Microsoft launches initiative to help 25 million people worldwide acquire the digital skills needed in a COVID-19 economy

Article by  Brad Smith – President from Microsoft.com blog

Around the world, 2020 has emerged as one of the most challenging years in many of our lifetimes. In six months, the world has endured multiple challenges, including a pandemic that has spurred a global economic crisis. As societies reopen, it’s apparent that the economy in July will not be what it was in January. Increasingly, one of the key steps needed to foster a safe and successful economic recovery is expanded access to the digital skills needed to fill new jobs. And one of the keys to a genuinely inclusive recovery are programs to provide easier access to digital skills for people hardest hit by job losses, including those with lower incomes, women, and underrepresented minorities.

To help address this need, today Microsoft is launching a global skills initiative aimed at bringing more digital skills to 25 million people worldwide by the end of the year. This initiative will bring together every part of our company, combining existing and new resources from LinkedIn, GitHub, and Microsoft.  It will be grounded in three areas of activity:

(1) The use of data to identify in-demand jobs and the skills needed to fill them;

(2) Free access to learning paths and content to help people develop the skills these positions require;

(3) Low-cost certifications and free job-seeking tools to help people who develop these skills pursue new jobs.

At its heart, this is a comprehensive technology initiative that will build on data and digital technology. It starts with data on jobs and skills from the LinkedIn Economic Graph. It provides free access to content in LinkedIn Learning, Microsoft Learn, and the GitHub Learning Lab, and couples these with Microsoft Certifications and LinkedIn job seeking tools. In addition, Microsoft is backing the effort with $20 million in cash grants to help nonprofit organizations worldwide assist the people who need it most. One-quarter of this total, or $5 million, will be provided in cash grants to community-based nonprofit organizations that are led by and serve communities of color in the United States.

[Video: Watch the announcement event here.]

Our vision for skills extends beyond these immediate steps for job seekers. Employees will also need to skill and reskill through their careers, and we want to make it easier for employers to help. Our vision is a connected “system of learning” that helps empower everyone to pursue lifelong learning. That is why we are also announcing today that Microsoft is developing a new learning app in Microsoft Teams to help employers upskill new and existing employees. This will bring together best in class content from LinkedIn Learning, Microsoft Learn, third-party training providers, and a company’s own learning content and make it all available in a place where employees can easily learn in the flow of their work.

We are also pledging that we will make stronger data and analytics available to governments around the world so they can better assess local economic needs. Finally, we will use our voice to advocate for public policy innovations that we believe will advance the skilling opportunities people will need in the changed economy.

While this represents the largest skills initiative in Microsoft’s history, we recognize that no company can come close to closing the skills gap alone. Sustained progress will require a renewed partnership between stakeholders across the public, private, and nonprofit sectors, and we’re committed to supporting this. Following is a complete description of our thinking and plans.

The problem we need to solve

Within only a few months, COVID-19 has provoked a massive demand shock, setting off job losses that far exceed the scale of the Great Recession a decade ago. The world will need a broad economic recovery that will require in part the development of new skills among a substantial part of the global workforce.

According to Microsoft calculations, global unemployment in 2020 may reach a quarter of a billion people. It is a staggering number. The pandemic respects no border. In the United States alone, the Congressional Budget Office estimates the country may witness a 12.3 point increase (from 3.5% to 15.8%) in the unemployment rate, equating to more than 21 million newly out-of-work people. Many other countries and continents face similar challenges.

As is often the case, the biggest brunt of this downturn is being borne by those with lower educational attainment, people with disabilities, people of color, women, younger workers, and individuals who have less formal education. The impact on communities of color in the United States is especially concerning. Just last month, the Bureau of Labor Statistics confirmed that the country ended the month of May with unemployment rates in the Black/African-American and Hispanic/Latino communities that were markedly higher than for white individuals.

Unemployment graphic

The employment of American women has also been impacted disproportionally by the COVID-19 pandemic. Unemployment rates among women, which has hovered with or edged below men’s unemployment rates, soared to more than 16%, almost 3 percentage points higher at the April peak.

Women unemployment graphic

The challenges ahead reach beyond the immediate pandemic. Crises have a way of accelerating trends already in motion, and the COVID-19 pandemic has proven no exception. Our data shows that two years’ worth of digital transformation have been concentrated into the past two months. By one account, the final weeks of March alone witnessed as much broadband traffic growth as would be expected in a full year.

Manual jobs graphic

The pandemic has shined a harsh light on what was already a widening skills gap around the world – a gap that will need to be closed with even greater urgency to accelerate economic recovery. This longer-term disconnect between supply and demand for skills in the labor market appears to be driven by three primary long-term factors: (1) the rapid emergence of AI-powered technologies that are propelling a new era of automation; (2) the growing need for technological acumen to compete in a changing commercial landscape; and (3) the drop-off in employer-based training investments over the past two decades. Navigating these challenges to close the skills gap will require a renewed partnership between stakeholders across the public, private, and nonprofit sectors.

As we look to the future, we can draw insights from recessions in the past. Although recent recessions differed in their causes, each followed a trend of shedding low-skilled jobs and gradually replacing them with less automatable roles. In the late 1960s, roles that involved repetitive tasks involving manual work made up 34% of all jobs. These have been easier to automate, and as a result these jobs have now shrunk to 26% of all jobs. By contrast, jobs involving heavy cognition and problem-solving have simultaneously risen from 22% to 34%.

This pattern is poised to repeat itself, with an added emphasis on a jobs recovery that requires an increasing focus on digital skills. There are two reasons this appears likely.

First, in the shorter-term COVID-19 will continue to lead to unprecedented reliance on digital skills. In many situations, some workers may spend several months or longer in a “hybrid economy,” where some will be in the workplace while others continue to work from home. The shorter-term “hybrid economy” is a more digital economy. With continued consumer and employee reliance on almost “remote everything,” we can expect digitization of the economy to continue to advance at an accelerated speed. And as companies respond to a recession by increasing efficiency, this need for digital transformation will increase even further.

Second, the economic recovery will take place amid the longer-term and already-unfolding wave of automation based on the new technologies that underpin what some have called the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Over the next five years, we estimate that the global workforce can absorb around 149 million new technology-oriented jobs. Software development accounts for the largest single share of this forecast, but roles in related fields like data analysis, cyber security, and privacy protection are also poised to grow substantially.

Digital jobs graphic

Of course, the magnitude and mixture of job growth will vary by country, industry, and sector. Although the impact will not be distributed evenly, digital transformation will touch virtually every corner of the global workforce — from food production (324,000 new jobs) to healthcare (2 million) and the automotive industry (6 million).

All this is made more urgent because of a challenge that has been two decades in the making, namely the decline and then stagnation in employer investments in training. Employer investments in training grew substantially throughout the 1980s and 1990s, as personal computers and the internet reshaped the world’s workplaces. This trend ceased around the turn of the century, as the dot-com recession and 9/11 marked the start of a nearly decade-long decline in employer-based investment in training.

Job training graphic

Since 2008, the downward trend in employer-paid training has given way to a decade of stagnation, both in North America and around the world – notwithstanding a small spike in the wake of the Great Recession. Alarmingly, the trend of the past few years appears to be slightly negative. This contraction occurred despite the fact that the U.S. economy, which accounts for just under half of the global training market, was enjoying an unprecedented period of growth, and technological advances were beginning to reshape the modern workplace yet again.

Exacerbating the challenge is the fact that existing training is not reaching the populations who need it most. On-the-job training far outpaces distance learning and other alternative modes, limiting options for prospective employees. Perhaps more significantly, on-the-job training is more than two times as prevalent among workers who are already in higher-skilled roles, leaving those in more automatable positions even more vulnerable to displacement.

Employee training graphic

Digital technologies will be key to narrowing the divide, not only because they can expand the reach and accessibility of training, but because proficiency in these tools is in top demand. In a recent survey of American workers by Pew Research Center, for instance, 85% of respondents cited digital skills as either extremely important or very important to succeeding in today’s workplace.

But technology is only a means to an end, not an end in itself. The same Pew survey also observed that 85% of respondents regarded “soft” skills like collaborating with others and communicating effectively as highly important. In other words, people-oriented “success skills” remain as essential as ever – perhaps even more so given their durability at a time when technology continues to evolve at breakneck speed. Although technology companies have an important role to play in helping close the skills gap, success will take a concerted effort among employers, nonprofits, governments, and other stakeholders. The task calls for renewed partnerships and redoubled investments in skills, ensuring that training reaches the broadest group of people with the greatest needs.

A principled approach

As we have with our work to protect privacy, security, and environmental sustainability, we’ve concluded that the global skills challenge calls for a principled response. As a company, we’ll base our efforts on six key elements:

  1. Use data and technology to help people develop new skills. The fastest and most economical way to address the skills shortage is to put technology to work to skill more people faster, starting with digital skills themselves. We’ll use data to identify the skills most in demand and the people who need help the most.
  2. Focus on a broad set of skills. Even while we focus on tech-enabled jobs, we’ll work to support the development of broader skills as well, including the acumen needed to ensure the responsible use of technology and the soft skills needed to find and succeed in a new job.
  3. Ask employers to do more. We believe that employers will need to play a bigger role than in recent years in helping employees develop these new skills. As an employer ourselves, we will make new training commitments to our employees. And we will help empower our customers so they can better meet the needs of their own employees.
  4. Lean on partners. As in so many other important areas, partnerships are fundamental. We will base our work on partnerships with nonprofits and support for governments. And we will focus our support for nonprofits, in particular, on providing added assistance to the people who need this help the most, including communities of color in the United States.
  5. Pull together every part of our company. We believe the global skills challenge is a problem that Microsoft can help address if we pull together every part of our company. That’s why today’s initiative brings together Microsoft, LinkedIn, and GitHub, including Microsoft Philanthropies and LinkedIn’s CSR program.
  6. Use our voice to change policy. As we learn what helps people most, we will share our data and knowledge and advocate for public policy innovations to support reskilling opportunities.

What we are launching today

Today’s global skills initiative is based on months of planning across Microsoft to provide meaningful help to 25 million people globally by the end of 2020. Our activities will be focused on three areas:

  1. Data and analytics to better understand in-demand skills and jobs

Several years ago, LinkedIn operationalized the world’s first Economic Graph to track workforce trends and provide a window into emerging skills gaps. The Economic Graph is a digital representation of the global economy based on more than 690 million professionals, 50 million companies, 11 million job listings, 36,000 defined skills, and 90,000 schools. In short, it is all the data on LinkedIn and shows available jobs, their required skills, and the existing skills job seekers have.

The Economic Graph also makes it possible to spot in-demand skills, emerging jobs, and global hiring rates. These insights help connect LinkedIn members to better opportunities and assist governments and organizations as they create economic opportunity for the global workforce.

As part of this new initiative, LinkedIn is sharing free, real-time labor market data and skills insights to help governments, policymakers and business leaders understand what’s happening in their local labor markets: what companies are hiring, the top jobs companies are hiring for and the trending skills for those jobs.  This data can be accessed using a new interactive tool at linkedin.com/workforce. Data is available for more than 180 countries and regions (150+ cities, 30+ countries). Users can search by country or region and download the data sets.

We have also used the Economic Graph as a critical planning resource for today’s skills initiative, by identifying the key jobs and horizontal skills that are most widely in demand and creating learning paths for these via LinkedIn Learning. Using this data, we identified 10 jobs that are in-demand in today’s economy and are well positioned to continue to grow in the future. These 10 jobs were identified as having the greatest number of job openings, have had steady growth over the past four years, pay a livable wage, and require skills that can be learned online.

  1. Become a Software Developer
  2. Become a Sales Representative
  3. Become a Project Manager
  4. Become an IT administrator (Prepare for CompTIA Network+ Certification)
  5. Become a Customer Service Specialist
  6. Become a Digital Marketing Specialist
  7. Become IT Support / Help Desk (Prepare for the CompTIA A+ Certification)
  8. Become a Data Analyst
  9. Become a Financial Analyst
  10. Become a Graphic Designer

Much of our skills work is targeted at providing people with the skills for these disciplines.

  1. Free access to learning paths and comprehensive resources to help people develop the skills needed for in-demand jobs

To help people pursue jobs in these areas, we are making LinkedIn Learning paths aligned with each of these roles available free of charge through the end of March 2021. Each learning path includes a sequence of video content designed to help job seekers develop the core skills needed for each role. Each learning path is currently available in English, French, Spanish, and German.

LinkedIn Learning’s library for each learning path also includes collaborative courses, all taught by industry-expert instructors, allowing individuals to move through content and demonstrate their learning with a certificate of completion. Covering a broad range of skills from entry-level digital literacy to advanced product-based skills for technology roles, these role-based learning paths provide numerous opportunities for people along a learning continuum to reskill and upskill. We believe these are the types of resources that can place in-demand roles within reach of millions of job seekers.

In addition to these LinkedIn Learning paths, we are offering through Microsoft Learn free and in-depth technical learning content that also supports these roles. For roles that are more technical in nature, job seekers can go deeper on specific role-based Microsoft technologies with Microsoft Learn modules, gaining the most in-demand skills on widely used technologies.

We will also enable job seekers pursuing developer roles to access the GitHub Learning Lab to practice their skills. GitHub Learning Lab is a bot-based learning tool that uses repositories to teach technology, coding, Git, and GitHub via real-life, demo-based modules. This means that as job seekers engage in learning paths, they will have the opportunity to practice newly acquired skills by completing realistic projects in a personalized GitHub repository.

To provide people with easier access to the soft skills needed to pursue a new job, we are offering free access to four horizontal LinkedIn Learning paths. These are:

Finally, we are committed to developing and making available new courses and content that will focus on the skills needed to develop, deploy, and use technology in a responsible way. We recognize that issues such as privacy, security, digital safety, and the responsible application of artificial intelligence will continue to become even more important in the months and years ahead. We are committed to leading on these issues, not only for our own technologies but in assisting others to master needed skills as well.

  1. Connecting skills to opportunities through industry recognized certifications and powerful job seeker tools

Today’s initiative also aims to help job seekers demonstrate their skills to potential employers. This part of our initiative has multiple parts.

First, we will offer low-cost access to industry-recognized Microsoft Certifications based on exams that demonstrate proficiency in Microsoft technologies. We are making exams for these Microsoft Certifications available at a significantly discounted fee of $15 available to those who self-attest that their employment has been impacted by COVID-19. This represents a large discount on the price of exams that typically cost more than $100. We are committed to supporting the integrity of certifications by enabling proctoring safely in an online setting that is accessible from anywhere. The $15 fee will be paid to and will enable third parties to scale to meet the potential surge in examination resources and will support the integrity of the certification by enabling proctoring via a safe, online setting that is accessible from anywhere. We will also work with governments, nonprofits, foundations, and other private sector partners if they wish to absorb this third-party cost.

Participants will have the ability to schedule an exam from September to the end of the year, and exam takers will have until March 31, 2021 to complete the exam. This will provide access to the exams that provide five fundamentals certifications and eight role-based certifications. These will include:

  • Microsoft Certified: Azure Fundamentals
  • Microsoft Certified: Azure Data Fundamentals
  • Microsoft Certified: Azure AI Fundamentals
  • Microsoft Certified: Power Platform Fundamentals
  • Microsoft 365 Certified: Fundamentals
  • Microsoft Certified: Azure Administrator Associate
  • Microsoft Certified: Azure Developer Associate
  • Microsoft Certified: Azure Security Engineer Associate
  • Microsoft Certified: Power Platform App Maker Associate
  • Microsoft 365 Certified: Teams Administrator Associate
  • Microsoft 365 Certified: Security Administrator Associate
  • Microsoft 365 Certified: Developer Associate
  • Microsoft Certified: Data Analyst Associate

These exams will be available initially in whole or in part in seven languages – English, French, Spanish, German, Japanese, Chinese (simplified), and Korean.

We have found that these certifications are a powerful asset for job seekers and those looking to advance in an existing role. For example, in Global Knowledge’s 2019 IT Skills and Salary Report, more than half of IT decision-makers surveyed believe the main benefit of certified individuals is their ability to close organizational skills gaps seen in an everchanging technology environment. It also showed certifications helped make hiring easier, helping job seekers stand out. Among other things, these certifications, as well as completion of a learning path on LinkedIn Learning, can be added to an individual’s LinkedIn profile.

We are also making available tools to help individuals identify and pursue potential jobs. This includes a recently developed job interview preparation-feature, powered by MSFT-AI, to prepare and practice for job interviews. It also includes a new feature we are announcing today called #OpenToWork, which enables job seekers to surface to employers the roles for which they would like to be considered. Through a simple LinkedIn profile photo frame, #OpenToWork enables job seekers to let employers and the LinkedIn network know they are actively seeking a new opportunity, indicate the type of job they are looking for, express their needs for support, and get help from the LinkedIn community to find new opportunities.

We believe the strength of these resources is their comprehensive nature. To help people find and navigate all of our offerings, we have made all of these resources accessible from a single location: opportunity.linkedin.com. A job seeker or anyone looking to develop these on-demand skills can start here and will be guided through the learning paths based on the roles in which they are interested.

In addition, Microsoft and LinkedIn will continue to provide on-ramps for people from nontraditional backgrounds to successfully transition from learning skills to landing a job. This will include the Microsoft Software & Systems Academy, or MSSA, which provides transitioning U.S. service members and veterans with technology skills. It also includes Leap, which Microsoft launched in 2015 to recruit, develop, upskill non-traditional talent, and create a connection to employability in the tech industry. And it includes REACH, which is a multi-year engineering apprenticeship program at LinkedIn.

Supporting these offerings with cash grants to nonprofits

While all these tools, training, and certifications will be available online to millions of people in multiple languages, we recognize the need to supplement them with additional services and support. That’s why we will provide $20 million in financial grants, plus technical support, to nonprofit organizations around the world.

In part this will enable nonprofits to translate these resources into additional languages and to localize and tailor the learning content. These groups will also provide and support teachers and facilitators to help learners complete learning pathways and certification, and provide connections to wrap-around supports, coaching, and mentoring. We expect these grants will enable the nonprofits to reach 5 million unemployed workers, with a focus on particularly vulnerable groups. This includes people with disabilities, people from low-income communities, and people from diverse backgrounds that are underrepresented in tech, including women and underrepresented minorities.

We are launching this initiative globally with several highly-regarded nonprofit partners, including:

  • Trust for the Americas. Through a longstanding partnership, Microsoft and the Trust for the Americas have launched 200 centers across 19 countries in Latin America.
  • Fondazione Mundo Digitale. Committed to creating an more inclusive learning society with fundamental values of education and innovation in Italy, Fondazione Mondo Digitale has partnered with Microsoft to provide a wide range of much needed digital skills trainings with a mission of targeting categories of the population at greatest risk of being excluded.
  • NASSCOM Foundation. Microsoft India has partnered with NASSCOM Foundation and the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship to directly train 2,000 young women and trainers at the Industrial Training Institutes on skills leading to Microsoft Certification.
  • Tech4Dev. Established in 2016 to empower to empower African communities, Microsoft has partnered with Tech4Dev to inspire, advocate and train people across Nigeria on basic digital skills, programming skills, and essential skills needed for the future of work.
  • NPower. With a mission to launch underserved young adults from across Canada into meaningful and sustainable digital careers, Microsoft has partnered with NPower Canada in support of their core Workforce Development program which provides participants with no-cost ICT skills training, industry certification, job placement and career services.
  • National Urban League. Since its founding in 1910, the National Urban League has served African Americans and the long-term unemployed. Microsoft will partner with NUL on initiatives including the Urban Tech Jobs Program to build on this history and mission to connect the long-term unemployed to good-paying jobs in Information Technology.
  • Skillful. Dedicated to enabling all Americans – particularly those without a bachelor’s degree – to secure good jobs in a changing economy, Skillful has partnered with Microsoft to develop skills-based training and employment practices in collaboration with state governments, local employers, educators, workforce development organizations, and others.

Although this is a global initiative, it’s important to take special steps to make digital skills more accessible to communities of color in the United States. We are focusing on community-based nonprofits, which are local organizations created to address the unique needs of the people living in a community. They are often the most trusted and effective at driving positive impact. However, data has shown that there are disparities in the funding provided to community-based nonprofits serving in communities of color and led by people of color.

This needs to change. Therefore, as a part of this skills initiative, Microsoft will dedicate support to community-based nonprofit organizations working to increase skill development and economic opportunities for communities of color, especially Black and African American communities. We will provide $5 million in cash grants to community-based nonprofit organizations that are led by and serve communities of color in the United States. This summer, we will publish additional information on this opportunity and will select organizations for this funding by fall of this year. We recognize that this is but a small part of the long overdue investment needed to address historical racial inequities in our society. We look forward to partnering with communities and other like-minded individuals and organizations to use our voice and resources to advocate for change to support communities of color.

Using our voice on public policy issues

We are committed to sharing data and what we learn from this initiative with governments around the world. In addition, we will advocate for public policy innovations that we believe can help accelerate essential skills needs and opportunities. We plan to address three priorities:

  • Employer incentives: We believe the current economic crisis provides an important moment for governments to do what has long been needed, by helping to reverse the two-decade decline and stagnation in employer-sponsored learning opportunities for employees. Governments can play a vital role by providing tax incentives for employers – especially small businesses – in new stimulus spending measures. Governments should also consider doing more to support broader work-based training programs and to support transitional employment, which would provide subsidies for time-limited, wage-paid work experiences.

One creative example comes from Canada, where workers who risk displacement in an economic downturn are encouraged to develop individual training plans ranging from upgrading skills in current jobs to preparing for promotions and even training for jobs outside the company. This “Work-Sharing (WS)” program helps employers and employees avoid layoffs when there is a temporary reduction in the normal level of business activity beyond the control of an employer. It provides income support to employees eligible for employment insurance benefits who work a temporarily reduced work week while their employer recovers. WS is a three-party agreement involving employers, employees and Service Canada. Employees must agree to a reduced work schedule and to share the available work for a specified time. The impacted employees are compensated with salary for participation in skills enhancement training, whether on-the-job or at off-site courses, during the days/hours missed because of participation in the WS program.

  • Increased skills funding for individuals: At a time when governments are investing in stimulus funding, it is important to consider investing in the future of citizens by enabling people to acquire the skills needed for their future and the economy’s recovery. This should provide individuals with access to funding for additional relevant skills training (including online tools and services) throughout their lives, as well as more funding to existing workforce programs focusing on technology and skills.

Good examples are plentiful. They include work in New Zealand, where the government has invested approximately $1 billion to make vocational training courses free for all ages over the next two years. In the United States, the Pledge to America’s Workers American Workforce Policy Advisory Board, established by the White House, is developing proposals focused on investments in learning pathways, skills-based hiring, and the modernization of education and training to accelerate reskilling and facilitate innovation in workforce development. Other examples include programs in countries such as Singapore and France to create Lifelong Learning Accounts or similar mechanisms that would allow individual employees, employers and, in some models, the public sector, to invest in training for individuals.

COVID-related stimulus spending creates an important opportunity to pursue these opportunities further. As the European Commission has recently recognized, a “Next Generation EU” recovery package should address the importance of digital skills. To improve and adapt skills, knowledge and competences, the commission will come forward with a Skills Agenda for Europe and an updated Digital Education Action Plan.

  • Data and innovation: Finally, we believe it will become increasingly important to advance new data systems that leverage private sector tools to help workers understand available training and in-demand career paths and help policymakers understand evolving post-COVID labor market shifts. A key step is to create interoperable learning records that allow individuals to more easily share their learning records with employers. A similar measure promotes data integration to help job seekers and employers identify in-demand skills and growth areas. All of this is enhanced when governments open their own data sets for public use. A good example of this is the European Commission’s “New Skills Agenda for Europe,” which offers people tools to present their skills and obtain real-time information on skills needs and trends. We are committed to public- private partnerships to supporting these efforts.

Coming next: A new learning app in Microsoft Teams

The programs we are launching today are focused on helping job seekers. We have a broader vision for skills. We believe we need a connected “system of learning.” Central to this vision is a recognition that employers have a vital role to play in helping their employees to skill and re-skill. We know that employers need additional tools and resources to help here. As we have talked with our customers, we have heard some key themes:

  • Employers recognize that they need to train and retrain employees to do current and new jobs well, but more than two-thirds of Learning & Development leaders state that measuring the impact of learning remains one of their biggest challenges.
  • Employee engagement in learning is a challenge. Many employees report not having enough time or incentive to learn at work. There is low cultural emphasis placed on learning, with research showing that only one-third of employees have leadership teams encouraging them to learn.
  • The learning experience for too many employees is highly fragmented. Many organizations piece together courses and content across a variety of sources, making it hard and time consuming for employees to easily discover relevant content when and where they need it.

Just as companies today have a system of engagement for customers with CRM technology and a system of record with ERP, they will need a system of learning. This will need to provide a continuous feedback loop between the work, skills and learning required to succeed at the task at hand, as well as the credentials to accelerate career advancement.

To support this, we are developing and will preview a new learning app in Microsoft Teams later this year, to bring learning into the natural flow of work. People are already using Microsoft Teams for meetings, chat, calling, collaboration, and business processes, and we are planning to extend that to include learning. The Teams learning app will allow employers to integrate world-class content from LinkedIn Learning, Microsoft Learn, a customer’s own content, and other content providers all in one place, ranging from instructor-led training to shorter, micro-learning content. The app will empower managers to assign and track learning progress and enable employees to have conversations around the content while also earning certifications and recognition for their new skills. Whether a new employee is onboarding, a manager is looking to sharpen a team’s skills, or a first-line worker is in the field needing immediate training, this new app will create a seamless experience for employees to learn in the flow of work.

Looking forward: A foundation for the skills and jobs of the future

As this detailed description makes clear, we are launching today the most comprehensive approach we have ever undertaken to meet the digital skilling needs of individuals and employers alike. We believe we can provide meaningful help to more than 25 million people globally in the coming months.

But in many ways, our ambitions are larger than this. For every part of Microsoft, including LinkedIn and GitHub, this marks a new beginning that will build on everything we have today and a new wave of technology innovation to come. We believe we can combine the best in technology with stronger partnerships with governments and nonprofits. Together we can better serve people, filling jobs and creating opportunities for individuals around the world. We should all aspire to turn a year that had a bleak beginning into a decade that has a bright finish. We bring a long-term determination and a commitment to do our part.

Watch the announcement event here and visit this site for more information.

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About LinkedIn Learning

LinkedIn Learning is an online educational platform that helps people discover and develop business, technology-related, and creative skills through expert-led course videos. With a catalogue of over 16,000 courses, and 60+ new courses released every week, LinkedIn Learning provides high-quality, relevant and up-to-date courses taught by real-world practitioners, located across the globe. Drawing on insights from millions of members, LinkedIn Learning personalizes course recommendations at scale and surfaces relevant learning content to each employee based on their connections.

About Microsoft Learn

Microsoft Learn is a free, interactive, hands-on training platform that helps people develop in-demand technical skills related to widely used Microsoft products and services including Azure, Microsoft 365, Power Platform, Microsoft Dynamics, and more.

Microsoft Learn combines short step-by-step trainings, browser-based interactive coding and scripting environments, and task-based achievements to help learners advance their technical skills and prepare for Microsoft Certifications. With millions of registered learners, Microsoft Learn offers over 225 learning paths, more than 1,000 modules, and is localized in dozens of languages. Microsoft Learn is great for individual users to advance their skills, as well as organizations that want to create curated employee training paths.

Facebook to use Kiswahili in Third Party Fact Checking Programme

Facebook on 14th August 2019 announced that it will include Kiswahili, among other local African languages as part of its Third Party Fact Checking programme – which helps to assess the accuracy of news on Facebook and aims to reduce the spread of misinformation.

Launched in 2018 across five countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, including South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal and Cameroon, Facebook has partnered with Africa Check to expand its local language coverage across:

  • Nigeria, in Yoruba and Igbo, adding to Hausa which was already supported
  • Swahili in Kenya
  • Wolof in Senegal
  • AfrikaansZuluSetswanaSothoNorthern Sotho and Southern Ndebele in South Africa

Kojo Boakye, Facebook Head of Public Policy, Africa, said: “We continue to make significant investments in our efforts to fight the spread of false news on our platform, whilst building supportive, safe, informed and inclusive communities. Our third-party fact-checking programme is just one of many ways we are doing this, and with the expansion of local language coverage, this will help in further improving the quality of information people see on Facebook. We know there is still more to do, and we’re committed to this.”

About Third-Party Fact-Checking
Facebook’s fact-checking programme relies on feedback from the Facebook community, as one of many signals Facebook uses to raise potentially false stories to fact-checkers for review. Local articles will be fact-checked alongside the verification of photos and videos. If one of Facebook’s fact-checking partners identifies a story as false, Facebook will show it lower in News Feed, significantly reducing its distribution.

“Coding must be compulsory, at all levels. The currency of the future is going to be coding…

ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast, April 8, 2019/ — African Development Bank President Adesina, on Friday, pleaded for Africans to embrace technology, and governments to urgently move away from “investing in the jobs of the past, but rather in the jobs of the future. A future that is just around the corner.”

Adesina was addressing a debate entitled: The New Tech Era: Job-killer or Job-creator?organised by Africa Report and Jeune Afrique as part of the 2019 Mo Ibrahim Governance Week. The debate took place in the Sofitel Hotel in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire.

The people who control data, will control Africa. Coding must be compulsory, at all levels. The currency of the future is going to be coding,” Adesina said. “Information technology must not be the exclusive privilege of the elite, we must democratize technology,” he added.

In his welcome remarks, Mo Ibrahim urged the panelists to think about ways to address the “tsunami of young people entering the job market.”

In response to that call to action, Kacou insisted on the need for “a change in mindset to move from BBC or Born Before Computers to rethinking education to teach people how to learn and help them solve problems.”

Panellists acknowledged the critical role the tech industry can play in Africa’s economic transformation through the continent’s digitization. However, they agreed on the urgent need to upgrade the skills of the past, to do it fast, and move away from the social fear of technology.

Research has shown that if governments harness the full economic potential of just the internet, Africa could add $300 billion to its GDP by 2025. Also, 70% of all jobs will have an ICT component by 2020.

Opportunities to transform Africa through technology are endless.  In agriculture, drones can monitor crops, Artificial Intelligence can speed varietal selection, and the Internet of the Things can control smart irrigation systems. Block chains can also aid food traceability.

“We must grab the opportunities…We must democratize technology. Africa should prepare itself. Digital technologies, including Artificial intelligence, big data analytics, blockchains, 3D printing, are already upon us,” Adesina concluded. 

Imagine Using ‘Liverpool’ as a Password and Expect Not Getting Hacked!

Millions of Online users stare at hacking attempts, with most of these attempts succeeding for users who use ‘easy-to-guess’ passwords such as 123456.

More than 30 million people fell victims according to a new research released by the National Crime Security Centre (NCSC).

The report found ‘123456’ was the most used, ahead of 123456789 and qwerty – the series of letters which appear in a line on a computer keyboard.

The report by the NCSC, further revealed that hundreds of thousands of people used common names, and their favourite Premier League football teams as their password.

‘Liverpool’ was the most common Premier League Football team used in a password.

“Using hard-to-guess passwords is a strong first step and we recommend combining three random but memorable words. Be creative and use words memorable to you, so people can’t guess your password,” said Dr Ian Levy, NCSC’s technical director.

The analysis also found that many British internet users did not know the best ways to protect themselves from cybercrime.

James said: “Cyber security is a serious issue, but there are some simple actions everyone can take to better protect against hackers.

“Password re-use is a major risk that can be avoided – nobody should protect sensitive data with something that can be guessed, like their first name, local football team or favourite band.

The list was created after breached usernames and passwords were obtained from global breaches and published on ‘Have I Been Pwned’ website by international web security expert Troy Hunt.

Read: MTN Launches Whatsapp Airtime, Data Recharge Channel

The website main purpose is to allow allows people to check if they have an account that has been compromised in a recent data breach.

Here is the list of sampled easy to guess passwords;

The 20 most used passwords

123456 (23.2m)

123456789 (7.7m)

qwerty (3.8m)

password (3.6m)

1111111 (3.1m)

12345678 (2.9m)

abc123 (2.8m)

1234567 (2.5m)

password1 (2.4m)

12345 (2.3m)

1234567890 (2.2m)

123123 (2.2 m)

000000 (1.9m)

Iloveyou (1.6m)

1234 (1.3m)

1q2w3e4r5t (1.2m)

Qwertyuiop (1.1m)

123 (1.02m)

Monkey (980, 209)

Dragon (968,625)

Top 5 names

ashley (432,276)

michael (425,291)

daniel (368,227)

jessica (324,125)

charlie (308,939)

Top 5 football teams

liverpool (280,723)

chelsea (216,677)

arsenal (179,095)

manutd (59,440)

everton (46,619)

Top 5 musicians

blink182 (285,706)

50cent (191,153)

eminem (167,983)

metallica (140,841)

slipknot (140,833)

Top five fictional characters

superman (333,139)

naruto (242,749)

tigger (237,290)

pokemon (226,947)

batman (203,116)

TechCrunch Startup Battlefield 2018 To Be Held In Lagos

Facebook is returning as the headline sponsor of TechCrunch Startup Battlefield Africa 2018. The event, taking place in Lagos, Nigeria — will search for Sub-Saharan Africa’s best innovators, makers and technical entrepreneurs.

TechCrunch Startup Battlefield Africa sees start-ups compete across three categories: social good; productivity and utility; and gaming and entertainment. It profiles the founders and entrepreneurs leading Africa’s next wave of technology innovation and highlights new ideas, businesses and applications with disruptive potential.

On December 11, TechCrunch Startup Battlefield supported by Facebook, will bring together the strongest start-ups from across Sub-Saharan Africa, where they will pitch to a live audience of 500 people ranging from VCs, investors, government officials and developers.

Facebook representatives from Africa and beyond will be on the ground to celebrate, where they will be connecting, listening and learning from various communities as well as taking part in an exciting series of workshops, networking sessions and talks between 6th and 11th December.

“Following the great success of the inaugural TechnCrunch Startup Battlefield event in 2017, we are delighted to return as the headline sponsor for this year’s event,” says Emeka Afigbo, Facebook’s Head of Developer Programs. “Given our passion for connecting people and helping developers and entrepreneurs to thrive, we can’t wait to see how this year’s entrants are using technology to engage and empower people across the continent.”

 

Events Facebook will host over the week include:

  • Developer Circle Leads Summit (6-7 December): A two-day summit for more than 65 Developer Circles Leads across Sub-Saharan Africa, representing a growing community of over 42,800 members across 31 cities in 15 countries across Sub-Saharan Africa.

 

  • Instagram Inspire Action Lagos – Women and Small Business Event (6 December): A workshop to inspire, educate and train 70-80 entrepreneurs and women working in tech with a panel featuring special guests.

 

  • Startups and Developers Summit 2018 by Developer Circle Nigeria (8 December): Bringing together 600 attendees, and hosted by Facebook Developer Leads, the Summit will run trainings and workshop sessions on specialist deep-tech subjects, such as Messenger Bot

 

  • Aspiring Entrepreneurs — Digital Pitch Competition (10 December): Winners from seven Nigerian states who participated in the Aspiring Entrepreneurs: Digital 2018 programme will pitch their businesses to a panel of judges for a chance to win support and prizes from Facebook and Fate Foundation.

 

  • NG_Hub Start-up Mixer (10 December): A social gathering bringing together Start-ups from across the ecosystem, including NG_Hub start-ups (Start-ups using Facebook’s Community Hub) and those taking part in the TechCrunch Startup Battlefield event.

 

  • Student Hack (11 December): In partnership with Re:Learn by CC_Hub, Facebook will bring together 50 local high school students from Lagos to take part in Hack-a-Day and other activities that highlight the difference developers can make in the world using computer science skills.

Cyber Criminals Reaping Millions From Ransomware Attacks – Report

Sophos has launched its 2019Threat Report providing insights into emerging and evolving cybersecurity trends. The report, produced by SophosLabs researchers, explores changes in the threat landscape over the past 12 months, uncovering trends and how they are expected to impact cybersecurity in 2019.

“The threat landscape is undoubtedly evolving; less skilled cyber criminals are being forced out of business, the fittest among them step up their game to survive and we’ll eventually be left with fewer, but smarter and stronger, adversaries. These new cybercriminals are effectively a cross-breed of the once esoteric, targeted attacker, and the pedestrian purveyor of off-the-shelf malware, using manual hacking techniques, not for espionage or sabotage, but to maintain their dishonorable income streams,” said Joe Levy, CTO, Sophos.

The SophosLabs 2019 Threat Report focuses on these key cybercriminal behaviours and attacks:

Capitalist cybercriminals are turning to targeted ransomware attacks that are premeditated and reaping millions of dollars in ransom – 2018 saw the advancement of hand-delivered, targeted ransomware attacks that are earning cybercriminals millions of dollars. These attacks are different than ‘spray and pray’ style attacks that are automatically distributed through millions of emails. Targeted ransomware is more damaging than if delivered from a bot, as human attackers can find and stake out victims, think laterally, trouble shoot to overcome roadblocks, and wipe out back-ups so the ransom must be paid. This “interactive attack style,” where adversaries manually maneuver through a network step-by-step, is now increasing in popularity. Sophos experts believe the financial success of SamSam, BitPaymer and Dharma to inspire copycat attacks and expect more happen in 2019.

Cybercriminals are using readily available Windows systems administration tools – This year’s report uncovers a shift in threat execution, as more mainstream attackers now employ Advanced Persistent Threat (APT) techniques to use readily available IT tools as their route to advance through a system and complete their mission – whether it’s to steal sensitive information off the server or drop ransomware:

Turning admin tools into cyberattack tools
In an ironic twist, or Cyber Catch-22, cybercriminals are utilising essential or built-in Windows IT admin tools, including Powershell files and Windows Scripting executables, to deploy malware attacks on users.

Cybercriminals are playing Digital Dominos
By chaining together a sequence of different script types that execute an attack at the end of the event series, hackers can instigate a chain reaction before IT managers detect a threat is operational on the network, and once they break in it’s difficult to stop the payload from executing.

Cybercriminals have adopted newer Office exploits to lure in victims

Office exploits have long been an attack vector, but recently cybercriminals have cut loose old Office document exploits in favour of newer ones.

EternalBlue becomes a key tool for cryptojacking attacks

Patching updates appeared for this Windows threat more than a year ago, yet the EternalBlue exploit is still a favourite of cybercriminals; the coupling of EternalBlue to cryptomining software turned the activity from a nuisance hobby into a potentially lucrative criminal career. Lateral distribution on the corporate networks allowed the cryptojacker to quickly infect multiple machines, increasing payouts to the hacker and heavy costs to the user.

The continued threat of mobile and IoT malware – Malware’s impact extends beyond the organization’s infrastructure as we see the threat from mobile malware grow apace. With illegal Android apps on the increase, 2018 has seen an increased focus in malware being pushed to phones, tablets and other IoT devices. As homes and businesses adopt more internet-connected devices, criminals have been devising new ways to hijack those devices to use as nodes in huge botnet attacks. In 2018, VPNFilter demonstrated the destructive power of weaponized malware that affects embedded systems and networked devices that have no obvious user interface. Elsewhere, Mirai Aidra, Wifatch, and Gafgyt delivered a range of automated attacks that hijacked networked devices to use as nodes in botnets to engage in distributed denial-of-service attacks, mine cryptocurrency and infiltrate networks.

HP To Educate 100,000 Across Africa In Three Years

Technology company Hewlett-Packard (HP) has announced a new commitment to reach 100,000 learners across Africa over the next three years through the HP Foundation’s HP LIFE program.

The company kicked off the commitment by opening a new tech-enabled HP LIFE Center in South Africa.   HP aims to enroll a million HP LIFE users between 2016 and 2025, as outlined in the HP 2017 Sustainable Impact Report.

By 2030, Africa will be home to 32 per cent of the population under the age of 30, and the largest working age population by 2035. Yet, today’s youth unemployment in Africa is up to three times higher than adult unemployment.

HP LIFE offers free, online learning for users to gain the skills to start and grow their own business or improve their employment opportunities. Building on the success of this global program, HP is working with partners to open technology-enabled HP LIFE innovation centers to further support entrepreneurship and workforce development across the continent.

“We believe that education is a human right, that technology in the classroom is a critical component for a 21st century education, and that in today’s economy our learning is never done,” said Nate Hurst, Chief Sustainability and Social Impact Officer, HP. “Africa is experiencing rapid urbanization and digitization—and it’s essential that people have access to learn skills for the work of tomorrow. This new HP LIFE Center provides a launchpad for innovation and opportunity across the continent.”

In 2017, on the global stage at the Global Citizen Festival in Hamburg, Germany, HP announced a commitment to enabling better learning outcomes for 100 million people by 2025. The commitment to education is a part of HP’s broader Sustainable Impact strategy – a strategy to use the scope, scale and expertise of HP to drive positive, lasting change for the planet, its people and the communities where we live, work and do business.

“Sustainable Impact is fundamental to our reinvention and core to achieving our vision – to create technology that makes life better for everyone, everywhere,” said Hurst.

HP LIFE

In collaboration with institutions such as the Ekurhuleni West TVET College in Katlehong and its Centre of Entrepreneurship Rapid Incubator, HP opened the HP LIFE Center in South Africa on November 30, a technology-enabled hub to facilitate learning, collaboration and entrepreneurship in a physical, face-to-face setting.

Built on the belief that entrepreneurs are the backbone of the global economy, HP LIFE offers 30 free, online courses focused on business and IT skills – from business planning and marketing, to raising capital and design thinking. To date, HP LIFE has reached 744,000 learners in 200 countries and territories. All users need is a computer and Internet connection to access HP LIFE, and the new, physical center in South Africa will create a more formal educational environment. HP LIFE has an enrollment goal of 1 million users between 2016 and 2025.

At the World Economic Forum’s 48th Annual Meeting in January, Youth for Technology Foundation (YTF) and HP Foundation announced a new 3D printing course to be delivered through the HP LIFE platform. 3D printing will fundamentally change the manufacturing industry. $4 to $6 trillionof the global economy will be disrupted in the next five to 10 years, shifting economic value and jobs across the globe. This new course is helping individuals to learn how to use 3D printing and create entrepreneurial opportunities.

Interesting Features Of Canon’s New Mirrorless Camera System EOS R

Canon Central & North Africa (CCNA), has for the first time in East Africa unveiled its pioneering EOS R System.

Over thirty years on from the original, era-defining EOS launch, the bold, new EOS R Full Frame Mirrorless Camera that expands photographic possibilities in countless ways. The new RF lens mount has been engineered with the perfect blend of optical, mechanical and electronic design to capture unique moments in previously impossible ways.

A pioneering lens mount, built from the best of EOS legacy

Since its inception in 1987, the EOS System – including Cinema EOS – has grown into the most recognised imaging system in the world. Today’s introduction takes the EOS platform to new heights, incorporating the best from the existing system, with even greater levels of performance, lens design possibilities and creative flexibility. The new RF mount has been built on the strengths of the existing EF mount and is the result of detailed research by Canon engineers, who have designed an impressive optical system with a flange back distance of 20mm and a wide 54mm diameter lens mount – allowing for even greater freedom when designing lenses. The new mount’s 12-pin connection enables enhanced communication and power transmission between the lens and camera body, further enhancing lens design options, resulting in higher image quality and enhanced usability.

Mr Amine Djouahra, Senior Sales & Marketing Manager – B2C, Canon Central & North Africa, commented: “We are very proud to have officially launched our EOS R System today here in Nairobi. This market and the entire East Africa region, plays a significant role in our growth plans and we hope that today’s local launch will further cement our position as innovators in imaging technology.” He further went on to add that, “Today, Canon is globally committed to investing in the unrivalled EOS world with cameras, lenses and accessories that set new heights in image quality, optical excellence and performance, building on Canon’s lens heritage, these high-performance lenses will push forward the frontiers of creative storytelling and satisfying the ever-evolving needs and demands of our customers.”

Mr Amine Djouahra, Senior Sales & Marketing Manager – B2C, Canon Central

Exceptional quality in every detail

Built from the ground up, the new System has been reengineered with invaluable input during the System’s development from professional and enthusiast photographers and filmmakers. The EOS R System with RF mount and Dual Pixel CMOS AF delivers unrivalled optical excellence, the world’s fastest auto focus and faster communication between camera and lens. Features that are synonymous with EOS – fast performance, superb ergonomics and superior, uncompromising, image quality – remain at the heart of the EOS R System.

Featuring innovative technology for photography and filmmaking alike, the EOS R System allows all users to shoot and film in extremely low light with accurate focusing, thanks to Dual Pixel CMOS AF. Small and discreet, the EOS R System gives flexibility, plus the advantage of silent shooting. It also offers the highest standard of movie output from any Canon EOS System camera, outside of the Cinema EOS range, enabling filmmakers to take their storytelling to the next level in 4K with output in 10-bit over HDMI. The whole system has refined handling and enhanced ergonomics, including an electronic viewfinder and extensive customisation, allowing the user to the focus on the subject rather than the camera.

A system designed with lenses at its core

The EOS R System inherits all the existing system advantages, importantly full compatibility with existing EF and EF-S lenses and accessories, when using one of three newly-developed lens adapters, expanding the boundaries of image capture. Canon has today also launched four new lenses, compatible with the EOS R System – the RF 28-70mm f/2L USM, RF 50mm f/1.2L USM, RF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM and RF 35mm f/1.8 MACRO IS STM. Additionally, users of existing Canon EOS full frame or APS-C DSLR cameras can enjoy the EOS R System with their existing EF and EF-S lenses thanks to the adapters, while retaining the same performance as when used on a DSLR, as well as access to EOS accessories and Speed lite flashes.

Adding to the full frame family

Adding to the EOS full frame line-up, Canon has today unveiled the first camera body to carry the EOS R name and RF lens mount – setting the new standard for the camera of tomorrow. With the world’s fastest autofocusiii, it is also the world’s first camera with the ability to focus in light conditions as low as -6EViv and totally silent shooting, providing stunning quality results every time. The EOS R redefines photo and video performance with unrivalled image quality, state-of-the art connectivity, refined ergonomics and responsive handling.

Further expanding the existing EOS System, Canon today also launches the EF-M 32mm f/1.4 STM – a new 32mm lens for the EOS M mirrorless system – and the EF 400mm f/2.8L IS III USM and EF 600mm f/4L IS III USM, two revolutionary, lightweight professional super telephoto lenses for the EF System.

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