Microsoft to Donate $1 Billion in Cloud Services to Nonprofits and Researchers


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Satya Nadella, the chief executive of Microsoft, which is announcing a new philanthropic effort intended to make it easier for nonprofits to gain access to the same cloud computing tools that businesses have.Credit Michael Hanson for The New York Times

SEATTLE — Microsoft plans to give away $1 billion in cloud services to nonprofits and university researchers over the next three years, as the company updates its philanthropic initiatives to reflect shifts in technology.

The company’s chief executive, Satya Nadella, intends to announce the company’s commitment Tuesday evening in Davos, Switzerland, at the World Economic Forum, the annual meeting of business and political leaders. The plan is intended to make it easier for nonprofits and researchers to gain access to the same cloud computing tools that have enabled business to become more nimble and tackle big technical challenges.

Brad Smith, the company’s president and chief legal officer, said other organizations outside the corporate sector have been slower to adopt cloud services. “It’s important that we enable the nonprofit community to make the transition to the cloud services era,” he said in an interview.

Microsoft’s cloud services include Azure, which allows organizations to host their own websites and online applications in Microsoft’s data centers, as well as Power BI, Dynamics CRM Online and other Microsoft-made applications for running organizations. CRM Online, for instance, is a customer relationship management service that can be useful for nonprofits in accepting financial contributions from individual donors.

Microsoft has been giving away traditional software for years. Mr. Smith estimates the value of those software donations at about $750 million a year and said that they will continue even as Microsoft gives away cloud services.

Microsoft hopes to give away its cloud services to 70,000 nonprofits in the next three years. The company plans to expand by 50 percent an existing program that donates Azure storage and computing resources to university projects. The company will also invest in low-cost Internet access technologies in developing countries.

Philanthropic giveaways from technology companies are sometimes viewed by critics as thinly veiled efforts to make money even if they’re not making direct sales to the recipients of the donations. Facebook‘s effort to provide free Internet access to the developing world through its Internet.org initiative has come under attack from net neutrality activists in India who see it as a way of promoting Facebook services to the detriment of those from rival companies.

Microsoft says it will not take a tax deduction for the donated cloud services.

Mr. Smith said that Microsoft decided against creating an independent foundation for its philanthropic efforts because it believed the effort would have more impact if it was part of the company.

“Our philosophy is that philanthropy, at its best, often combines doing well with doing good,” he said. “One of the defining characteristics of Microsoft in 2016 is the degree to which we’re a mission-driven company. We rely most fundamentally on products and the market to fulfill that mission.”



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