- We’re sharing seven innovations built by our teams in Europe, Middle East and Africa this year, ranging from Instagram Lite for rural communities to the world’s longest subsea cable, to celebrate the work done by teams in this region.
2021 has been another challenging year. However, as we have started to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and treat the climate crisis with more urgency, we have also increasingly seen the positive role that social technologies play in connecting people and businesses in inspiring ways.
For our colleagues at Meta in London, Tel Aviv, Paris, Dublin or working remotely across Europe, the Middle East and Africa, building new technologies to address today’s societal challenges has become more important than ever — and this year we’ve seen a lot of progress that makes us hopeful for the future. Whether it was finding new and innovative ways to expand internet connectivity, advancing the state of the art in artificial intelligence, or reimagining the way we conduct remote meetings, we’re pleased to see all the innovative technologies that have come from our teams in EMEA.
Here’s a look back at some of our biggest innovations from 2021.
Our engineering and product teams in Tel Aviv developed Instagram Lite in collaboration with their colleagues in New York. This new app for Android is designed to provide people living in rural communities with a high-quality Instagram experience by using minimal data.
The app only requires 2 MB to download — considerably less than the full-size version of close to 30 MB — but retains the key features that people using entry-level devices want. To keep those features on the smaller app, the team looked to Facebook Lite, another Tel Aviv creation that debuted a few years ago, and offloaded into the cloud most of the code from the app running on the phone.
Working in collaboration with researchers at Inria, the Meta AI team in Paris has developed DINO, a new method to reason more effectively on the contents of an image or video. This is considered one of the hardest challenges in computer vision because it requires that AI truly understand what is in an image.
DINO can discover and segment objects in an image or a video with absolutely no supervision and without being given a targeted objective. For example, DINO can understand that an image contains a representation of a dog without ever being taught what a dog is in the first place.
Every day, we’re inundated with a constant stream of information — most of which we’ll forget. We often take for granted the ability to forget mundane, day-to-day details to make room for valuable moments that matter in our long-term memory bank. However, unlike human memory, most neural networks don’t have the ability to forget.
So, as a step toward achieving human-like memory in machines, our Meta AI team in Paris announced Expire-Span, that equips neural networks with the ability to forget at scale. To achieve this, Expire-Span assigns an expiration date to each piece of information — much like the expiration date on a bottle of milk. When the date has passed, the information gradually expires from the AI system. Intuitively, more relevant information is retained longer, while irrelevant information expires more quickly.
When hundreds of millions of people post content on social media every day, it’s important to keep track of the actual order in which each post, reply or emoji happened, in order for those interactions to make sense. However, keeping data synchronized across different data centers and continents is difficult.
To solve this challenge, our engineers in Dublin and Menlo Park came up with the Time Card — a PCI Express (PCIe) card that turns any commodity server into a time appliance and that keeps data centers synchronized at the nanosecond level. The Time Card is an open source project that is more affordable for anyone to build, three times more accurate, and more compact than any commercial solution available today.
Meta invests in subsea cables as part of our continued efforts to build the infrastructure that helps bring more people online to a faster and more affordable internet. One of our most complex connectivity projects in EMEA is 2Africa, the most comprehensive subsea cable to serve the African continent and Middle East region.
This year, we announced, together with regional and global partners, a new segment of subsea cable called 2Africa Pearls, which connects three continents — Africa, Europe and Asia. This extension will bring the total length of the 2Africa cable system to more than 45,000 kilometers, making it the longest subsea cable system ever deployed.
Horizon Workrooms is a workspace where teams can connect, collaborate and create in VR using our Quest 2 headset. Built by a team in London, Workrooms brings some of our best new technologies together for the first time into one experience on Quest 2.
Using features like mixed-reality desk and keyboard tracking, hand tracking, remote desktop streaming, video conferencing integration, spatial audio and the new Avatars, Workrooms creates a different kind of productivity experience that is unlike any other application designed for remote work.
Initially launched in 2020 and built by a team in London, our Transfer Your Information tool makes data portability more seamless for our users, allowing them to transfer Facebook photos, videos, posts, notes, and events to other services such as Backblaze, Dropbox, Google Photos, Koofr, Google Docs, WordPress.com, Blogger, Photobucket or Google Calendar.
To provide people with more choice and control over their data, we’ve spent 2021 rebuilding our data portability tool from the ground up and adding support for more data types. Now, it’s easier for people to see what destinations and what data types are supported, there’s greater transparency around the status of each transfer and people can simultaneously start multiple data transfers for one destination. We’re also working with developers to expand the selection of data types and destinations we support.
We’re very proud of the achievements of our colleagues in EMEA during this past year. In 2022 and beyond, we will focus on building more of the foundational technologies that will bring the metaverse to life and create the next computing platform. As part of this new goal, we are creating 10,000 new high-skilled jobs in the European Union over the next five years. EMEA is hugely important to Meta. From the thousands of employees in the region to the millions of businesses using our apps and tools every day, EMEA is a big part of our success and our vision for the next decade of social technology.
Customers share their stories on migrating to Dynamics 365
At some point, we’ve all experienced regret over not doing something. Opportunity passes us due to our over analysis, indecision, and uncertainty. Even though we’ve all done this, we rarely seek the advice of others, thinking our situation is somehow unique or different. This rationale is common among the on-premises organizations we speak to. They…
At some point, we’ve all experienced regret over not doing something.
Opportunity passes us due to our over analysis, indecision, and uncertainty. Even though we’ve all done this, we rarely seek the advice of others, thinking our situation is somehow unique or different.
This rationale is common among the on-premises organizations we speak to. They understand the benefits for moving to the cloud but chose to focus on all the reasons not to—aging infrastructure, manual processes, and siloed data notwithstanding.
Hearing how others are approaching this critical technological evolution can be invaluable. Not to mention relatable. Here are a few customer stories we’ve collected; perhaps you might recognize yourself or the circumstances?
A small company with sizeable goals
Sonee Sports, is a small 28-year-old, family-run retail chain in the Maldives. The company moved its Microsoft Dynamics AX to Dynamics 365 in the cloud to streamline its resource planning, point of sale, and relationship management activities. Sonee Sports has grown from a single desk in a hardware store to 10 stores across the Maldives however, this growth didn’t come without challenges, particularly when it came to technology.
Maumoon Abdullah, Sonee Sports’s co-founder, has long advocated for using technology to understand, retain, and engage new customers. “In 2016, we had a customer churn rate of 10 percent—not good. We knew that technology was key to keeping our business afloat,” Abdullah said. However, their previous enterprise resource planning (ERP) took hours to generate reports, the data was inaccurate, so decision makers stopped using it. In time, Sonee Sports realized it had to move its entire business to the cloud.
With help from Mumbai-based CloudFronts, a Microsoft Partner Network partner, Sonee Sports upgraded to Microsoft Dynamics 365, deployed Microsoft Power BI for analytics, and rolled out a cloud-based e-commerce system. “We needed an all-around ERP system that was reliable, easy to use, and mobile-friendly and that offered a host of options for accessing information. Dynamics 365 Retail fits these criteria very well.” Abdullah says.
With this setup, Sonee Sports has cut its IT maintenance costs by 38 percent and improved customer retention by over 8 percent.
“With Dynamics 365, we finally have the data we need to understand our customers.” Abdullah says. “The value of this is priceless.”
Read more about Sonee Sport’s migration to Dynamics 365.
A growing city with changing needs
It can be easy to forget that cities are a lot like corporations—they provide services to their “customers,” often relying on technology to deliver the goods.
Bristol is a diverse city in southwest England, with more than 90 languages spoken and a population of just over 463,000. Bristol City Council is the unitary authority and is responsible for a wide range of services including taxation, waste management, education, etc. Like many struggling municipalities, Bristol City Council felt it could no longer rely on its IT system to meet day-to-day demands of the city. Its systems weren’t agile or mobile-friendly and lacked a unified platform to support collaboration or leverage data insights.
“The council was historically, deeply dissatisfied with its IT systems and processes.” says Simon Oliver, Director of Digital Transformation at Bristol City Council.
Bristol City Council realized the only way forward was to modernize its Dynamics CRM 2016 instance to Dynamics 365, which would improve efficiency and collaboration. Moving, however, was a significant undertaking, involving migrating 54 workloads and orchestrating nearly 500 ecosystem partners, and staff.
Built on Microsoft Azure, with Microsoft Power Platform and Office 365, Bristol City Council deployed Dynamics 365 alongside toolsets to increase productivity. “Working with Microsoft has given us an opportunity to look at our entire approach to delivering IT services, to reshape our way of thinking and the culture of the IT department,” explains Oliver.
Read more about the Bristol City Council transformation.
An industry leader looking to drive purpose
Peet Limited, a leader in Australia’s property industry, believes in helping people gain peace of mind through property ownership. And their commitment to IT innovation has enabled them to remain competitive through market disruptions.
As part of its ongoing mission to offer quality service, the company partnered with Microsoft to upgrade its IT systems and move critical line-of-business applications to the cloud. Justyn Bridge, IT Manager at Peet Limited, explained, “Microsoft 365 is a complete, intelligent solution…it empowers Peet employees to be creative and work together.” Peet Limited had confidence in Microsoft because the organization was already using both Dynamics CRM and Dynamics AX, for its customer relationship management (CRM) and ERP, respectively.
Peet Limited designed its cloud strategy around security with the goal of end-to-end protection in mind; for them, security promoted value. Bridge explains that one of the best benefits of using Microsoft 365 is having a “single pane of glass” to view Peet Limited’s security landscape. Using Microsoft’s Advanced Threat Analytics, Peet Limited had a succinct, real-time view of an attack timeline with the ability to analyze and identify normal versus suspicious user or device behavior.
Considering the project, Bridge notes, “We sought better end-to-end protection, and Microsoft 365 gave us that. Our business has gained security in both protection and mindset.”
Read more about Peet Limited’s story.
When you’re ready to migrate, Microsoft is here to help
We all have stories that define us. Organizations are no different. Whether you’re looking to grow your footprint, improve services, or modernize your underlying technology, the Microsoft Cloud can meet your changing needs. While migrating to the cloud should be a business priority, the experiences above illustrate the importance of planning. When you’re ready to migrate your on-premises solution to the cloud, Microsoft is here to support your journey.
Learn from the other Dynamics AX and Dynamics CRM migration stories in our library. Visit the Dynamics 365 Migration Community to access partner discovery resources and other assets to help you migrate with confidence.
Facebook: Our Largest Ever Climate Survey Can Inform Policies, Research and Campaigns Around the World
Today, Meta and researchers at Yale University are publishing the results of our biggest ever global survey about public views towards climate change. In March and April this year, a sample of more than 100,000 Facebook users from nearly 200 countries and territories were asked about their knowledge of, and attitudes and behavior towards, climate change…
Today, Meta and researchers at Yale University are publishing the results of our biggest ever global survey about public views towards climate change. In March and April this year, a sample of more than 100,000 Facebook users from nearly 200 countries and territories were asked about their knowledge of, and attitudes and behavior towards, climate change issues and what should be done to address them. The results paint a picture of deep concern around the world and the desire of a significant majority of people to see governments and others take meaningful action.
The survey is a collaboration between Meta and the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, as part of Meta’s Data for Good program. It is hoped its findings can be used to inform policy decisions and priorities for governments, especially in many countries where surveys of this sort have not taken place before. The findings should also be valuable for researchers around the world, as well as a resource to inform public information or awareness raising campaigns by activists and NGOs, and help journalists with nationally-relevant data. For example, the Social Progress Imperative is using data from this survey to develop a new Climate Perception Index, which will serve as a tool to better understand the societal implications of climate change and will provide insights for policy makers on where to focus most in order to deliver tangible societal outcomes to their citizens.
The survey found:
- The majority of people in nearly all countries surveyed say they are somewhat or very worried about climate change, including more than 9 in 10 respondents in many countries in Central and South America. In almost every country, majorities saw climate change as a threat to their country or territory over the next two decades.
- A majority in two-thirds of the countries and territories surveyed think climate change will harm future generations a great deal.
- Majorities in nearly all countries think climate change is caused at least partially by human activity. Europeans were most likely to correctly answer that climate change is caused by human activities, led by Spain (65%) and Sweden (61%).
- In most countries, a majority say they don’t hear about climate change at least once a week in their daily lives. Europeans are more likely to say they hear about climate change at least once a week compared to other regions.
- Most people say their country should reduce pollution causing climate change, either on their own or if other countries also do so. However, people have different views on who is primarily responsible for reducing pollution — majorities in 43 countries said their government is responsible, 42 countries said individual people and 25 said businesses.
- People everywhere think climate change should be a high priority for their government. Majorities in most countries in North and South America say it should be a “very high” priority.
- A majority in almost all areas surveyed think action to reduce climate change will either improve or have no negative impact on the economy.
- People support using more renewable energy and less fossil fuels. About 9 in 10 people in Hungary, Portugal and Spain think their country should use somewhat or much more renewable energy.
The Data for Good program is an unprecedented collaboration between technology companies, the public sector, universities, nonprofits and others using privacy-protected datasets for social good, including disaster relief and recovery. Many of our humanitarian partners operate in some of the most challenging environments in the world. By sharing free tools that provide fast insights, Meta data has made decision-making on the ground easier, cheaper and more effective. In recent years, this collaboration has informed policies governing things like the delivery of vaccines and aid to Ukrainian refugees, and been utilized for environmental campaigns in the US, Germany, Belgium, Croatia and the UK.
Alongside the survey, Meta has also published its annual Sustainability Report, detailing the solid progress we’re making in minimizing the environmental impact of our business, supply chain and wider community. This includes:
- Setting an ambitious goal to be water positive by 2030, meaning we will restore more water than our global operations consume. In 2021, Meta helped restore more than 2.3 million cubic meters of water through investments in water restoration projects.
- Progress towards our goal of reaching net zero emissions across our value chain, and maintaining 100% renewable energy for our global operations.
- Expanding our Climate Science Center to more than 150 countries.
- Supporting key policies to advance sustainable policies and climate action, such as joining the European Climate Pact and participating in organizations advocating for clean energy policies in the United States.
Facebook: Uplifting Tribal Communities in India Through Digital Entrepreneurship
Inspired by the rich culture and talent represented by the tribal and indigenous communities of India, we are extending our collaboration with the Ministry of Tribal Affairs to launch the second phase of the Going Online As Leaders (GOAL) program. GOAL 2.0 will look to digitally upskill, connect and empower 10 lakh youth and women…
Inspired by the rich culture and talent represented by the tribal and indigenous communities of India, we are extending our collaboration with the Ministry of Tribal Affairs to launch the second phase of the Going Online As Leaders (GOAL) program. GOAL 2.0 will look to digitally upskill, connect and empower 10 lakh youth and women from the tribal communities of the country and will act as a bridge for the socially marginalized youth with a vast canvas of opportunities using technology that they otherwise may not have access to.
Through this program, the identified GOAL participants will have access to Meta Business Coach — a WhatsApp based learning bot — that will give the participants an opportunity to learn skills on how to build and grow their business using Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp. To empower the participants to play an active role in the digital economy, the program will also include Facebook Live sessions in nine languages by master trainers on topics like Anti Scamming education, staying safe online, how to combat misinformation and being a good digital citizen.
Sh. Arjun Munda, Hon’ble Minister of Tribal Affairs launched the second phase of the GOAL program.
Speaking on the occasion, Sh. Munda said:
“Honorable Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi has always spoken about bridging the digital divide. Digitally empowering India’s tribal communities would contribute significantly to the socio-economic development of the country and an important step towards creating a flourishing community of tribal leaders. The first phase of GOAL has seen changing the lives of tribal youth through the digital mentorship program. In the second phase, we will reach out to 10 lakh women and youth entrepreneurs and will also create a platform for more than 50,000 self-help groups and 10 lakh families associated with TRIFED to take their products global.”
Sharing his views on the importance of digital empowerment for the tribal communities, Ajit Mohan, Vice President & Managing Director, Facebook India (Meta) said:
“India’s massive digital transformation can be complete when even the most vulnerable communities of our society are digitally empowered. We are deeply inspired by the stories of some of the Tribal leaders who benefitted from the first phase of GOAL that we kicked off in 2020. We recognize the wide canvas of opportunity that gets unlocked when these tribal communities have access to digital tools and technologies, and that is why we are excited to launch the next phase of this program. In collaboration with the Ministry of Tribal Affairs, GOAL 2.0 will upskill and empower 10 lakh women and youth across tribal communities to harness the full potential of digital platforms and tools.”
Tribal population constitutes about 8.6% of the total population in India. Digitally empowering India’s tribal communities could contribute significantly to the socioeconomic development of the country and an important step towards creating a flourishing community of tribal leaders. The first phase of GOAL included inspiring, connecting and upskilling tribal youth from across the country. As a result of GOAL, 75% of the participants from the tribal community admitted to being able to better articulate their thoughts to words and saw an improvement in their interpersonal skills. About 69% were able to leverage digital commerce for increased reach and about 63% said that it helped them understand how to set up their business.
The program is aimed at empowering youth and women from tribal and indigenous communities to harness the full potential of digital platforms and enhancing their leadership skills for driving community development. Along with digital inclusion, the program aims to actively contribute to the economy by continuing to support the most vulnerable communities in tribal districts with a focus on tribal youth and on businesses led by tribal women in rural areas.
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