Bridging the Digital Divide Begins with Partnerships | Microsoft’s Stephanie Joshi Offers Insight Into Building an Ecosystem to Connect More People

LEESBURG, VA – CAPRE’s inaugural Women of Mission Critical Summit dove into some of the most critical issues facing the data center industry, but one panel sought to examine those same issues as they extend beyond our lens. Bridging the Digital Divide: Expanding Inclusivity Beyond the Workplace featured a quartet of leading ladies from the mission critical space talking about how our work could improve the lives of countless people around the world. After some remarks about broadband access, Moderator Ilissa Miller, Founder & CEO of iMiller Public Relations and President of NEDAS touched on one of the strategies that might propel our industry the next revolution.

“We usually are pretty linear about how we approach partnerships, enablement and accessibility within communities,” began Miller, looking to panelist Stephanie Joshi, Azure Federal Solutions and Account Executive at Microsoft. “I know that you focused on these various stages of partner development. WISPs [wireless internet service providers] are absolutely partners and so are rural carriers and so are tower companies and edge data centers and urban data centers. So why don’t you talk about the stages of partner development, so that we can being to think about our approach in developing under-served markets.”

“In particular, Microsoft is very philanthropic about making sure that there is connectivity to everybody locally, to ensure that we’ve brought in the population in combination, not only because, the larger population you have, the more people you have to buy your services, but simultaneously making sure that you have a larger population to recruit from,” replied Joshi.

So how do you get more minorities and women into the tech industry? “You give them the toolset to be able to be educated and get into the industry in the first place,” she answered. “So Microsoft kind of broke it down into different segments. Getting the access to the people is hugely important, but there are two other components that are equal – one is, how do you use it once you have it?”

Stephanie Joshi, Azure Federal Solutions and Account Executive at Microsoft

According to Joshi, you have to hand the technology to the people on the Edge, as well as the education, for them to be able to utilize those resources. “So how can small businesses in remote areas use it? How can rural farms use it? How can schools use it?” she posed. “What if they don’t have the edge devices to actually hook up to it to make it an effective addition?”

“You have to partner with local companies to provide that “last-mile” access and make sure it’s being utilized,” Joshi continued. “Microsoft really looks at it as a holistic ecosystem – you can’t just run the railroad tracks from one end to the other. You’ve got to get the cars on the tracks, you have to get the people on each end to the station, and you’ve got to educate people on how to use it. So they’re doing a lot of work with local organizations on the ground in remote areas to help them, help educate people.”

One example, Joshi shared, is Microsoft’s partnership with 4-H. “The 4-H club is a big partner of Microsoft. Microsoft is helping educate kids in the 4-H club, particularly young women, and then helping them to educate other people in their community,” she explained. “Then, Microsoft is working with the telco providers to help them build both the head and the end equipment and helping them lobby for things, so that they have more ways to get that efficient access in different places.”

“And, of course, we have to make sure it’s a decent speed. The FEC has a definition of broadband internet, which is fantastic – being able to push 25 megs up and pull 3 megs back down,” she concluded, “Well if you have teenagers who play a lot of video games, you might know that’s not a lot of speed, and you’re going to hear about it. So we’re trying to figure out how to we take that base, and increase that speed, so that everyone can utilize it.”