Microsoft launches anti-corruption technology and solutions | Microsoft On The Issues

Microsoft launches anti-corruption technology and solutions | Microsoft On The Issues

Today marks the 15th anniversary of the United Nations’ International Anti-Corruption Day. On this day, Microsoft is proud to join with others from around the world to use our voice in support of International Anti-Corruption Day and to commit to take steps to reduce corruption.

In recognition of this important day, we are launching Microsoft Anti-Corruption Technology and Solutions (ACTS) to help empower governments and other stakeholders in their corruption fight. With this initiative, we hope to bend the curve of corruption by helping governments innovate with technology, expertise, and other resources…

The opportunity

At Microsoft, we believe corruption is an urgent global issue that can and must be solved. It will require a focused and comprehensive solution, and it will require governments, civil society, and the private sector all working together to promote transparency, create effective controls, and drive accountability. It is a daunting task, but never before has the world had the kinds of tools to fight corruption that exist today. We know, for instance, that data can illuminate hidden patterns and relationships to provide governments with better tools to ensure public moneys go to their intended purposes. Technology resources such as cloud computing, data visualization, artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning provide powerful tools for governments and corporations to aggregate and analyze their enormous and complex datasets in the cloud, ferreting out corruption from the shadows where it lives, and even preventing corruption before it happens.

Our commitment

In the next decade, Microsoft ACTS will leverage the company’s investments in cloud computing, data visualization, AI, machine learning, and other emerging technologies to enhance transparency and to detect and deter corruption. We will endeavor to bring the most promising solutions to the broadest possible audience, using our partner networks, programs, and global employee base to scale solutions through careful consideration of their priorities, technical infrastructure, and capabilities…

We stand with the United Nations and the initiatives undertaken by governments around the world to stamp out corruption, and we look forward to working with governments, civil society, and others in the private sector to help us all recover with integrity.

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PyDev of the Week: Shauna Gordon-McKeon | The Mouse vs The Python

PyDev of the Week: Shauna Gordon-McKeon | The Mouse vs The Python

This week we welcome Shauna Gordon-McKeon as our PyDev of the Week! Shauna runs her own consulting business, Galaxy Rise Consulting and is a Django enthusiast. She has also spoken at several Python conferences! If this interview isn’t enough for you, you can learn more about Shauna over on the Django Girls blog.

Let’s spend some time getting to know her!

Why did you start using Python?

Right out of college I was working in a neuroimaging lab. We used Matlab to present our stimuli and to do the bulk of data analysis, but there was a lot of data cleaning and other odds and ends that needed doing. There were two experienced programmers in our lab, one who favored Perl and one who favored Python. My desk was right next to the one who favored Python…

What other programming languages do you know and which is your favorite?

Other than Python, right now I’m most fluent with JavaScript. In the past I’ve also been immersed in PHP, Java, R, and as I mentioned Matlab, and there’s a couple other languages like Lisp and Ruby I’ve played around with a little. I’ve found that if I’m not actively working in a language I grow rusty pretty quickly, which is only a good thing if the language is Rust. 😉

What projects are you working on now?

My main project is Concord, which is a governance library I’ve been working on for a couple years. The goal is to enable developers to build sites which empower communities to democratically self-govern. I’ve learned a ton about Python and about software architecture and of course about governance from working on it…

What is your favorite thing about the Python community?

I appreciate how seriously it takes inclusivity and, even more simply, kindness. There are technical communities which are very unpleasant to be in. I feel for folks who need to be in those spaces for career reasons, or because it’s the only way to do the work they love. Life is too short to have to be constantly dealing with cruelty or bigotry…

Is there anything the Python community could do better?

…Something else I’d like to tackle is our relationship to industry. Many of us are employed in the tech industry, and many of the big tech firms sponsor PyCon and the PSF, but sometimes these companies are engaged in deeply unethical behavior. My hope is that as a community we can draw some lines in the sand and say, you know, if you make money from separating children from their families, you can’t have a table in our expo hall. If you illegally fire workers for organizing to improve their workplace, we don’t want your donation. That’s a discussion we need to have as a community, and I hope we have it.

Thanks for doing the interview, Shauna!

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Innovative new uses of ElectionGuard | Microsoft On The Issues

Innovative new uses of ElectionGuard | Microsoft On The Issues

Last year, we announced ElectionGuard, our free and open-source technology to make elections more secure and, for the first time, to enable people to verify their votes were counted and not altered. Since then, we’ve achieved several important milestones including the release of the ElectionGuard software on GitHub, the announcement of our bug bounty program, and a successful pilot of ElectionGuard in a real election in Wisconsin earlier this year. We believe ElectionGuard has the potential to give people greater confidence in the security, reliability and results of future elections, and we expect to soon have more updates to share about ElectionGuard’s use in traditional voting systems. Today, I’d like to share an update on some projects where ElectionGuard is already being used in a variety of innovative ways.

Risk-limiting audits

We recently worked with VotingWorks, our nonprofit partner in the Wisconsin pilot, to incorporate ElectionGuard into Arlo, VotingWorks’ open-source auditing software. Arlo was used to conduct a risk-limiting audit in Inyo County, California, following the recent 2020 U.S. general election. A risk-limiting audit is a process election officials can use in paper ballot elections to efficiently confirm that, if a full hand count were performed, the same winner would be declared. By using ElectionGuard’s encryption in the audit process, VotingWorks was able to show a direct link between the election results and the audit results without compromising voter privacy.

House Democratic Caucus leadership elections

We were pleased to work with Markup – a technology provider that serves U.S. lawmakers – on a mobile app to facilitate remote voting for leadership of the House Democratic Caucus, chaired by Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY). Using the app, members of the Caucus successfully voted for their Caucus and committee leadership remotely through secret ballots. Votes cast using the app were encrypted with ElectionGuard’s homomorphic encryption, and Caucus officials were able to confirm that votes were correctly tallied. This was a great example of how ElectionGuard can be used in innovative ways to ensure a secure and verifiable voting process…

Supporting the security of global elections

We designed ElectionGuard so that it can help provide enhanced security and verifiability across a range of voting solutions. For example, ElectionGuard supports voting systems that use paper ballots as the primary way to vote, as a backup or not at all. It is up to the voting officials responsible for the safety and security of their elections to determine the right voting solution for their jurisdiction and situation.  Special circumstances, like the Covid-19 pandemic, create unique chalrest of thelenges for voting officials, and we believe ElectionGuard can support a range of innovative solutions that can address both long-term voter confidence in democratic elections and short-term innovative solutions that enable trustworthy voting – even in the midst of a global health crisis…

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Microsoft, Code.org partner to teach AI and ethics from elementary to high school | Microsoft On The Issues

Microsoft, Code.org partner to teach AI and ethics from elementary to high school | Microsoft On The Issues

Microsoft and Code.org are excited to announce a partnership that gives every student from elementary school to high school the opportunity to learn about artificial intelligence (AI).

At a time when AI and machine learning are changing the very fabric of society and transforming entire industries, it is more important than ever to give every student the opportunity to not only learn how these technologies work, but also to think critically about the ethical and societal impacts of AI.

AI is used everywhere, from voice assistants to self-driving cars, and it’s rapidly becoming the most important technological innovation of current times. AI has the potential to play a major role in addressing global problems, such as detecting and curing diseases, cleaning oceans, eliminating poverty or harnessing clean energy.

For more on Microsoft and Code.org’s partnership, read the full post here.

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PyDev of the Week: Mridu Bhatnagar | The Mouse vs The Python

PyDev of the Week: Mridu Bhatnagar | The Mouse vs The Python

This week we welcome Mridu Bhatnagar (@Mridu__) as our PyDev of the Week! Mridu enjoys giving tech talks. She recently started a Youtube channel and a blog on Python and other tech topics.

Let’s take a few moments to get to know Mridu better!

Can you tell us a little about yourself (hobbies, education, etc):

Hi, I am Mridu. I am a backend developer by profession. Computer Science and Engineering graduate by degree. I am in the formative years of my career. I love building stuff, converting ideas into working applications, and automating tasks wherever I can.

Other areas of my interest include outdoors – sports, travel, adventure. I have done trekking, hiking, wall-climbing, long-distance cycling, kayaking, and now that I have started I am always on the lookout for an opportunity to do those again and also explore the ones that I haven’t tried so far to face the fears and live the life experiences to the fullest.

I am more of a go alone and meet people kind of person. This gives an opportunity to meet new folks at a variety of meetups(not just tech meetups) from different walks of life, different age groups, an opportunity to indulge in intriguing conversations, and a bunch of new things to learn and get inspired from.

Why did you start using Python?

I was in the third year of my under-graduation and we were offered Python as one of the elective courses. This was the turning point in life. We were given lots of interesting problems to solve as a part of our lab work, projects. The problems were related to building interesting applications from building small word games, hangman, multi-player tic-tac-toe, tinkering with boards raspberry pi, beaglebone, using OpenCV to identify number-plate of a car, something around QR codes, etc.

We were graded on a single project. I was so excited about the ideas that on-side I started building more projects. Gradually, my interest in programming started to develop.

What other programming languages do you know and which is your favorite?

Professionally I have been programming with Python, using SQL for working with databases. For building some of my side-projects I have used HTML, CSS, JS. Every programming language works best for certain use-cases and has its own limitations too. However, based on the variety of side-projects I can build using the language and community around the language, Python is favorite…

Is there anything else you’d like to say?

I learned this the hard way, after hesitating to reach out to anyone in the initial years of engineering. Find your teacher/mentor. Reach out, ask, seek help if you need to. Avoid getting into the trap of analysis-paralysis. Go ahead, start.

I am forever grateful to the teacher/mentor who introduced me to programming and believed that you can do it. By giving talks within my native country and outside, if I am able to give back to the community in a small way it has honestly been a collective effort.

Thanks for doing the interview, Mridu!

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PyDev of the Week: Reuven Lerner | The Mouse vs The Python

PyDev of the Week: Reuven Lerner | The Mouse vs The Python

This week we welcome Reuven Lerner (@reuvenmlerner) as our PyDev of the Week. Reuven is a trainer who teaches Python and data science all over the world. You can find out more on his website. Reuven also has a newsletter on becoming a better developer that you might enjoy.

Reuven also has the following resources freely available:

Let’s take some time getting to know Reuven better!

Can you tell us a little about yourself (hobbies, education, etc):

I grew up in the Northeastern United States, and studied computer science at MIT, graduating in 1992. After working for Hewlett Packard and Time Warner, I moved to Israel in December 1995, opening my own consulting company. I had neither consulted nor run a business at that point, but I was single and optimistic, so I gave it a shot.

I’ve been in business for myself since then, pausing along the way to get a PhD in learning sciences from Northwestern University. My dissertation involved the creation of the Modeling Commons, which allows people to collaborate in the creation of agent-based models.

For years, I did a little bit of everything: I wrote software, did system administration, tuned databases, consulted with companies, and did training. About a decade ago, I realized that training was more fun and more lucrative than development — and that it was a good business practice to specialize in one thing. I’ve been a full-time Python trainer since then. Most days, I teach between 4-10 hours for companies around the world, teaching everything from “Python for non-programmers” all the way up to advanced Python workshops.

I’m married, with three children (20, 18, and 15), and live in Modi’in, a small city halfway between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

As for hobbies, my big obsession over the last few years has been studying Chinese. I find it fun and interesting, and also practical, given that I normally travel to China a few times each year to do corporate training there. (That has obviously been put on hold, thanks to the pandemic.)

Aside from Chinese, I read a lot, especially about current events. I also enjoy doing crosswords, and am steadily getting better at them. Everyone in my family, including me, also enjoys cooking, although I don’t often have a chance to do it as much as I’d like. And as of the start of the pandemic, I’ve been taking very long, very early walks — about 15 km/day, starting at 4 a.m. I have found it a nice, refreshing way to get out in this time of staying
at home.

Why did you start using Python?

I was introduced to Python back in early 1993, when the Web was young and we were looking for languages with which we could write server-side scripts, aka “Web applications.” (I actually objected to having the term “application developer” on my business card, because I thought it was laughable that you could call what we wrote “applications.” Whoops.)

At the time, I did some Perl and some Python. At the time, Perl was more popular and had a much larger library of third-party modules. So while I knew Python and recommended it to anyone I knew who wanted to start programming, I personally used Perl for a while, continuing to use Python here and there, but not doing much with it.

I saw that Perl wasn’t doing well as a language or community, and tried to figure out in which direction I could move. I tried Python, but the Web application frameworks at the time were too weak or too weird. (I even did a big project using Zope, with its object database.) That’s when Ruby on Rails was released; because Ruby is basically Perl with Smalltalk objects, I was delighted to use the language.

But I couldn’t escape noticing that Ruby was largely trapped in the Web world, whereas Python was growing in scope and mindshare. The number of third-party packages on PyPI was growing rapidly, and when I decided to exclusively do training (rather than doing it alongside development and consulting), I found that there was far more demand for Python than for anything else.

I’ve been deeply steeped in the Python world ever since, and I couldn’t be happier.

What other programming languages do you know and which is your favorite?

I learned Lisp back in college, and I still use Emacs for editing — so I continue to have affection for Lisp as a language, and often refer to the concepts, I learned in it when working with Python.

As I wrote above, I loved working with Ruby. Everything is an object in Python, but that’s even more the case in Ruby. I loved the freedom and creativity of the Ruby world, but the object model is hard for people to grasp — and in Ruby, if you don’t eat objects for breakfast, you’ll have a hard time with it.

My research group in graduate school developed NetLogo, an agent-based modeling language. That’s a completely different way of writing code and expressing ideas, one which more developers should try.

I’m not sure if any of these would count as my favorite; I’ve now been using Python for long enough that I find that I can most easily express myself using its idioms.

I keep hoping to find time to learn Rust, because the idea of a systems language that doesn’t require me to use pointers seems really attractive, and I’ve heard such great things about it. But I keep struggling to find time to learn it…

Is there anything else you’d like to say?

I’m generally impressed with the Python community, in that it’s welcoming to newcomers and patient with their questions. There are so many people learning Python, and for them it’s not a passion or the latest language on a long list — it’s something they have to do for work, and they’re a bit confused by the terminology, the ecosystem, and even the syntax. I love working with newcomers to the language, and I encourage everyone to do what they can to help the huge influx of programming immigrants (for lack of a better term), to help this all make sense to them.

Thanks for doing the interview, Reuven!

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New Steps to Defend Your Data | Microsoft On The Issues

New Steps to Defend Your Data | Microsoft On The Issues

Our public sector and enterprise customers regularly need to move their data between countries, regions and continents. Today, we’re announcing new protections for our public sector and enterprise customers who need to move their data from the European Union, including a contractual commitment to challenge government requests for data and a monetary commitment to show our conviction. Microsoft is the first company to provide these commitments in response to last week’s clear guidance from data protection regulators in the European Union.

Every day, our customers move data through their global networks to serve their clients, work with suppliers or partners, and manage payroll for their global workforce. These cross-border data transfers have been the subject of recent litigation and regulatory action including a ruling earlier this year from the Court of Justice for the European Union and draft recommendations issued last week by the European Data Protection Board (EDPB) about how companies can comply with this ruling…

Some of the public discussion about the impact of U.S. government data demands focuses on U.S.-headquartered companies. But it is clear that U.S. laws regarding government access to data apply to companies that do business in the U.S., even if they are headquartered in Europe or elsewhere.

Privacy is a core value for us at Microsoft because we believe people will only use technology if they can trust it. That’s why we were the first cloud provider to work with European data protection authorities for approval of Europe’s model clauses, the first to adopt new technical standards for cloud privacy, and enthusiastic supporters of the GDPR since it was first proposed in 2012. We have extended core rights under the GDPR to consumers around the world, and we have honored core rights of the California Consumer Privacy Act for all our consumers in the United States. In addition, we have launched the Tech Fit for Europe initiative to develop digital solutions based on European values and rules.

We hope the steps we have announced today demonstrate to our enterprise and public sector customers that we will go above and beyond the law to defend their data, and the data of their users.

You can read more about our commitment to privacy here

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What ‘Integrity Built In’ means for Microsoft devices’ sustainability | Microsoft On The Issues

What ‘Integrity Built In’ means for Microsoft devices’ sustainability | Microsoft On The Issues

The Covid-19 global pandemic has disrupted all aspects of our daily lives. From how we work, go to school and even spend our free time, the pandemic continues to affect how we live. The pandemic also highlighted how dependent we are on the global supply chain for products like PCs that help us work, study and even enjoy some downtime playing games and binge watching our favorite shows. As a global technology company, our supply chain plays a critical role in Microsoft’s mission – empowering every person and organization to achieve more…

Zero tolerance of forced labor

We set high standards for all our suppliers and we work with them to support their people and improve their operations. We hold ourselves and our suppliers accountable for addressing human rights, labor, environmental health and safety and ethical business practices upstream in our supply chain. This includes addressing the risks inherent in raw materials extraction, harvesting, processing, refining and transportation – including unsafe working practices as well as forced labor and child labor. We require our suppliers to incorporate our standards in their own sourcing practices. Our Supplier Code of Conduct prohibits forced labor, including all forms of prison labor…

Supplier health and safety

The Covid-19 pandemic has been an unprecedented challenge for our supply chain partners and their workers. Health and safety is our top priority, and this includes our suppliers’ workers. As the pandemic spread around the world, we shared workplace safety best practices with our suppliers based on World Health Organization guidelines. We aligned with the Responsible Business Alliance and provided guidance to our suppliers on working hours and overtime rules. We helped ensure that overtime was voluntary and paid at a premium, and that suppliers continued to comply with applicable laws and Microsoft’s standards during the pandemic. We also provided a workers’ hotline to give workers in our supply chain an opportunity to report concerns anonymously. In FY20, we received 160 cases and resolved 156, with four cases still under investigation. We work directly with suppliers to address concerns and implement corrective measures.

Partnerships for change

On-the-ground engagement is a critical enabling step toward responsible sourcing. In FY20, Microsoft partnered with Pact, an international NGO with a long history of promoting responsible sourcing. This year Pact focused on promoting opportunities for women through literacy training and micro-banking program opportunities to empower women to lift themselves out of poverty. Pact’s award-winning WORTH program brings women and older girls together in groups of 20 to 25 to save money, access credit and help start small businesses. Microsoft also actively supports the Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance (IRMA) and has a leadership role on IRMA’s board of directors. Due to the Covid-19 crisis, auditing and verification of mine performance became increasingly more challenging. Microsoft partnered with IRMA to enable remote sensing and monitoring technologies to enhance mine assurance programs and ensure proper due diligence of mine performance.

The road ahead

We know this is just the start of our sustainability journey and that there are more challenges ahead. With each new challenge we will learn and adapt. We will always take on each new sustainability challenge with the same core values of integrity, accountability and respect. We look forward to sharing more about our progress and also hearing from you. Please get in touch with us if you have any questions or comments on our report at: AskSEA@microsoft.com.

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PyDev of the Week: Max Humber | The Mouse vs The Python

PyDev of the Week: Max Humber | The Mouse vs The Python
This week we welcome Max Humber (@maxhumber) as our PyDev of the Week! Max is the creator of gazpacho, a  “simple, fast, and modern web scraping library” written in Python. Max is also an instructor at O’Reilly media. You can see what other projects Max is working on over on Github.
 
Let’s take a few moments to get to know Max better!
 
 
Can you tell us a little about yourself:
 
I’m hunkered down in Toronto teaching for O’Reilly and General Assembly. Throwing all of my free time at leveling up my cooking. And looking forward to when I can go see live music, boulder at my gym, and take a pottery class again…
 
 
Why did you start using Python?
 
I’m pretty sure I started using Python because of lifelines by Cameron Davidson-Pilon. I needed to do some survival analysis some years ago, and got hooked into the language because of that package.
 
 
What other programming languages do you know and which is your favorite?
 
I started programming in R. Although I don’t really use the language anymore, I sometimes miss dplyr. These days, I’m spending more and more time with Swift. It’s a great language with some great ideas, like, protocol-oriented programming. And I like Lua exactly because of its limitations. Honestly, I’m convinced that Lua is more popular than Python in some other timeline. But in this timeline Python is my favourite!…
 
 
Is there anything else you’d like to say?
 
Yes! thesaurus.com is an underrated programming tool. Especially if you’re like me and you feel like this every damn day.
 
And, thanks for inviting me to participate in this interview series, Mike! Really appreciate all of the work that you do.
 
 
Thanks for doing the interview, Max!

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Microsoft study: Online risks that sow hate and division are growing | Microsoft On The Issues

Microsoft study: Online risks that sow hate and division are growing | Microsoft On The Issues

Online fraud, hate speech, discrimination and other divisive online risks are on the rise globally, according to results of a new Microsoft study. We’re releasing these findings in conjunction with World Kindness Day in an effort to turn that tide and encourage safer, more empathetic and tolerant online interactions among all people.

Take the Digital Civility Challenge

As done since the start of this research, we’re encouraging people around the world to take our Digital Civility Challenge and pledge to live by four basic tenets for life online:

  • Live the Golden Rule and treat others as you would want to be treated
  • Respect differences of all types, including those of thought and opinion
  • Pause before replying to something you may disagree with, and
  • If it’s safe and prudent to do so, stand up for yourself and others online who may be the target of abuse or cruel treatment.

So, step up to the Digital Civility Challenge this World Kindness Day, and tell us you’ve done so on social media using the hashtag #Im4digitalcivility. To learn more about online safety issues and digital civility generally, visit our website and webpage.

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1 Geographies polled in 2020: Argentina, Australia*, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Denmark*, France, Germany, Hungary, India, Indonesia*, Ireland, Italy, Malaysia, Mexico, Netherlands, Peru, Philippines*, Poland, Russia, Sweden*, Singapore, Spain*, South Africa, Taiwan*, Thailand*, Turkey, U.K., U.S., Vietnam. * Added (or re-added) to the study in 2020

2 The 21 risks span four broad categories: behavioral, sexual, reputational and personal/intrusive. Specifically:

Reputational – “Doxing” and damage to personal or professional reputations

Behavioral – Being treated meanly; experiencing trolling, online harassment or bullying; encountering hate speech and microaggressions

Sexual – Sending or receiving unwanted sexting messages and making sexual solicitations; receiving unwanted sexual attention and being a victim of sextortion or non-consensual intimate images (aka “revenge porn”), and

Personal/intrusive – Being the target of unwanted contact, experiencing discrimination, swatting, misogyny, exposure to extremist content/recruiting, or falling victim to hoaxes, scams, or fraud

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Cyberattacks targeting health care must stop | Microsoft On The Issues

Cyberattacks targeting health care must stop | Microsoft On The Issues

Two global issues will help shape people’s memories of this time in history – Covid-19 and the increased use of the internet by malign actors to disrupt society. It’s disturbing that these challenges have now merged as cyberattacks are being used to disrupt health care organizations fighting the pandemic. We think these attacks are unconscionable and should be condemned by all civilized society. Today, we’re sharing more about the attacks we’ve seen most recently and are urging governments to act…

Among the targets, the majority are vaccine makers that have Covid-19 vaccines in various stages of clinical trials. One is a clinical research organization involved in trials, and one has developed a Covid-19 test. Multiple organizations targeted have contracts with or investments from government agencies from various democratic countries for Covid-19 related work…

Today, Microsoft’s president Brad Smith is participating in the Paris Peace Forum where he will urge governments to do more. Microsoft is calling on the world’s leaders to affirm that international law protects health care facilities and to take action to enforce the law. We believe the law should be enforced not just when attacks originate from government agencies but also when they originate from criminal groups that governments enable to operate – or even facilitate – within their borders. This is criminal activity that cannot be tolerated…

At a time when the world is united in wanting an end to the pandemic and anxiously awaiting the development of a safe and effective vaccine for Covid-19, it is essential for world leaders to unite around the security of our health care institutions and enforce the law against cyberattacks targeting those who endeavor to help us all. You can learn more about what Microsoft is doing to advance cybersecurity here.

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Closing the digital divide in K-12 education: A call to action | Microsoft On The Issues

Closing the digital divide in K-12 education: A call to action | Microsoft On The Issues

For millions of students around the world, the Covid-19 pandemic has brought about a seismic shift in the way they study, socialize and receive a formal education. In fact, we know that more than 1.6 billion students globally have experienced a disruption to the traditional learning experience. Unfortunately, we also know that the impact of this disruption will be borne disproportionately by the world’s most vulnerable learners…

What is the Education Open Data Challenge?

The Education Open Data Challenge is an opportunity for teams to evaluate the current state of the global digital divide in K-12 education and suggest innovative solutions to close that divide. Participating teams will be asked to identify gaps in digital infrastructure that affect the delivery of education services online, pinpoint potential impacts on learning outcomes, and suggest innovative and realistic solutions to address these gaps in a cost-efficient way…

Who can participate?

The challenge is open to teams and individuals based anywhere in the world, and we encourage those interested in data analysis, education and closing the digital divide to learn more here

More than ever, reliance on access to broadband has the potential to determine whether students thrive or struggle in their educational journeys. If we want to level the playing field so all students have access to the technology and connectivity they need to be successful, we need to work together and collaborate around data that has the potential to unlock truly promising solutions. I look forward to sharing updates on the challenge and its participants in the weeks and months ahead.

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Microsoft and OpenAI partner to propose digital transformation of export controls | Microsoft On The Issues

Microsoft and OpenAI partner to propose digital transformation of export controls | Microsoft On The Issues

The worlds of technology, trade and national security policy are converging as never before. Governments and non-government actors are vigorously debating how to ensure that powerful technologies are used by trustworthy actors and to good ends – and are increasingly looking to export controls as a way to achieve this. Targeted export controls on end uses and users of concern are needed to protect national security interests on the one hand without provoking serious unintended consequences on the other. However, these can be difficult to administer and enforce. The time is right for a digital transformation of export controls – a new approach that leverages novel digital solutions within sensitive and important technology itself to better protect it from uses that harm national security, while preserving its beneficial uses. Microsoft and OpenAI have joined together to work on these solutions. In a submission to the U.S. government yesterday and here, we describe how a digitally transformed export controls system would work and the substantial benefits it would provide.1

The challenge

Following a mandate in the Export Control Reform Act of 2018 (ECRA), the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) has undertaken efforts to identify and control the export of “emerging” or “foundational” technologies essential to U.S. national security. In comment periods ending in January 2019 and yesterday, BIS sought help from industry and others on how to identify and approach control of these emerging and foundational technologies…

The solution: How a digital transformation of export controls will work

The government will set policies that determine who can access sensitive technologies and for what purpose from an export controls and national security perspective. These policies would then be implemented and enforced within the protected technology itself, as well as hardening the infrastructure around it to prevent circumvention. These solutions can protect against problematic users and uses in a more targeted, effective and dynamic way – not just at initial access but continuously in a deployed environment…

Applications beyond export controls

…Employed appropriately, these digital solutions will provide valuable commercial benefits to users, as well as a far more powerful, dynamic and targeted method for controlling exports of important technologies. We look forward to continuing to exchange ideas with a range of stakeholders interested in pursuing such solutions.

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1 For our full U.S. government submission, see Microsoft and OpenAI Comment on Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking Regarding Review of Controls for Certain Foundational Technologies.

An update on our AI for Health program | Microsoft On The Issues

An update on our AI for Health program | Microsoft On The Issues

We launched our AI for Health program in January to use artificial intelligence (AI) and data to help improve the health of people and communities worldwide. Shortly thereafter, Covid-19 hit us head on and became a global health pandemic that upended the lives of people, communities and economies around the world. Recognizing the global impact of this disease, we mobilized AI for Health in April to focus on helping those on the front lines of Covid-19 research.

Early on, we had no idea the tenacity and duration of the disease. But, as of the time of writing, there have been more than 50 million confirmed cases of Covid-19, and more than 1.25 million deaths globally, according to the World Health Organization. Despite the ongoing efforts of scientists, researchers and policymakers, Covid-19 continues to change and shift the world as we know it…

Our partners and grantees make progress against Covid-19 every day, but there is still much to do to fight the disease. The great work being done by our partners and grantees emboldens us to continue working tirelessly against Covid-19, while also supporting and helping those on the front lines. We are humbled by their incredible efforts and remain committed to supporting researchers and policymakers around the world as they tackle this terrible disease.

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PyDev of the Week: Mary Chester-Kadwell | The Mouse vs The Python

PyDev of the Week: Mary Chester-Kadwell | The Mouse vs The Python

This week we welcome Mary Chester-Kadwell (@marycktech) as our PyDev of the Week! Mary is a software engineer at Cambridge University Library. You can see some of what she’s up to over on Github.

I think you’ll find her journey into Python really interesting. So without further ado, let’s find out more about Mary!

Can you tell us a little about yourself (hobbies, education, etc):

I’m a software engineer at Cambridge University Library in the UK. At work, I split my time between developing software, advising academics and teaching coding with Python. Some of the software I develop is about providing services to library users, but some of it is designed for research projects. I work a lot with students and staff in arts, humanities, social sciences, libraries and museums. I get to dip my toe in all sorts of interesting areas like machine learning, natural language processing, handwriting recognition, and computer vision…

Why did you start using Python?

After a few years in the workplace I was looking for a new direction. At first, I wasn’t sure if I could do programming as almost all the people I knew who were programmers were men. I had tried my hand at coding before at various points over the years for small things, but it didn’t seem to go anywhere. Books and documentation were so dry and they assumed too much about what you already knew. Now in 2020 we are swimming in excellent courses and resources — how lucky we are!

What other programming languages do you know and which is your favourite?

I think of myself as an enthusiastic polyglot. I’ve (almost) never met a language I didn’t like. I have to limit myself learning new ones because they’re a bit like popcorn — yummy and moreish! Recently, I’ve worked a lot in Java and JavaScript, and a little in various others, because my team supports a variety of codebases. The past couple of years, in particular, I’ve enjoyed getting to know Python much more deeply, and it’s currently my favourite…

Thanks for doing the interview, Mary!

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Building new bridges: Our thoughts on the U.S. election | Microsoft On The Issues

Building new bridges: Our thoughts on the U.S. election | Microsoft On The Issues

In 2016, as the United States emerged from a close and contentious national election, we published a blog on the need to find new ways for the country to move forward together. As we reflected that year on the election of Donald Trump, we started with a straightforward proposition, saying:

“Every president-elect deserves our congratulations, best wishes and support for the country as a whole. The peaceful transition of power has been an enduring and vital part of our democracy for over two centuries, and it remains so today.”

Four years later, these words are no less important. As we did in 2016, we offer today our congratulations to the new President- and Vice-President-Elect: Joe Biden and Kamala Harris…

Along the way, we have learned that we have far more opportunities to partner across the political spectrum than most people recognize. But we need to move from debates about why we cannot succeed to conversations about how we can. The more bridges we can cross together, the more we likely will find that Americans of all backgrounds in every state and county share far more in common than we currently appreciate.

As we look to the next four years, this should give us not only reason for hope, but cause for optimism.

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PyDev of the Week: Kevin Thomas | The Mouse vs The Python

PyDev of the Week: Kevin Thomas | The Mouse vs The Python

This week we welcome Kevin Thomas (@mytechnotalent) as our PyDev of the Week. Kevin is the author of Python for Kids, which is “a comprehensive and FREE Online Python Development course FOR KIDS utilizing an official BBC micro:bit Development Board”.

Let’s spend some time getting to know Kevin better!

Can you tell us a little about yourself (hobbies, education, etc):

My background is non-technical and I am originally from Northeastern Pennsylvania and began programming as a kid. I ran a Commodore 64 Bulletin Board where people would dial-in through the phone. Originally I programmed in the C language and Assembly Language for the x86 platform. Today I am a Senior Software Engineer in Test and program Automation Frameworks in Python.

Why did you start using Python?

I started using Python a few years ago while learning Automation and today I am a Senior Software Engineer in Test and program Automation Frameworks in Python.

What other programming languages do you know and which is your favorite?

C, ARM Assembly, x64 Assembly, x86 Assembly and Python. Python is my choice as it can do the tasks literally 1/10 of the time..

Thanks for doing the interview, Kevin!

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Cyberattacks target international conference attendees | Microsoft On The Issues

Cyberattacks target international conference attendees | Microsoft On The Issues

Today, we’re sharing that we have detected and worked to stop a series of cyberattacks from the threat actor Phosphorous masquerading as conference organizers to target more than 100 high-profile individuals. Phosphorus, an Iranian actor, has targeted with this scheme potential attendees of the upcoming Munich Security Conference and the Think 20 (T20) Summit in Saudi Arabia. The Munich Security Conference is the most important gathering on the topic of security for heads of state and other world leaders, and it has been held annually for nearly 60 years. Likewise, T20 is a highly visible event that shapes policy ideas for the G20 nations and informs their critical discussions.

Based on current analysis, we do not believe this activity is tied to the U.S. elections in any way.

The attackers have been sending possible attendees spoofed invitations by email. The emails use near-perfect English and were sent to former government officials, policy experts, academics and leaders from non-governmental organizations. Phosphorus helped assuage fears of travel during the Covid-19 pandemic by offering remote sessions…

As we noted in our recent Digital Defense Report, nation-state cyberattackers routinely pursue think tanks, policy organizations and governmental and non-governmental organizations, seeking information that an attacker can use for their benefit. We will continue to use a combination of technology, operations, legal action and policy to disrupt and deter malicious activity, but nothing replaces vigilance from people who are likely targets of these operations.

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PyDev of the Week: William Horton | The Mouse vs The Python

PyDev of the Week: William Horton | The Mouse vs The Python

This week we welcome William Horton (@hortonhearsafoo) as our PyDev of the Week! William is a Backend Engineer at Compass and has spoken at several local Python conferences. He is a contributor to PyTorch and fastai.

Let’s spend some time getting to know William better!

Can you tell us a little about yourself (hobbies, education, etc):

A little about myself: people might be surprised about my educational background–I didn’t study computer science. I have a bachelors in the social sciences. So by the time I finished undergrad, the most programming I had done was probably doing regressions in Stata to finish my thesis. I decided against grad school, and instead signed up for a coding bootcamp (App Academy) in NYC. The day I’m writing this, September 28, is actually 5 years to the day that I started at App Academy.

Since then I’ve worked at a few different startups in NYC, across various industries: first investment banking, then online pharmacy, and now real estate. I’m currently a senior engineer on the AI Services team at Compass, working on machine learning solutions for our real estate agents and consumers.

I like to spend my free time on a few different hobbies. I’m a competitive powerlifter, so I like to get into the gym a few times a week (although with the pandemic in NYC I didn’t lift for six months or so). I’ve actually found powerlifting to be a pretty common hobby among software engineers. Every time someone new joined my gym, it seemed like they came from a different startup. I love to play basketball. And I’m passionate about music: I’ve been a singer almost my whole life, and most recently was performing with an a cappella group in NYC. And in the last year I’ve picked up the guitar, after not touching it since I was a teenager, and that has been very fulfilling.

Why did you start using Python?

I definitely didn’t start out down the road to Python development–my coding bootcamp was focused on Ruby and Rails, and they also taught us JavaScript and React. I got my first job mostly because I knew React, and at the time it was pretty new. But the company I joined also had a fairly large data processing component written in Python, and there were only a few engineers, so eventually I was pitching in on that part as well. By the time I was looking for my second job, I knew I wanted to do more Python, so I found a full-stack role that was a React frontend and a Python backend (in Flask).

But I think the real turning point for me was when I discovered the fast.ai course in the fall of 2017. I had taken a few machine learning courses online, including the Andrew Ng Coursera course, and it was a topic that I found interesting. But the fast.ai course just really sucked me in–the way that Jeremy Howard presented the material just gripped me in a certain way, and made me want to find out more. I loved his pitch: if you know some Python, and you have high school level math, you can get hands-on with machine learning, and start to grow your skills.

So by the time I was looking for a job in 2018, I knew I wanted to do something closer to data and machine learning. I joined Compass for a backend data role, on a growing team that was handling all of the real estate listing data we had coming in from different sources. That gave me the chance to learn some important tools: I set up the first Airflow instance at Compass, and worked on our PySpark code. And then when the machine learning team started up, I was able to contribute to the first project, and eventually join the team full-time.

What other programming languages do you know and which is your favorite?

I know Ruby from my coding bootcamp, JavaScript from my previous two jobs, and I’ve done a small amount of programming in Go as well. Out of those I’d probably say JavaScript is my favorite…

Do you have any tips for people who would like to give technical talks?

The first thing I’d say is: put yourself out there. I’m a perfectionist by nature, so it’s really hard for me to actually hit the submit button on a CFP (even now, when I’ve had talks accepted). But at the end of the day, some reviewers are going to like your proposal, and some aren’t, so if you want to give the talk, you just have to play the numbers game, submit to a few places, and hope for the best.

The other thing I’d stress is that you don’t have to be the world’s expert on something to give a talk about it. It can be intimidating starting out when you see speakers who are the authors of libraries, or who have ten years more experience than you, or who work at a big-name company. But I would tell people starting out: all you have to do is create a 25-minute experience where people enjoy the presentation and learn something from it that they didn’t know before. A lot of people coming to conferences, especially the regional Python conferences, are early on in their learning process, so there’s a lot of value in just presenting your own take on some intro-level material.

Thanks for doing the interview, William!

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Microsoft and the Open Data Institute join together to launch a Peer Learning Network for Data Collaborations | Microsoft On The Issues

Microsoft and the Open Data Institute join together to launch a Peer Learning Network for Data Collaborations | Microsoft On The Issues

Today, in partnership with the Open Data Institute (ODI), we are delighted to announce an open call for participation in a new Peer Learning Network for Data Collaborations. Peer learning networks are an important tool to foster the exchange of knowledge and help participants learn from one another so they can more effectively address the challenges they face.

In April, with the launch of Microsoft’s Open Data Campaign, we committed to putting open and shared data into practice by addressing specific challenges through data collaborations. For a data collaboration to achieve its goals, there are many factors that must come together successfully. Oftentimes, this process can be incredibly challenging. From aligning on key outcomes and data use agreements to preparing datasets for use and analysis, these considerations require time and extensive coordination…

To learn more about the Peer Learning Network and to participate in an informational webinar on October 29, 2020, please sign up here.

We’re excited about this new initiative and look forward to sharing learnings so other data collaborations can benefit and accelerate their work.

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