Amazing! In a world beset with the insecurity that comes when bankers fear lending to bankers (let alone businesses or individuals) it is possible to be lulled into a sense of personal, if not collectImage from Accelerating Asia Pacific conference of panel on stageive dread, for the future of the world. This sense is made more intense by a natural focus on our understanding of the world as we know it to be. What if we focused however not on how the world is (or was) but instead on what the world might be or could be?

Over the next two days in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Microsoft is sponsoring the Accelerating Asia Pacific 2011 conference. With over 150 delegates from across Asia and the Pacific, the conference is looking at how innovation in information technologies, occurring across Asia and the Pacific, is driving not only economic growth but also societal opportunity. In a region populated by billions of people, the prospects for the creation of new ideas, the opportunities for commercial ventures and the resolution of what have been to date intractable social problems is immense and very real. In the first session of the conference today delegates heard from researchers at the Microsoft Research labs in Beijing and Bangalore. Their presentations demonstrated the capacity of ICT to address one of mankind's greatest challenges - language barriers. With the internet dominated by English language websites the need for English language skills to actively participate on the net has until now been assumed. Utilising big data sets and the effective power of crowds, facilitated by ICT utilisation, both research groups have developed opportunities for people without English as a first language to participate in not only the net but the social and political life of their own countries. To learn more read about Engkoo – a technology for exploring and learning about language.

It is too easy to assume that technological breakthroughs will just happen. The reality known to most scientists is that change is iterative and frustratingly slow. Nevertheless, through research mixed with patience, learning and change does come. Change that can impact every life, can alter every human experience, and can forever create a new understanding of the human condition. Throughout the conference delegates have heard the personal stories of individuals whose lives were changed inexorably by their use of the information technology tools available in Microsoft’s software. 

Many of us I suspect, myself included, are immune from the daily wonders of the power and joy of access to information technology. Familiarity does indeed breed contempt which is why for those who have had no access to information technologies or who have had access but by dint of fate not the physical or mental capacity to utilise technology in the past, the tools today within Microsoft’s software suite and platform technologies offer a world of possibility and normality. When combined with support from one or more of the 24,000 technology partners or 11,000 NGOs  working with or supported by Microsoft across Asia and the Pacific – like Plunket or the Computer Clubhouse in New Zealand or WorkVentures in Australia – this technological platform enables the fulfillment of thousands if not millions of dreams.

While other companies seek only the next big thing in consumer gadgetry, Microsoft continues to provide the means and the opportunity for so very many across Asia and the Pacific to fulfill their dreams, to realise their potential and to be truly extraordinary in the lives they lead. Amazing!