Skip to content
Microsoft Industry Blogs

Over the past eight years, the date of February 20 has become strongly associated with social justice. On this date, which was established in 2007 by the UN General Assembly as World Day of Social Justice, organizations in the public and private sector join efforts to raise awareness and work toward a world where all people live with freedom, dignity, and equality. This year, in honor of World Day of Social Justice, I would like to share some of Microsoft’s programs and technologies that are helping to further these goals.

Aiding refugees

During the previous 12 months, international headlines have been dominated by news of the refugee crisis in Syria, and the topic was, and continues to be, on the agendas of global leaders worldwide. However, while the Syrian crisis is well publicized, it is just one of many examples of citizens fleeing war, persecution, or unstable conditions throughout the Middle East and Africa.

While they are temporary solutions to a larger problem, camps provide an interim home to thousands of refugees who seek sanctuary from the fighting and chaos. The international community can help these refugees by offering them housing, healthcare, and education services, as well as electricity and sanitation. Microsoft offers solutions to assist refugees and make these camps safe and welcoming harbors.

First, Microsoft assists with camp setup and management to create a stable and secure environment by establishing an infrastructure, allocating resources, and assisting safety and security personnel charged with overseeing new populations. Next, Microsoft assists with the registration and identification of new refugees, which includes fingerprinting and verifying of documentation or creating new documents.

We assist with settlement, helping plan and manage temporary housing and aiding refugees as they move their families and belongings into a new space—or relocate, as conditions dictate. We also help provide social services. Refugees moving into a temporary camp require education and schooling, employment, skills training, and often, culture awareness—such as the learning of another language. Microsoft is working with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other international organizations to devote resources to improving the lives of these refugees and helping them to rebuild once again.

Combating human trafficking

World Day of Social Justice 2015 was dedicated to raising awareness of human trafficking in all its forms. Throughout 2015, leaders of the world rallied to discuss solutions to this problem. Whether it be forced labor, sexual slavery, or exploitation of another person for commercial gain—the practice of human trafficking ensnares an estimated 25 million people worldwide, mostly women and girls. It is the third largest criminal activity globally, netting roughly $32 billion a year.

Human traffickers operate, often with impunity, within and between nations, using the latest technologies—such as gaming sites, Internet chat rooms, social media, and mobile devices—to maintain anonymity and reach more victims. They prey upon marginalized populations and offer false promises of a better life. These practices are deplorable and must be stopped.

At Microsoft, we believe that technology companies can play an important role in helping to disrupt this exploitation. We are working with our partners, law enforcement agencies, IGOs, NGOS, and in strong public-private partnerships (PPPs) to support human rights, address technology-facilitated crime, and advance efforts to halt human trafficking.

On June 23, 2015, Microsoft Asia joined seven UN agencies—including UNICEF, UN Women, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), United Nations Action for Cooperation Against Trafficking in Persons (UN-ACT), and US Agency for International Development (USAID)—for the Regional Conference on Information Communication Technology to Combat Human Trafficking in Bangkok, Thailand. Attendees discussed issues and trends surrounding the use of technology to combat this societal ill. I had the pleasure of delivering a keynote address, during which I discussed Microsoft’s partnership with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to launch 6degree.org, a cloud-based portal that uses crowdfunding to help victims of trafficking successfully and voluntarily reenter society.

Backed by the Microsoft Azure cloud-computing platform, 6degree.org is the first crowdfunding portal that meets the strict requirements of IOM’s victim protection and privacy standards. Because a survivor’s anonymity is their most important form of protection, 6degree.org was designed to modify information that could compromise their safety or chances of a normal life. Each survivor’s story is told through interactive story maps built on top of Microsoft Bing Maps, which strike a balance between protecting the victim’s identity and telling a compelling story to potential funders. By following these stories, the donor can understand the circumstances that led to the person being trafficked, appreciate the challenges faced during exploitation, learn how the person reclaimed their freedom, and discover what their dreams and ambitions are for the future.

In addition to programs like 6degree.org, Microsoft provides disruptive technology solutions, such as cloud and machine learning technologies, that can be formidable tools to help combat human trafficking. The same technologies can also be used to enhance public safety by reducing crime, exposing corruption, revealing inefficiencies, and providing citizen access to governmental services.

Microsoft PhotoDNA is an example of a disruptive technology in use to combat the sexual exploitation of children. Developed in partnership with Dartmouth College and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, PhotoDNA uses a mathematical algorithm to assign a unique signature to an image, which then can be used to locate other online copies of that same image. In response to global interest, Microsoft made PhotoDNA available to help law enforcement agencies around the world more quickly and accurately identify child victims and rescue them.

PhotoDNA is also a component of the Child Exploitation Tracking System (CETS), a Microsoft software-based solution developed in collaboration with Canadian law enforcement. CETS enables the management and linking of child protection cases worldwide across jurisdictional boundaries. It is currently administered by a loose partnership between Microsoft and law enforcement agencies in Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Indonesia, Italy, Romania, Spain, and the United Kingdom.

In addition to making disruptive technologies available in the fight against trafficking, Microsoft is a member of the Global Business Coalition Against Trafficking and is also working with the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, as well as the United Nations, local police agencies, and other organizations on a variety of initiatives that address human trafficking in all its forms.

Toward a just future

In the coming year, the international community will join together to discuss the creation of environmentally sustainable economies and societies, the theme of the 2016 World Day of Social Justice. Microsoft will be a vocal participant in these discussions. We are already making progress in many areas and look forward to future advances as we work toward our mission of enabling every person on the planet to achieve more.