Microsoft Australia is tying up another major partnership despite the company’s president recently saying major corporations would be reluctant to work in the country. The South Australia Department for Correctional Services (DCS) has tapped Microsoft to help it reduce re-offending by 10% by next year.
DCS says 6,000 people move through its prison system each year, with more than half returning through re-offence within two years. Education and skills development are one of the areas DCS believes are lacking in rehabilitation efforts.
Microsoft has been drafted in to help implement technology as a driver for education in the prison system. Microsoft Australia national technology officer Lee Hickin says the company has worked with DCS on a cloud computing network. The platform allows inmates to access educational tools in a controlled environment.
By leveraging Azure and Office 365 for Education, the cloud platform can scale so 3,000 people can use it simultaneously. Microsoft Australia points out the platform is a controlled space. Inmates will not be able to access the internet. Other restrictions include no unauthorized communications within or outside the network.
“One of the keys for us was security. So, unlike any other educational institution, our students are offenders. And, we, therefore, have to restrict their ability to communicate. Firstly, externally to the institution but also, restrict their communication with each other,” DCS director of knowledge and information systems David Styles said.
The goal of the project is to give inmates a better chance of finding jobs when they are released from prison. One of the key factors in people returning to crime is an inability to financially support themselves as ex-convicts.
Earlier this month, one of Microsoft’s most important figures said Australian laws are pushing tech companies away.
Microsoft president and chief lawyer Brad Smith has said governments and major companies will not want to store data in Australia’s anymore. Smith says the country’s new encryption legislation means organizations are “no longer comfortable”.
Last year, the Australian government passed new data encryption laws. Under the law, tech companies are mandated to give authorities access to their encrypted messages.