Unlike 15 years ago when an apparent gaffe by then-president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo marred the 10th anniversary celebration of Microsoft Philippines, the software firm was able to commemorate its 25th year in the country without a hitch through an all-virtual event held last Tuesday, Nov. 10.
It can be recalled that in 2005, Macapagal-Arroyo shocked officials and guests during her keynote speech when she congratulated the local subsidiary for coming up with what she said is a new Windows version called “Bintana”.
“Thank you… for launching the new program ‘Bintana’ — the Philippine version or Tagalog version or Taglish version of Windows. Thank you for having ‘Bintana’ just for the Philippines,” the former president blurted, whose speech is still available at the Official Gazette website.
Top executives of Microsoft Philippines, then led by country manager TJ Javier, were surprised by Macapagal-Arroyo’s statement and took them a while to deny the existence of the product. The company later clarified that the former chief executive might have mistaken “Bintana” for a local language initiative that Microsoft was working on at that time.
But no such blunder occurred this time at the 25th anniversary event which had Supreme Court chief justice Diosdado Peralta and JG Summit Holdings president Lance Gokongwei among the key government and enterprise partners who offered special messages.
A special focus of the anniversary proceedings centered on how Microsoft has supported stakeholders in countries around the world during the Covid-19 pandemic and particularly, in the Philippine market.
“Since the very start of the of the pandemic, your Microsoft Philippines team resolved to be the country’s digital first responders, supporting key government and civic functions while introducing new innovations to help Filipinos respond, recover and reimagine their reality,” said Andres Ortola, Microsoft Philippines country general manager.
Since March 2020, Microsoft said it has launched initiatives to empower both the government and private sector to support and create sustainable impact across the country.
Microsoft’s nation-building agenda for the Philippines, known as “Microsoft Para sa Bayan”, seeks to accelerate digital transformation, build coalitions for responsible innovation, and close critical digital skills gaps with increased digital literacy and improve employability for 25 million Filipinos over the next three years alone.
Throughout the lockdown period, Microsoft said it has worked closely with the Department of Education, most recently to provide over 20 million public school children with Microsoft 365 accounts for an improved learning experience. The company also supported the department’s efforts in training teachers to adapt to online teaching.
The Microsoft Enabler Program was also launched to foster disability inclusive workplaces across Asia Pacific, with the Philippines selected as one of the program’s launch markets. People with disabilities (PWDs) were given the opportunity to get cloud and artificial intelligence training while employer partners received accessibility education.
The program also supports inclusive hiring from non-profit organizations that help PWDs. The program is a first of its kind and was piloted in Korea, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand.
Microsoft also launched an ambitious digital entrepreneurship innovator initiative, “Highway to a 100 Unicorns”, to strengthen the startup ecosystem across Southeast Asia, seeking to spur new economic growth during and after the pandemic.
In the Philippines, the sole major Southeast Asian economy without a homegrown technology unicorn, Microsoft seeks to foster an environment that creates more proactive and engaged opportunities for Filipino digital entrepreneurs.
“Filipinos are hugely creative and resourceful people. Enhancing their digital skills and creating inclusive opportunities for them will not only create solutions to society’s challenges today, but drive economic recovery and success for the future,” added Ortola.
In October, in partnership with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and together with the Makati Business Club (MBC), Infocomm Technology Association of the Philippines (ITAP), Institute of Corporate Directors (ICD), Women’s Business Council Philippines, and the US-ASEAN Business Council Inc., Microsoft Philippines announced the formation of the AI Pilipinas Coalition.
Bringing together key organizations and leaders in government and the private sector, the Coalition seeks to empower people and organizations through the responsible use of Artificial Intelligence (AI).