After the 7.8 earthquake, which killed more than 9,000 people, hit Nepal in late April 2015, Microsoft showed support for the affected region and its people by donating over $1 million in donations to assist in the recovery effort and made all Skype calls going in and out of Nepal free for the following six week period.
The free Skype calls may seem insignificant compared to the $1 million donation but Microsoft’s online phone call service became instrumental in reconnecting affected families, both domestically and internationally, and also helped companies and organisations re-establish their business as quickly as possible.
One group that was greatly helped by Skype during the aftermath of the crisis were university students Sunil Lama, Sangam Shrestha, and Amir GC who were ironically in the middle of designing a video game for entry in Microsoft’s global student developer competition, the Imagine Cup World Finals. Skype enabled them to communicate with their family, friends and teammates and prevented their project from coming to a standstill after landline and cell phone communications were disrupted.
“Mother Nature might have slowed us down for a bit, but we couldn’t stop,” Lama says in an interview with Microsoft. “This is our chance to show the world what Nepal can do.” The group is now in Seattle and hopes to win the $50,000 Game category prize which also includes a customized boot camp and a private meeting with Satya Nadella.
Their game, a first-person shooter called, Defend Your Territory, is inspired by real-life issues faced by Nepal such as animal poaching and tells the story of a character from a future where war and poaching have destroyed all animal life and vegetation and must travel back in time to prevent this future from happening by fighting poachers and protecting endangered animals. It’s kind of like The Terminator with a stronger environmental message.
The game is being designed with a variety of Microsoft technology ranging from Azure Machine Learning to a Kinect sensor and Visual Studio Community 2013.
The team hopes that winning such a global competition will change peoples’ perception of Nepal and help in its technological development. Amir GC said of his team, “If we win this competition, maybe it will signify that the time has come for Nepalese to not only be known as brave people, but intelligent and advanced in the field of technology.”
It’s inspiring to hear about Microsoft assisting countries in need with both grand gestures and smaller projects like this one. Another initiative undertaken this year is their new Hack4Asia project announced during the Microsoft-sponsored Hackathon event where developers and programmers gather to brainstorm new ideas and uses for technology.
The Hack4Asia initiative tasked numerous groups with using tech to empower and improve the lives of those living in Asia with one created product being a new app to better improve business for farmers on India. Another inspiring project that came out of 2015’s Hackathon was a game to help those with autism learn new career skills.
Have you ever felt inspired by something Microsoft has done for a group or individual? Let us know in the comments below.Further reading: Kinect, Microsoft, Nepal, Skype, Video Games