Microsoft, Accenture team-up to help start-ups work towards a sustainable future

Anjali Jhangiani
Tuesday, 7 April 2020

The two biggies in the tech industry, Microsoft and Accenture, are teaming up to help deepen the reach of entrepreneurs and start-ups that are focused on social impact and sustainability.

The two biggies in the tech industry, Microsoft and Accenture, are teaming up to help deepen the reach of entrepreneurs and start-ups that are focused on social impact and sustainability.

The collaboration will provide hands-on support and technologies to social enterprises, helping them to build scalable solutions and business models that can lead to more tangible and lasting benefits for a greater number of people around the world.

Through the program, Microsoft Research India and Accenture Labs will help social enterprise start-ups test and validate proofs-of-concept; conduct design thinking sessions to help them re-envision the impact of their solutions, and provide support in exploring and using Microsoft technologies.

The involvement of Accenture Labs is part of its ongoing Tech4Good Program, which is focused on applying emerging technologies in powerful ways to help solve complex social challenges.

Sakal Times chatted up Sanjay Podder, managing director, Accenture Labs (Asia Pacific) and Lead for Tech4Good Program, to find out more about this initiative.

How have you selected these start-ups to empower?
A: We are working with Microsoft to identify the early-stage social entrepreneurs that can benefit from the IP and expertise the program brings to the table. We will initially engage with start-ups in Africa, the Middle East and South Asia. We will have a particular focus on those that have solutions in areas like agriculture, education and healthcare.

How are you trying to reach your goals for sustainability?
A: Accenture is committed to improving the efficiency of our operations and developing new sustainability solutions to help reduce our environmental impact. In September 2019, we announced our commitment to using 100 per cent renewable energy across our global operations by 2023. 

Shifting to renewable forms of power is a critical step towards achieving our Science-Based Target, approved by the Science-Based Targets Initiative, to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) 11 per cent by 2025 against our 2016 baseline. 

To date, we are the largest professional services company to make this type of commitment. More data and details about our commitment to sustainability are available on https://www.accenture.com/us-en/about/corporate-citizenship/advancing-sustainability.

How does Tech4Good help build a more sustainable future?
A: We’ve spent decades talking about the promise of technology. But the reality is that we have more work to do to deliver on its promise — specifically to deliver tangible business and societal value while improving people’s lives in meaningful ways. 

For the first time, some of the toughest challenges faced by humanity and the planet at large – such as inclusion and diversity, education, health, sustainability, and the environment — can be addressed using the combinatorial power of digital technologies like cloud, artificial intelligence, extended reality, distributed ledgers and others. 

This collaboration is part of our ongoing Tech4Good Program, which is all about applying emerging technologies in powerful ways to help solve complex social challenges. Previous Tech4Good projects have focused on areas such as hunger and inclusion, to name a few. 

A few examples: Accenture collaborated with Grameen Foundation India to develop two new applications that help overcome the barriers to financial services adoption among women and other low-income populations. 

Leveraging artificial intelligence (AI) and augmented reality (AR) technologies, the applications help users better understand financial products and services, enabling them to make informed choices that positively impact their financial and social well-being. Grameen Foundation India plans to roll out the applications across 300 villages in Maharashtra and Odisha.

Working with Akshaya Patra, the world’s largest NGO-run Mid-Day Meal Program, to use disruptive technologies to exponentially increase the number of meals served to children in schools in India that are run and aided by the government. The Million Meals project revolutionised Akshaya Patra’s supply chain and operations, resulting in improved food quality and expanded service reach.

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