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Managed Solution Becomes a Microsoft Authorized Education Partner

Managed Solution earns distinction through commitment to academic customers.

Managed Solution, today announced it has become a Microsoft Authorized Education Partner (AEP), demonstrating its ability to meet Microsoft academic customers’ evolving needs in today’s dynamic business environment. To earn a Microsoft AEP authorization, partners must complete a test to prove their level of academic licensing and market expertise.
The AEP program is designed to train participating resellers on Microsoft’s Academic licensing, authorize them to purchase and resell Microsoft Academic licenses, and demonstrate to potential customers that they are approved and knowledgeable academic partners.
Managed Solution is a long standing and fast growing full-service IT solutions firm that solves business technology challenges that are holding back the profitability potential of companies and deliver, maintain and forecast the technologies they'll need to stay competitive in their market place.
“By becoming AEPs, partners show themselves to be committed and trained in providing discounted Microsoft academic products to the education market,” said Anthony Salcito, vice president of Education for Microsoft Corp.’s Worldwide Public Sector. “This authorization, along with our other education partner initiatives, gives our partners recognition of their areas of expertise and our academic customers the confidence that they are buying from academic IT specialists.”
The Microsoft AEP Program is designed to authorize and equip organizations that deliver academic products and services through the Microsoft platform with the training, resources and support they need to provide their customers with superior experiences and outcomes.
Managed Solution is a full-service technology firm that empowers businesses by delivering, maintaining and forecasting the technologies they’ll need to stay competitive in their market place.
Managed Solution was founded in 2002 and was quickly recognized as one of San Diego’s 40 fastest growing companies and the 27th fastest growing IT company in Southern California. With corporate headquarters in San Diego, Managed Solution provides IT services nationwide and was recently recognized as one of the top 10 National Cloud Service Providers.


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Why Pokémon Go captured our imagination — and huge market share

By Llraz Margalit as written on techcrunch.com
When a franchise that essentially died more than a decade ago comes back to life with such fervor, we need to ask ourselves how and why that happened. And if you’re able to stop playing Pokémon Go long enough to read this article, you’ll find the phenomenon is deeply rooted in evolutionary psychology.
Matthew Lynley recently explained the brilliant ploys used by the creators of Pokémon Go to promote engagement, retention and virality. As a web psychologist, I am naturally inclined to dive deep into the aspects of human behavior that make us prone to embrace the game.
From an evolutionary standpoint, our brains operate much better in a natural environment that’s rooted deeply in our mind, compared to a setting based in virtual reality. Our behavior is governed by two parallel processes: The conscious process that revolves around our immediate tasks (in this case, winning Pokémon Go) and the unconscious process that is responsible for ensuring that there are no threats or sudden changes in our environment.
When playing virtual reality games, the unconscious computation in our brains is forced to work much harder, because it’s not familiar with this strange virtual reality environment. In contrast, playing Pokémon Go involves our actual environment, with which our mind is far more familiar; thus, playing within that setting delivers a comforting feeling of cognitive fluency — a mental shortcut that signals familiarity in a treacherous world.
The idea behind cognitive fluency might seem obvious — people prefer things that are easy to think about. The experience of the real world is psychologically easier to process than that of the VR world of other games. Fluency guides our thinking in situations where we have no idea that it’s at work, and it affects us in any situation where we need to process information.

Pokémon Go scratches some basic psychological itches.

This sense of familiarity has a strong influence over what types of things people find attractive and enjoyable. Playing games in a familiar setting is much more enjoyable, and familiarity has played a strong role in human survival. In prehistoric times, if something (or someone) was familiar, it meant that you had already interacted with it, so it was probably not going to kill you.
Pokémon Go scratches some basic psychological itches. First, the game itself is simple to understand and easy to play, for children and adults alike. Each time a level advances, the challenge is revived and thus the crave is renewed and the desire to continue receiving those fresh doses of gratification causes us to continue playing.
One of the rewarding building blocks of the game is the unexpected gratification of finding the monsters as we walk. We don’t know when to expect them; they can appear at any time or place. Our attraction to this kind of action is attributed to a neurotransmitter called dopamine, a chemical found in our brain.
Scientists initially associated dopamine with feelings of enjoyment (a high level of dopamine being visible during activities such as eating chocolate, having sex and hearing favorite music), but research in the past decade has indicated that dopamine has additional functions besides activating gratification and pleasure. This molecule helps us in detecting changes in the environment.
The system centers around expectations. We can expect high levels of dopamine when we encounter unexpected rewards (three or four times as excited, as measured by the strength of the dopaminergic firing). In other words, the reward is more pleasurable the more surprising it is.
When we receive unexpected cash on a randomized basis, it forces us more strongly into obsessively repeating our action than cash on a predictable basis would. This tendency was best illustrated by B.F. Skinner, a pioneer of behavioral psychology, in the 1950s. When his lab rats received an unexpected reward from pushing a pedal, they would continue pushing it even after the reward stopped arriving. This element of surprise helps explain why people just can’t get enough of Pokémon Go.
Additional bursts of pleasure also come from the nostalgia this game evokes. Being outside chasing monsters activates old and enjoyable memories, providing us with a priceless opportunity to relive a piece of our childhood again, and bring our childhood experiences to life. It activates memories from a simpler time in which we were out in the streets playing social games like tag or hide-and-seek.

Pokémon Go players feel as if they are taking part in an actual activity with other people.

Those games we used to play involved human partners, or at least involved manipulating real objects in real space (like throwing a ball). Pokémon Go players feel as if they are taking part in an actual activity with other people, rather than a remote observer behind a screen. Throwing the ball at a Pokémon brings up exciting memories that were closed in a box that belongs to the past. These memories have a positive influence on our well-being as we get a secret key to a magical period.
In addition, playing Pokémon Go can fulfill an everlasting fantasy. Walking through the streets fighting monsters that pop up unexpectedly out of nowhere can easily drive our imagination to assume the masterful role of superhero, or warrior, fulfilling a fantasy and giving our senses and emotions an other-worldly experience. Such games boost adrenaline levels, and they awaken strong feelings of power — as well as frustration, gratification and enjoyment.
A central part of the gratification Pokémon Go players experience is akin to the old-fashioned games we used to play, where people would go outside and interact more socially. Many studies have illustrated the mood-boosting effect of physical activity, and social ties are equally important for mental health. Some research suggests that even shallow conversation with strangers boosts well-being.
However, Dr. David Sack recently cautioned in Psychology Today about the fine line between behavior and addiction, questioning whether Pokémon Go will drive up the percentages of internet addiction or pathological gaming.
He quotes a DSM-5 fact sheet studying gamers: “When these individuals are engrossed in Internet games, certain pathways in their brains are triggered in the same direct and intense way that a drug addict’s brain is affected by a particular substance. The gaming prompts a neurological response that influences feelings of pleasure and reward, and the result, in the extreme, is manifested as addictive behavior.”
“Such compulsive play pushes aside other interests and responsibilities, threatening relationships, academics, jobs and more,” Dr. Sack writes. “Although this research focused on traditional online gamers, it’s no stretch to expect the same to apply to Pokémon Go players.”
To conclude, there is a thin line between having fun with a game and becoming addicted to it. The problem is that this line starts creating changes in our brain, generating new connections — before we even realize we are addicted.



Announcing Microsoft’s Imagine Cup 2016 World Champion!

Now in its 14th year, nothing embodies the spirit of student innovation at Microsoft more than Imagine Cup, the company’s global technology competition that aims to give young developers the opportunity to acquire new and critical technical, business and team-building skills.
Today, Team ENTy of Romania took their place as the 2016 Imagine Cup World Champion during a live broadcast and in front of hundreds of students in the Quincy Jones Performing Arts Center at Seattle’s Garfield High School.
Team ENTy’s project is an app for monitoring balance and posture. The team’s members include Flavia Oprea, Iulian-Razvan Matesica and Cristian Alexandrescu.
The final leg of the nearly year-long Imagine Cup journey began on Wednesday, when 35 teams from all over the globe competed in front of our judges for the top three spots in the Games, Innovation and World Citizenship categories. Team PH21 of Thailand in Games, Team ENTy of Romania in Innovation and Team AMANDA of Greece in World Citizenship each claimed their $50,000 category prize and then moved on to the Championship round to compete for the grand prize – the Imagine Cup crown and a private mentoring session with Satya.
Their innovations were judged by a trio of out-of-this world judges who helped to decide which of these incredible teams would be the Imagine Cup 2016 Champion, including special guest John Boyega, lead actor from Star Wars: The Force Awakens; Dr. Jennifer Tang, one-half of the duo that won the 2014 Imagine Cup Championship; and Kasey Champion, an accomplished software engineer and Computer Science Curriculum Developer at Microsoft.
During the Championship Show, it was exciting to see finalists’ reactions as they received words of encouragement and inspiration from the likes of Seattle Seahawks superstar quarterback Russell Wilson and hit recording artist and Garfield High alum Macklemore, both of whom congratulated the students on making it this far in the competition and wished them luck on their innovation journey.
During the final leg of their journey, Imagine Cup student finalists gained a number of valuable experiences – and inspired us every step of the way. They participated in a live hackathon and got to see first-hand just how powerful a few lines of code can be. The Garfield High gymnasium was transformed into a Robo World Cup Hackathon space where more than a 100 local high school students from the Boys & Girls Club and Garfield High joined Imagine Cup competitors. The hackathon, run by Microsoft Student Partners, helped students build and customize a robot kit using Windows 10 and Microsoft Azure, and tested their innovation in a World Cup style soccer style elimination tournament. The winners received an Xbox One, HP Spectre laptop and a World Cup trophy.
On behalf of Microsoft, I’d like to offer Team ENTy and all the students who dreamed big and worked so hard throughout this year’s Imagine Cup a hearty and well-deserved congratulations!
Games Category:
First Place, $50,000 prize: Team PH21 of Thailand, for its project Timelie, a stealth puzzle game.
Second Place, $10,000 prize: Team None Developers of Indonesia, for its project Froggy and the Pesticide, a game designed to raise environmental awareness.
Third Place, $5,000 prize: Team Tower Up of Brazil, for its project Sonho de Jequi, a runner game.
Innovation Category:
First Place, $50,000 prize: Team ENTy of Romania, which developed an app for monitoring balance and posture.
Second Place, $10,000 prize: Team Bit Masters of Sri Lanka, which developed a low-cost digital signage platform for advertising.
Third Place, $5,000 prize: Team HealthX of the United States, which developed a solution to help doctors and patients diagnose amblyopia.
World Citizenship Category:
First Place, $50,000 prize: Team AMANDA of Greece, which built an anti-bullying app that leverages virtual reality.
Second Place, $10,000 prize: Team Night’s Watch of Tunisia, which designed and built a smart prosthetic for individuals who have lost a limb.
Third Place, $5,000 prize: Team Insimu of Hungary, which designed a virtual reality app to improve the safe and correct medical diagnoses of patients.
Ability Award:
Microsoft Ability Boot Camp: Team BoneyCare of China, which designed an app to treat speech impairments such as stuttering.
Microsoft Student Partner of the year:
Lisa Wong of Canada, University of British Columbia



Rural tech startups see success across the US

By Alice Williams as written on techcrunch.com
While tech startups have become synonymous with urban areas that offer improved access to talent, resources and infrastructure, the reality is that rural areas are also home to startups.
This may come as a surprise to those who have moved away from rural areas specifically to find a job in the tech industry, which accounts for more than 6.7 million jobs in the United States alone. Population loss is a real issue for much of rural America; some states, such as Nebraska and Kansas, have introduced tax incentives to fight back against this trend. Others are turning to technology to counter the trend.
States are starting to recognize the importance of supporting and developing opportunities for rural counties. In the state of Washington, the Department of Commerce has been encouraging business plan competitions in rural areas with “at least 10 competitions in rural areas that we have promoted and supported,” stated Maury Forman, senior manager of the rural initiatives and innovations at Washington State Department of Commerce.
This foresight is necessary to support tech startups and the entrepreneurs behind them — tech startups tend to grow quickly in their early years, which offsets “job destruction from early-stage business failures,” which in turn leads to a more robust job market.
Live. Give. Save. Inc., is a financial tech startup based in the city of Red Wing, Minnesota, home to a little over 16,000 people. “Red Wing has a history of pioneers … and inventors. There’s a rich, rich beautiful history of arts, culture and innovation,” said Susan Sorensen Langer, CEO, Live. Give. Save., Inc., a financial tech startup that is creating a mobile platform to boost retirement savings through charitable giving.
Langer moved out to Red Wing after her contract ended with her last employer and was introduced to Neela Mollgaard, Executive Director of Red Wing Ignite, a nonprofit organization that develops and promotes next-generation technology services and applications. “I was blown away by what they were doing in Red Wing,” Langer said, and spoke to the desire to change Red Wing’s image into a place that would become known for startups much like Austin, Texas.

Access to internet hasn’t really been an issue actually.

— C. Skyler Young
Support from the community to provide the necessary resources and infrastructure has been invaluable to the success of tech startups such as Live. Give. Save., Inc. In 2012, the city of Red Wing and Hiawatha Broadband Communications (HBC) formed a public-private partnership to bring gigabit broadband to Red Wing. For entrepreneurs such as Langer, who have virtual teams, having access to fast internet is crucial.
While other rural areas may not have the same support Red Wing has, technological updates and developments have been on the rise. Certain companies have specifically focused on bringing broadband internet to rural America. “I am often asked if the difficulty of running a company in a rural area is high-speed internet. It’s not,” said Ken Levy, CEO and co-founder of 4-Tell, which helps increase sales for online retailers by 17.1 percent with big data.
C. Skyler Young, owner of Site Savvy, a tech startup that provides managed websites and online marketing for small to mid-sized businesses based in Yakima, Washington, has a similar experience to Levy. “Access to internet hasn’t really been an issue actually,” said Young. “There are a few dead zones in town; some of the communication infrastructure dates back to the 20s,” Young said. “However, it’s been updated a great deal in recent years. It’s not at all hard to find good connections these days.”
While Yakima has a larger population that what is typically considered to be rural, the land is undeveloped and used mostly for agricultural purposes. Known to locals as the little sister of Seattle, Yakima offers plenty of opportunities to enjoy the outdoors, with mountains and bodies of water surrounding the area.
In terms of access to talent, Levy has credited the Columbia River Gorge area with attracting “a personality type that is perfect for startups, and employees want to move here.” Levy stated that “the Gorge has created a high-tech hub with over a thousand technical employees centered around Insitu (a division of Boeing) and related software and hardware companies.”

The assumption that rural areas cannot support tech startups is coming under fire.

While both Young and Langer spoke about the difficulties they’ve faced in getting talent to move to rural areas, they credit remote employees and having a virtual team as filling this gap. “After this [product] kickoff, what I plan is to get a couple of developers to move to Red Wing,” Langer said. Young noted that although finding talent was still a struggle, “it’s becoming easier as time goes on … as people work remotely and choose to live more comfortable and sustainable lifestyles in the countryside.”
And the advantages to having your tech startup based in a rural area? Plenty. Young was full of praise, citing “low cost of living, no traffic, elbow room, and easy access to the outdoors.” In a similar vein, Langer talked about how Red Wing is a great place for those with a love of the outdoors, its close proximity to both Minneapolis and St. Paul, as well as only being 45 minutes away from the nearest airport. “Red Wing is the perfect mix of small town and big city,” Langer said. “It’s a wonderful place to raise children. It’s got everything.” An important factor Levy brought up was access to quality education. The Gorge has access to quality schools and “employees for a high-tech company want the best schools for their kids.”
Although challenges still exist for rural startups, the assumption that rural areas cannot support tech startups is coming under fire. Because of the initiatives of state organizations and private companies, as well as the opening of co-working spaces, rural areas are being given the attention they need and deserve to develop and invest in opportunities that will allow business as a whole to grow and succeed.



Evolving the application platform from software to dataware

By Matt McIlwain as written on techcrunch.com
Every decade, a set of major forces work together to change the way we think about “applications.” Until now, those changes were principally evolutions of software programming, networked communications and user interactions.
In the mid-1990s, Bill Gates’ famous “The Internet Tidal Wave” letter highlighted the rise of the internet, browser-based applications and portable computing.
By 2006, smart, touch devices, Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) and the earliest days of cloud computing were emerging. Today, data and machine learning/artificial intelligence are combining with software and cloud infrastructure to become a new platform.
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella recently described this new platform as “a third ‘run time’ — the next platform…one that doesn’t just manage information but also learns from information and interacts with the physical world.”
I think of this as an evolution from software to dataware as applications transform from predictable programs to data-trained systems that continuously learn and make predictions that become more effective over time. Three forces — application intelligence, microservices/serverless architectures and natural user interfaces — will dominate how we interact with and benefit from intelligent applications over the next decade.
In the mid-1990s, the rise of internet applications offered countless new services to consumers, including search, news and e-commerce. Businesses and individuals had a new way to broadcast or market themselves to others via websites. Application servers from BEA, IBM, Sun and others provided the foundation for internet-based applications, and browsers connected users with apps and content. As consumer hardware shifted from desktop PCs to portable laptops, and infrastructure became increasingly networked, the fundamental architectures of applications were re-thought.
By 2006, a new wave of core forces shaped the definition of applications. Software was moving from client-server to Software-as-a-Service. Companies like Salesforce.com and NetSuite led the way, with others like Concur transforming into SaaS leaders. In addition, hardware started to become software services in the form of Infrastructure-as-a-Service with the launch of Amazon Web Services S3 (Simple Storage Service) and then EC2 (Elastic Cloud Compute Service).
Smart, mobile devices began to emerge, and applications for these devices quickly followed. Apple entered the market with the iPhone in 2007, and a year later introduced the App Store. In addition, Google launched the Android ecosystem that year. Applications were purpose-built to run on these smart devices, and legacy applications were re-purposed to work in a mobile context.
As devices, including iPads, Kindles, Surfaces and others proliferated, application user interfaces became increasingly complex. Soon developers were creating applications that responsively adjusted to the type of device and use case they were supporting. Another major change of this past decade was the transition from typing and clicking, which had dominated the PC and Blackberry era, to touch as a dominant interface for humans and applications.

Software is programmed and predictable, while the new dataware is trained and predictive.

In 2016, we are on the cusp of a totally new era in how applications are built, managed and accessed by users. The most important aspect of this evolution is how applications are being redefined from “software programs” to “dataware learners.”
For decades, software has been ­programmed and designed to run in predictable ways. Over the next decade, dataware will be created through training a computer system with data that enables the system to continuously learn and make predictions based on new data/metadata, engineered features and algorithm-powered data models.
In short, software is programmed and predictable, while the new dataware is trained and predictive. We benefit from dataware all the time today in modern search, consumer services like Netflix and Spotify and fraud protection for our credit cards. But soon, every application will be an intelligent application.
Three major forces underlie the shift from software to dataware which necessitates a new “platform” for application development and operations and these forces are interrelated.

Application intelligence

Intelligent applications are the end product of this evolution. They leverage data, algorithms and ongoing learning to anticipate and improve interactions with the people and machines they interact with.
They combine three layers: innovative data and metadata stores, data intelligence systems (enabled by machine learning/AI) and the predictive intelligence that is expressed at an “application” layer. In addition, these layers are connected by a continual feedback loop that collects data at the points of interaction between machines and/or humans to continually improve the quality of the intelligent applications.

Microservices and serverless functions

Monolithic applications, even SaaS applications, are being deconstructed into components that are elastic building blocks for “macro-services.” Microservice building blocks can be simple or multi-dimensional, and they are expressed through Application Programming Interfaces (APIs). These APIs often communicate machine-to-machine, such as Twilio for communication or Microsoft’s Active Directory Service for identity. They also enable traditional applications to more easily “talk” or interact with new applications.
And, in the form of “bots,” they perform specific functions, like calling a car service or ordering a pizza via an underlying communication platform. A closely related and profound infrastructure trend is the emergence of event-driven, “serverless” application architectures. Serverless functions such as Amazon’s Lambda service or Google Functions leverage cloud infrastructure and containerized systems such as Docker.

Without access to the data and the right to use it to train models, dataware will not be possible.

At one level, these “serverless functions” are a form of microservice. But, they are separate, as they rely on data-driven events to trigger a “state-less” function to perform a specific task. These functions can even call intelligent applications or bots as part of a functional flow. These tasks can be connected and scaled to form real-time, intelligent applications and be delivered in a personalized way to end-users. Microservices, in their varying forms, will dominate how applications are built and “served” over the next decade.

Natural user interface

If touch was the last major evolution in interfaces, voice, vision and virtual interaction using a mix of our natural senses will be the major interfaces of the next decade. Voice is finally exploding with platforms like Alexa, Cortana and Siri. Amazon Alexa already has more than 1,000 voice-activated skills on its platform. And, as virtual and augmented reality continue to progress, voice and visual interfaces (looking at an object to direct an action) will dominate how people interact with applications.
Microsoft HoloLens and Samsung Gear are early examples of devices using visual interfaces. Even touch will evolve in both the physical sense through “chatbots” and the virtual sense, as we use hand controllers like those that come with a Valve/HTC Vive to interact with both our physical and virtual worlds. And especially in virtual environments, using a voice-activated service like Alexa to open and edit a document will feel natural.
What are the high-level implications of the evolution to intelligent applications powered by a dataware platform?
SaaS is not enough. The past 10 years in commercial software have been dominated by a shift to cloud-based, always-on SaaS applications. But, these applications are built in a monolithic (not microservices) manner and are generally programmed, versus trained. New commercial applications will emerge that will incorporate the intelligent applications framework, and usually be built on a microservices platform. Even those now “legacy” SaaS applications will try to modernize by building in data intelligence and microservices components.
Data access and usage rights are required. Intelligent applications are powered by data, metadata and intelligent data models (“learners”). Without access to the data and the right to use it to train models, dataware will not be possible. The best sources of data will be proprietary and differentiated. Companies that curate such data sources and build frequently used, intelligent applications will create a virtuous cycle and a sustainable competitive advantage. There will also be a lot of work and opportunity ahead in creating systems to ingest, clean, normalize and create intelligent data learners leveraging machine learning techniques.
New form factors will emerge. Natural user interfaces leveraging speech and vision are just beginning to influence new form factors like Amazon Echo, Microsoft HoloLens and Valve/HTC Vive. These multi-sense and machine-learning-powered form factors will continue to evolve over the next several years. Interestingly, the three mentioned above emerged from a mix of Seattle-based companies with roots in software, e-commerce and gaming!
The three major trends outlined here will help turn software applications into dataware learners over the next decade, and will shape the future of how man and machine interact. Intelligent applications will be data-driven, highly componentized, accessed via almost all of our senses and delivered in real time.
These applications and the devices used to interact with them, which may seem improbable to some today, will feel natural and inevitable to all by 2026 — if not sooner. Entrepreneurs and companies looking to build valuable services and software today need to keep these rapidly emerging trends in mind.
I remember debating with our portfolio companies in 2006 and 2007 whether or not to build products as SaaS and mobile-first on a cloud infrastructure. That ship has sailed. Today we encourage them to build applications powered by machine learning, microservices and voice/visual inputs.



CDI: Training the next generation of tech-savvy leaders

As written on microsoft.com
CDI (Center for Digital Inclusion), an international technology literacy organization headquartered in Brazil, doesn’t merely train youth to search the internet, say, or create a Word document; it also teaches problem-solving skills and social tools that empower its young participants to thrive in our hyper-connected world.
Yet a disjointed IT system hindered communication, slowed down operations and ultimately held back the Rio de Jainero-based nonprofit. To upgrade, CDI applied for and received Office 365 Nonprofit, the full-spectrum tech solution provided for free or at a drastic discount to qualifying nonprofits, as well as help implementing it. In just a handful of months, Office 365 has supercharged the nonprofit, helping CDI to
  • get more done—in less time and for less money,
  • deepen its training and education,
  • strengthen an ever-expanding network of local partners,
  • create consistency across a global brand, and
  • build relationships through tech-powered communities.


“Imagine a world in which individuals use technology to build a more free and just society. CDI is extremely grateful to Microsoft for working with us to build a big utopia, which we see as an e-topia.” - Marcel Fukayama, CEO of CDI Global and leader within Brazil’s B corporation


Technology builds a “more free and just society”

Channeling stronger relationships

“The adoption of Yammer has was an extremely inspiring process for us, of connection and engagement with our community of educators,” says the CEO, who has also written two books about using business for good.
Librarians in 46 cities across Brazil have turned the internal social media hub Yammer into a thriving network. Users post news, take polls, publicize events and share best practices—all activities that create a supportive and informative online community. The result: more engaging programming for the youth CDI serves. What’s more, Yammer provides a central location for CDI employees to communicate with program participants and even applaud the most active users in the group, encouraging others to dive deeper into the organization’s offerings, too.
Just as the nonprofit teaches educators and young people to use tech to achieve their goals, the updated IT solution of Office 365 powers CDI’s mission. “Imagine a world in which individuals use technology to build a more free and just society,” Fukayama says. “CDI is extremely grateful to Microsoft for working with us to build a big utopia, which we see as an e-topia.”

Plugging in to efficiency

CDI employees know a thing or two about efficiency: In just two decades, the organization has reached more than 1.6 million young people. But its leadership knew they could make an even bigger impact with a streamlined, cloud-based IT system.
Now they can. Office 365’s storage has given the nonprofit control of its data—and its budget. “The implementation of this technology has helped us to maximize time and resources,” explains Marcel Fukayama, CEO of CDI Global and leader within Brazil’s B corporation community. In fact, the cloud storage alone (to the tune of 1 terabyte per user) saves the IT department $15,000 a year—funds better spent on lifting up teens through tech.
Plus, they trust Office 365’s financially backed, guaranteed uptime to always have access to its lesson plans, training modules, fundraising spreadsheets and just about everything else that makes the organization run.

Offering long-term support

“Skype is used broadly across our programs, overcoming limitations of distance and time”— boosting the amount of ongoing support CDI can offer to employees and partners throughout Latin America and Portugal, says Fukayama. For example, CDI will use video conferencing for one-on-one mentorship in its new program that trains public school teachers, which will help the nonprofit serve an additional 15,000 students in technology-poor schools.

The face-to-face contact via webinars and online meetings also strengthens relationships among employees spread out over thousands of miles, who don’t often have the opportunity to meet in person.

Forging a stronger network

Fukayama calls OneDrive—the cloud-based storage and collaboration tool—a “catalyzer of co-creation.” Sharing documents through the platform encourages employees to work together on automatically synched files, integrating more people’s insights and leading to a more cohesive team.
What’s more, “Local facilitators and NGOs now have free access to learning content and methods from an international network, which would normally require huge investments in infrastructure.” That way, satellite offices and partner organizations use CDI’s tried and tested methodology so anyone working remotely doesn’t have to invent their own approach.

Establishing consistency

With more than 800 offices across 15 countries, maintaining consistency in methods, message and operations is vital. Office 365 helped CDI rise to the challenge. All employees access the same files and training curriculum in OneDrive no matter where they work, and facilitators easily tap into the materials they need from the community centers and schools where they teach. That way, leadership in each country’s home office knows the instruction meets the same high standards, Fukayama says.
Another benefit: The centralized database ensures permanent access to important files that may otherwise be lost when employees move on.




Europe eyes new rules for online platforms

By Natasha Lomas as written on techcrunch.com
The European Union’s executive body has today set out a series of proposals for new rules that would apply to a broad range of online platforms, from the likes of YouTube to Google to eBay, as part of ongoing efforts to boost competitiveness in the region under its Digital Single Market Strategy.
The proposals follow a year long assessment by the European Commission of online platforms, after which it says it has concluded that a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach is not appropriate to maximize consumer benefits while ensuring effective regulation across all the different types of platforms — so it says it will rather look at each area where it can act “from telecoms to copyright rules, to address any specific problems in a future-proof way for all market players”.
Among the proposed changes is a new set of audiovisual rules — with the stated aim of achieving a better balance between rules that apply to traditional broadcasters vs online video-on-demand providers and video-sharing platforms like YouTube. Key among the EC’s concerns here is safeguarding minors.
It says it wants video-sharing platforms to help come up with a code of conduct for the industry relating to protecting minors online. For the most harmful content (gratuitous violence and pornography) it wants to strict control measures applied to online platforms, such as age verification or pin codes.
Under the proposals there would also be a stronger role for audiovisual regulators.
At this stage the EC is not including social network platforms such as Facebook — where plenty of video-sharing and viewing now takes place of course — in its definition of online platforms but it does say this could change in future.  “If a particular social media provider meets all the characteristics of a video-sharing platform, they will be covered as such,” it notes.
These proposals are an update to the existing Audiovisual Media Services Directive (AMSD), which has governed audiovisual media in the region for almost 30 years. The existing directive also includes stipulations to encourage cultural diversity and the free circulation of content within Europe, which the EC wants to see bleeding over to the online platforms that viewers are increasingly turning to in the digital era.
Under current rules, for example, TV broadcasters are obliged to broadcast at least 50 per cent share of European works (including national content) in viewing time. This proportion will remain unchanged under the proposal but VOD services would get more formal obligations — with a proposed requirement that they have at least a 20 per cent share of European content in their catalogues, and give good visibility to European content in any offers.
Elsewhere, the Commission has also been looking at the rules around ad content, and says it wants greater flexibility for online platforms to use product placement and sponsorship — with the caveat that they must keep viewers informed at the start or end of a program. Product placement will still be forbidden in content with a significant children’s audience.
Also today the Commission has set out additional proposals for updating ecommerce rules — with a push to prevent unjustified geoblocking, such as discriminating on price based on nationality or residency, by online platforms.
In moves aimed at boosting trust in ecommerce it also wants search engines to be required to “clearly distinguish” paid placements from organic search results. And the industry to step-up voluntary efforts to tackle fake/misleading online reviews.
Increasing price-transparency and regulatory oversight of cross-border parcel delivery services to boost regional ecommerce is another priority.
The Commission is also focusing on controlling the spread of hate speech on online platforms — an issue which has again bubbled to the fore in Europe in recent times, following the refugee crisis.
A code of conduct the EC has been working on with online platforms is due to be presented in the coming weeks, it said today.
The package of measures are proposals at this stage with European law requiring EU Member States to vote on and agree them, and transpose them into national legislation — a process that can take multiple years.



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