoft, Microsoft has a global initiative called NGO Connection Day. The goal of that is to be able to empower the third sector of the economy, which is the Non Profits, to demonstrate to them that Microsoft sees them as an important constituency and as a part of the entire work of making the world better. So Microsoft has that global initiative stepped down to Nigeria. It looked for which organization is competent, which organization has that kind of initiative around bringing the ecosystem of non profits together. That was how we found Paradigm Initiative Nigeria and we partnered with them to be able to run it as NGO Connection Day, which this year, has now become the Tech 4 Good Day, in order to further underscore our focus and it is not just an NGO connection day; it is also a day to demonstrate the power of technology for the social good- that these social entrepreneurs are involved in it, that these NGOs are involved in it.
AT & IT: There are allegations Microsoft is courting NGOs to enable it mine participants’ data instead of its trumpeted technology leverage to NGOs. What is your take on this?
AO: Microsoft has the highest standards in terms of data privacy the world over. We have just completed one of the most ISO certifications that clearly shows we are concerned about data privacy. That is why we are working with an indigenous organization, for example, to hold this programme, because we do not collect data from non profits; we do not keep data from non profits, we don’t do that. In terms of giving access to our software and other initiatives, we obey the highest data standards and these are things that can be checked out.
AT & IT: What is the greatest attraction for Microsoft in the non profits arena?
AO: Our mission is to empower every individual or organization on the planet to achieve more. And with that mission, we believe that the non profits space is for every individual and organization. And because our goal is to be able to change the way people live, play and work, to be able to enhance productivity, where else do you think we can actually make this commitment clearly known if not in the non profits that is committed to social good? So we found that space and we feel that okay, we’re going to be a leader here and actually scale the impact, the kind of love we want to share; we want to be able to scale that impact to the people that are actually doing this good. So as far as we know we are… with the commercial sector and we want to keep ensuring those who need our services the most can afford it and that’s why we give all kinds of services to these people for free.
AT & IT: With insinuations in some quarters the non profits sector essentially lacks sound governance structure, why does Microsoft still find it attractive to court them; what are some of the criteria you adopt in choosing non profits to support?
AO: Initiatives like the Tech 4 Good Day help us find organisations that are passionate. We have sets of global standards compliance methods to be able to actually identify the organisations that are compliant with the kind of business that Microsoft runs. Only non profits that are compliant with our global standards, who are actually passionate about the work they do and do those works responsibly are the ones worthy of our support. And how do we find out? We do eligibility testing: Number one that the non profit is a registered charity; also to ensure that they are doing things the right way. When I say the right way, I mean-they have the anti-corruption methods, they do not, in any way build or fund terrorism, or encourage things that are against the global peace conventions of the United Nations and some of the other organisations that we are in strict allegiance to their commitments.
AT & IT: There is the accessibility side and applicability side to technology usage. Is there any way Microsoft assists non profits to get the necessary skills to apply technology to enhance their work?
AO: They bother around access and thought leadership. On the issue of access Microsoft …programmes that ensure that people in different communities who are rather considered as … can have access and also more importantly, we try to bridge the knowledge gap by organizing training programmes, we have an education management programmes which are strictly for courses aimed at bridging the gap for teachers in Nigeria. Across industry segments, we organize series of workshops and programmes for the financial services industry, to telecommunications industry, which brings them up to speed with the power of our technology, across board. For example, we have a segment that also bridges the technology gap and knowledge gap between the youths of the country, including those in and out of the universities. And we have series of programmes lined up for this.
AT & IT: How easy is it for non profits to apply and get sponsorships from Microsoft?
AO: It is easy. All they need to do is to connect with our website, Microsoft Philanthropy website, to get access to what our programmes are about. More importantly, we ask that people reach our partners to be able to reach us. It is as easy as finding a Microsoft contact email and sending a proposal that will eventually get to us as soon as possible. Regardless of who you contact in the organization, we know who to channel your request to.