Leaders League: Tell us about your new role at Microsoft
Hector Figari Costa: As Director of Government Affairs for Andean South Region I represent Microsoft in regulatory discussions in Peru, Ecuador, Uruguay, Bolivia and Paraguay, with a view to promoting the adoption of digital technologies for public and private sectors that prioritize privacy, security, transparency and compliance with the law, as well as accountability, diversity and accessibility. In a hyperconnected world, where technology has become fundamental to all activities – from government services, financial services and small and medium-sized business, to education, health, agriculture and energy – the role we have in keeping technology sustainable has also increased.
We have the responsibility to ensure technology is serving the common good and that no one is left behind. Also, in an increasingly digital environment, where access to technology can define opportunities and livelihoods, it is critical that we engage with community organizations in the implementation of initiatives that seek to empower and create opportunities for vulnerable populations through technology. This is a priority for Microsoft, and the impact of Covid-19 has shown how urgent it is to bridge the digital divide.
What have been your most important achievements within the company in your previous positions?
Positioning Microsoft as a trusted advisor for digital transformation, highlighting our core priorities for privacy, security, transparency and compliance in all areas of its activity. This is truly the foundation of earning the trust of our employees, partners, clients and external stakeholders. People won’t use technology that they don’t trust.
What developments within the corporate legal area of the company have taken place recently and what role has technology played in them?
Being part of a technology company, we ourselves are also constantly innovating and becoming “digital first”. As our team is spread throughout the region, we not only use our Teams platform to communicate, but to truly collaborate. We prepare, negotiate, sign and store digitally all kinds of documents, and that also makes us the first client for security and privacy features, built-in access privileges, administrators and data-governance tools.
Artificial intelligence is increasingly present: from searching for a document to translating to providing secure access to our platforms through multi-factor-authentication. We have even started using bots in our department… and who until recently would have thought of a lawyer bot? Implemented in an adequate setting, to perform regular and repetitive tasks, a bot allows lawyers to focus on higher impact activities where they can add more value.
Beyond the technology tools that make our day-to-day work easier, the role of corporate government affairs is becoming more influential. The shift from “shareholder capitalism” to “stakeholder capitalism” puts a greater focus on how corporations interact with communities in which they do business and how they affect the environment. We need to understand our role in the market and make our part to benefit all the community.
What have been the most recent regulatory changes that have impacted the company? Are there differences between different countries in the region?
There are two important trends in the regulatory landscape that have impacted the company, and the industry as a whole, privacy and the responsible use of artificial intelligence (AI).
We have made it clear that privacy is a core value for our users, but also for authorities that guard the rights of their citizens. We believe that data privacy is a fundamental right in the digital era, which is why Microsoft was the first cloud provider to work with European data protection authorities for approval of Europe’s model clauses, the first major cloud service provider to adopt the international cloud privacy standard ISO 27018, and has been an enthusiastic supporter of the GDPR since it was first proposed in 2012.
The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), a regulation issued by the European Union for the protection of its citizens, has become a beacon on privacy for data protection authorities around the world. Microsoft has been setting the pace in this area: we have adopted and comply with the strictest data-protection regulations, in accordance with the expectations of the authorities, citizens and the users, as technology continues to evolve”
Regarding the responsible use of AI, Microsoft has developed a set of AI principles. This is because with the use of cloud computing, AI, IoT, Machine Learning and other cutting-edge technologies, the question is not “what can you do with technology?”, but “what should you do with technology?” Technology companies should decide the kind of projects they want to be involved in and prioritize those that align with their values and with the common good. That is why Microsoft developed the following core principles for any AI initiative: fairness, reliability and safety, privacy and security, inclusiveness, transparency and accountability.
What type of matters do you usually refer to external legal counsel and what do you think are the most valued skills in an external lawyer?
There are specific aspects of local regulations that require outside counsel to interpret and understand. Regarding the most valued skill in an external lawyer, I believe it is a willingness to understand our business, the curiosity to learn, and then the capacity to distill the essence of complex rules that may impact our business, in a clear and concise manner. I especially value an external lawyer who responds to my consultations quickly and keeps me apprised of relevant regulatory changes.