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Microsoft’s Brad Smith regularly strategizes with top tech companies

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Brad SmithMicrosoft President and Chief Legal Officer Brad SmithPedro Fiúza/NurPhoto via Getty Images

  • Microsoft President Brad Smith told a room full of journalists that he has “sympathy” for executives at tech companies who find themselves under regulatory scrutiny these days.
  • Smith was working at Microsoft back in the ’90s, when Microsoft was sued by the federal government over its business practices, and put under a decade of government oversight.
  • Smith said that after the Trump administration’s travel ban some 23 months ago, the tech industry came together for a meeting. 
  • Since then, he’s had ongoing meetings with top senior execs in the industry to “share notes” on the big issues.

 

Microsoft’s top lawyer says that he regularly meets with the most senior executives at the biggest tech companies to discuss how the industry is being targeted by regulators, and what to do about it.

So said Brad Smith, Microsoft’s president and chief legal officer, on Monday to a room full of journalists in Seattle as part of an invite-only day for the media. 

Without naming names, he talked about these meetings. He said that these meetings began around the “immigration issue” of 23 months ago — specifically, President Donald Trump’s executive order banning travel from several Muslim-majority countries. 

“We get together regularly. We get together with more senior people. I participate in these conversations. We compare notes,” he said.

When asked by Business Insider for more information about which executives were involved in those meetings — and, specifically, whether they include leadership from the scandal-plagued Facebook — Smith deflected the question. 

“We definitely have meetings with very senior people at very successful companies to talk about what’s happening in the world. What are the issues that people see? What positions people have and how can we take steps together,” he said.

He added, “you can sort of put the pieces together,” implying that perhaps Facebook, and maybe even people at the level of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg or COO Sheryl Sandberg, come to the table.

Smith went so far as to suggest that the tech industry could use more such togetherness. “To some degree we would benefit if we had a few more of those issues that would compel us [big tech companies] to come together,” he said.

It makes sense for Microsoft to attend these meetings: Microsoft was the first of today’s big internet company to face regulation. Back in the ’90s, Microsoft was sued by the government over its business practices, labeled a monopoly, and forced to change its ways under regulatory scrutiny.

Read: MacKenzie Bezos deserves half of Jeff Bezos’ fortune because there would be no Amazon without her

Asked what he thinks about internet companies under similar scrutiny today, his answer was surprising.

He thinks of the people involved at each company and has “sympathy” for them, he said.  The companies that have been under the spotlight lately include Facebook, Microsoft’s rivals at Google, and, to a lesser extent, Amazon and Twitter. 

Executives from Facebook, Google and Twitter have all testified to Congress, asked about everything from their role in the elections to their company’s political leanings to their handling of data breaches. 

Smith was part of Microsoft back when it was sued by the government, and recalls that this was a difficult process for the company. He said the first part of dealing with regulatory scrutiny is looking in the mirror and being honest with yourself.

“It’s about listening to, and ultimately internalizing, criticism,” he said, noting that this is something that’s simply hard for many human beings to do. “I therefore always have sympathy for people,” he said.

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More groups join in support of women in STEM program at Carleton

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OTTAWA — Major companies and government partners are lending their support to Carleton University’s newly established Women in Engineering and Information Technology Program.

The list of supporters includes Mississauga-based construction company EllisDon.

The latest to announce their support for the program also include BlackBerry QNX, CIRA (Canadian Internet Registration Authority), Ericsson, Nokia, Solace, Trend Micro, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, CGI, Gastops, Leonardo DRS, Lockheed Martin Canada, Amdocs and Ross.

The program is officially set to launch this September.

It is being led by Carleton’s Faculty of Engineering and Design with the goal of establishing meaningful partnerships in support of women in STEM.  

The program will host events for women students to build relationships with industry and government partners, create mentorship opportunities, as well as establish a special fund to support allies at Carleton in meeting equity, diversity and inclusion goals.

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VR tech to revolutionize commercial driver training

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Serious Labs seems to have found a way from tragedy to triumph? The Edmonton-based firm designs and manufactures virtual reality simulators to standardize training programs for operators of heavy equipment such as aerial lifts, cranes, forklifts, and commercial trucks. These simulators enable operators to acquire and practice operational skills for the job safety and efficiency in a risk-free virtual environment so they can work more safely and efficiently.

The 2018 Humboldt bus catastrophe sent shock waves across the industry. The tragedy highlighted the need for standardized commercial driver training and testing. It also contributed to the acceleration of the federal government implementing a Mandatory Entry-Level Training (MELT) program for Class 1 & 2 drivers currently being adopted across Canada. MELT is a much more rigorous standard that promotes safety and in-depth practice for new drivers.

Enter Serious Labs. By proposing to harness the power of virtual reality (VR), Serious Labs has earned considerable funding to develop a VR commercial truck driving simulator.

The Government of Alberta has awarded $1 million, and Emissions Reduction Alberta (ERA) is contributing an additional $2 million for the simulator development. Commercial deployment is estimated to begin in 2024, with the simulator to be made available across Canada and the United States, and with the Alberta Motor Transport Association (AMTA) helping to provide simulator tests to certify that driver trainees have attained the appropriate standard. West Tech Report recently took the opportunity to chat with Serious Labs CEO, Jim Colvin, about the environmental and labour benefits of VR Driver Training, as well as the unique way that Colvin went from angel investor to CEO of the company.

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Next-Gen Tech Company Pops on New Cover Detection Test

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While the world comes out of the initial stages of the pandemic, COVID-19 will be continue to be a threat for some time to come. Companies, such as Zen Graphene, are working on ways to detect the virus and its variants and are on the forefronts of technology.

Nanotechnology firm ZEN Graphene Solutions Ltd. (TSX-Venture:ZEN) (OTCPK:ZENYF), is working to develop technology to help detect the COVID-19 virus and its variants. The firm signed an exclusive agreement with McMaster University to be the global commercializing partner for a newly developed aptamer-based, SARS-CoV-2 rapid detection technology.

This patent-pending technology uses clinical samples from patients and was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. The test is considered extremely accurate, scalable, saliva-based, affordable, and provides results in under 10 minutes.

Shares were trading up over 5% to $3.07 in early afternoon trade.

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