In conversation: Alejandro Anderlic, director of corporate, external and legal affairs, Microsoft

GC finds out how Microsoft is helping the Argentinian government effect digital transformation.

GC: Could you tell me a little bit about your background and how you came to be working in-house at Microsoft?

Alejandro Anderlic (AA): After over 20 years of being in private practice with a law firm, I joined Microsoft back in November 2013. I wanted to be somewhere where I could leave my footprint; where I could make a more positive impact than the one I could make working with a law firm. I got this great opportunity to work for Microsoft, where I found that the company’s corporate mission was very well aligned with my own mission in life – we have the mission to empower every person and every organisation on the planet to achieve more.

Since I joined the company, I’ve been busy working on issues related to the transformation of institutions – not only private companies, but also the government.

Digital information is surrounding us, and the cloud is the tool underlying digital information. Building a cloud that is not only trusted, but is responsible and inclusive, and ensuring that the users of the technology enjoy higher standards of security, privacy, transparency and compliance with the law is really what makes me passionate about this work these days.

GC: What does your legal team look like in Argentina?

AA: The legal team within Microsoft is part of the global corporate external legal affairs (CELA) team, and our headquarters are in Redmond, Washington, in the USA. We manage the region from Florida, so we have our regional headquarters in Fort Lauderdale. Within Latin America, we have several subsidiaries. The subsidiary I cover – Argentina – is served by a team of four other people, some of them dealing with legal work, some of them dealing with corporate affairs work. So I don’t only have lawyers as part of the local team, but also people who studied political science, who bring a different perspective to the corporate affairs work.

GC: What are the big issues that you have been working on for the past six months or so?

AA: It’s all related to digital transformation. We are very much focused on evangelising the market on what would be required for anyone to move to the cloud – what red lights they should look for in terms of hiring a cloud service.

Within Latin America, Argentina was the first market to issue a personal data protection law that was compliant with European standards. Now that this cloud phenomenon has become more and more popular, some people are still dubious about whether it’s legal or not to move to the cloud, whether the government can move to the cloud or not, or whether all clouds are the same. The most fruitful conversations that we’ve been having with customers, both in the private and in the public sector, have to do with putting away these ghosts and letting them know that it is legal in Argentina to move to the cloud, and that doesn’t only apply to the private sector but also to the public sector.

There is only one industry that is restricted from moving to the cloud, which is the financial sector, because there is an old regulation passed by our Central Bank that prevents banks from moving their core data abroad. But that is currently being revised by the regulatory authorities, so maybe if we met a couple of months from now, I would be able to say that there would be no restrictions whatsoever to move to the cloud, to the extent that you comply with the requirements that are imposed by local legislation.

So building a trusted, responsible and inclusive cloud is keeping me busy these days, as well as working not only with companies, but with the government on their digital transformation processes. We are very much aligned with the fact that the national government these days wants to prioritise revolutionising public education, modernising the government, achieving zero poverty, and combating crime and illegal drug trafficking. So based on those four pillars, we are working on building partnerships with the government, providing for solutions to those goals.

GC: Can you tell me a little bit more about the work you’re doing with the government on the regulatory side?

AA: We are very much interested in helping promote a regulatory framework that would be friendly in terms of digital transformation. So regarding any initiative put on the table that would imply any consequences regarding the future development of the industry, we would be interested in being a part of that table, bringing our own perspective on the matter.

This government has been particularly receptive in terms of trying to put together the opinions of all the different industry players. For instance, there is a draft bill proposed by the DPA [the national data protection authority], to make comprehensive revision of the data protection law, which was issued back in 2000. The DPA held rounds of discussion, including not only one-on-one meetings with industry players, but also with local and international associations. The entire industry had the opportunity to raise their hand and bring any concern or comment they could have on how to revise the regulation – and those concerns were taken into consideration by the regulator when it prepared a second draft of the proposed law.

We are also very active in trying to help regulators and the industry in general to find the best regulatory way to approach matters that will be affecting our lives in the coming years.

GC: You mentioned that you are helping the government to digitise and transform. Can you tell me a little bit about what you’re doing in that space?

AA: We are working with the national administration in terms of being more efficient, providing it with tools to make that possible – collaboration tools and the like. We’ve been teaming up with the Ministry of Education to provide tools for making the entire education community more productive and more connected.

We are also working with local governments, for instance the government of the province of Salta, in the far north of the country, where we developed a tool (together with an NGO) that helps to prevent malnutrition. With this tool, we were able to survey each and every individual in the province who was at risk, and once that survey was conducted, the authorities could go and see what the particular needs of that citizen were in real time.

Using artificial intelligence with the data collected (with the consent of those end users), the government is starting to conduct predictive analysis as regards children who leave school or young girls who are likely to become pregnant. So that is the power of artificial intelligence and machine learning used to further public policy, in trying to yield better solutions for those people who are at risk.

GC: Are you seeing good penetration and high adoption rates in Argentina among end users?

AA: Yes, although connectivity is still a challenge in certain areas in the country. We are partnering with the federal government to help it achieve zero digital poverty – which would be the ability for every single individual within Argentina to become connected and have the benefits of working digitally. For that purpose, we are working with them to establish a pilot for a technology that has been very successful in other jurisdictions, called ‘TV White Spaces’. It uses the unused, open space within television bands to provide connectivity – and that is a very powerful tool to bring connectivity to places that have no internet access at all.

We don’t have any commercial interest in accelerating this technology – we want everyone to be connected, so we are helping the government with success stories and ways to help in developing the regulatory framework providing for these technologies, so that people are more connected.

We are also working on a project with the government, the private sector and the World Economic Forum, called ‘Internet for All’. Through different interest groups, it is trying to tackle issues that are blockers to full connectivity, and we are involved in the affordability working group relating to the TV White Spaces technology.

GC: Finally, what are the biggest things that you see ahead for the legal and corporate affairs team over the next 12 months?

AA: Here in Argentina, it will be continuing to provide assistance in the digital transformation process of both companies and the government. This is something that is huge – there is a tremendous opportunity for all of us to embrace and take advantage of these new technologies. Matters relating to cloud, artificial intelligence and machine learning will be the most challenging topics over the coming 12 months – together with managing any legal issues that may arise in between, such as continuing to protect the data of end users, and make the environment a more secure, transparent and private one.