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Microsoft employees connect with refugee cause - yet again

Microsoft employees connect with refugee cause - yet again

12 October 2004

Uganda, Sierra Leone, Kenya, Rwanda, Guinea, Sudan, Tanzania... from July through to December, Microsoft employee volunteers are travelling to field locations as part of a UNHCR team to implement new registration software. And it all started with the refugee crisis in Kosovo.

In 1999, when half a million refugees streamed out of Kosovo, in the first week alone, UNHCR's IT unit received hundreds of calls and emails from private companies suggesting different services. Microsoft was the first and only one to say, "We are there to help, tell us what you need to accomplish," and then arranged to send 100 volunteers to the region to design and implement a refugee registration system.

Over the past five years, UNHCR has formalised its relationship and Microsoft employee volunteers now work side-by-side with UNHCR IT staff to deploy and develop technologies to assist the refugee agency in its mission to serve the 17 million persons of concern to UNHCR worldwide.

Microsoft's partnership with UNHCR puts technology and private-sector know-how at the service of some of the world's most disadvantaged people - refugees - and the people who help them - UNHCR field workers. Through their volunteer programme, UNHCR is able to access the skills, time and resources of Microsoft's employees, tapping into the innovation and enthusiasm that makes the private sector so vibrant.

Technology has proved instrumental in addressing a number of pressing global refugee issues and together UNHCR and Microsoft are dedicated to deploying and developing the latest technology, tools and skills to provide modern, lasting solutions to the world's humanitarian challenges.

"At Microsoft we have a strong commitment to Corporate Citizenship and the greatest resource that we can offer is the skill, knowledge and energy of our people," said Elena Bonfiglioli, Director of Corporate Social Responsibility and Community Affairs at Microsoft Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA). "The experience of mobilising as volunteers in Kosovo was highly rewarding and inspired our company and employees to partner with UNHCR on further projects. As our partnership has widened, the passion of our employees for technology and tackling big challenges in society continues to be a key driver."

Ulrich Holtz, Director of Human Resources at Microsoft EMEA, added, "The Microsoft volunteering programme was designed in response to our employees' desire to contribute to their local communities. Volunteering harnesses their pride and passion, working on the ground to make a difference to the causes that are important to them. And the experience can be a powerful means of developing their confidence and improving their morale, helping them to realise their full potential."