Microsoft Announces Commitment to Promote Sustained Social and Economic Opportunity for the Next 5 Billion People

Company unveils affordable education suite for young people in developing

nations and announces plans for 90 new Innovation Centers to promote local

software ecosystems.

Apr 19, 2007, 01:00 ET from Microsoft Corp.

    BEIJING, April 19 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq:  
 MSFT) today unveiled a new commitment to help close the digital divide by
 creating new products and programs that will help bring social and economic
 opportunity to the estimated 5 billion people who are not yet realizing the
 benefits of technology.
     (Logo: )
     Through the expansion of Microsoft(R) Unlimited Potential, the company
 is renewing and accelerating its long-term commitment to use technology,
 training and partnerships to transform education, foster local innovation,
 and enable jobs and opportunities to sustain a continuous cycle of social
 and economic growth for everyone.
     "All human beings deserve a chance to achieve their full potential,"
 said Bill Gates, chairman of Microsoft. "Bringing the benefits of
 technology to the next 5 billion people will require new products that meet
 the needs of underserved communities; creative, new business approaches
 that make technology more relevant, accessible and affordable; and close
 collaboration between local governments, educational institutions and
 community organizations."
     The expansion of Unlimited Potential will focus on three areas, Gates
 said: education, innovation, and jobs and economic opportunity.
     "Computers and connectivity are still too expensive for private
 ownership by the poor, and applications as well as information resources
 that are appropriate to this group have been slow to emerge, in part
 because the poor themselves have not been involved in creating them," said
 C.K. Prahalad, author and professor at the University of Michigan's Stephen
 M. Ross School of Business. "In order to help create the applications and
 start the business dynamo that unleashes their potential, the people at the
 bottom of the pyramid need to have reliable, affordable access to
 technology and to learn computing skills."
     Transforming Education
     To help expand education opportunities worldwide, Microsoft is
 partnering with government, intergovernmental organizations, academic and
 industry leaders to facilitate access to high-quality education through
 dynamic, learner-focused technologies and resources.
     Microsoft recognizes that one of the best enhancements to any education
 system is to amplify the impact of high-quality teachers. The company's
 five-year, $250 million investment in its Partners in Learning program is
 already active in 101 countries, with training that has equipped 2.5
 million teachers and reached more than 57 million students across these
 countries. In addition, through the Partners in Learning program, over
 722,000 teachers and students have achieved certification on Microsoft
 technology. Microsoft also works with industry partners to help guide
 teachers with the integration of technology into lesson plans and curricula
 through programs including Intel Corporation's Teach to the Future and
 UNESCO's ICT Competency Standards for Teachers.
     "UNESCO, which has a long-standing commitment to employing information
 and communication technologies to improve education at all levels, is
 pleased to work with Microsoft in the innovative use of technology.
 Information communication technology can significantly expand the access,
 quality and relevance of education. It can also help overcome the drastic
 shortage of trained teachers, which constitutes one of the major obstacles
 in achieving education for all," said Koichiro Matsuura, director general
 of UNESCO. "We welcome the opportunity to join forces with Microsoft and
 other private-sector partners committed to working toward this important
     Through the Partners in Learning program, Microsoft today announced the
 Microsoft Student Innovation Suite, an affordable and reliable software
 package for governments purchasing and giving Windows(R)-based PCs to
 primary and secondary students for their personal use at home and for
 schoolwork. The education suite includes Windows XP Starter Edition,
 Microsoft Office Home and Student 2007, Microsoft Math 3.0, Learning
 Essentials 2.0 for Microsoft Office, and Windows Live(TM) Mail desktop.
     Microsoft will offer this suite in the second half of 2007 for $3
 (U.S.) to qualifying governments that purchase and supply PCs directly to
 students. More information about the offer is available at .
     "Given the immense challenge of bridging the digital divide, the
 industry will have to take a comprehensive approach to providing computing
 to the 'next billion' people," said Roger Kay, principal analyst at
 Endpoint Technologies Associates Inc. "Strategies with the greatest
 potential will involve collaboration among many players, including
 governments, NGOs, commercial carriers, financing entities, local
 providers, services organizations, and hardware and software vendors.
 Microsoft's Student Innovation Suite is an important complement to programs
 that provide underserved students with refurbished PCs or low-cost devices,
 such as Intel's Classmate PC, AMD's 50x15 efforts in conjunction with its
 OEM partners, and VIA's pc-1."
     Additional investments to empower students and teachers include a new
 set of education authoring tools that will enable publishers to create and
 assemble vibrant learning content adaptable to individual learning needs
 and enhance the role of digital technology in education.
     Fostering Local Innovation
     Microsoft also announced plans to extend its resource commitment to
 Microsoft Innovation Centers over the next two years and anticipates
 opening and supporting 200 centers in an additional 25 countries by 2009.
 The current network of 110 centers serves 100 communities in 60 nations by
 providing local software communities with a comprehensive set of programs
 and services to expand work-force skills, create jobs, strengthen
 innovation and improve competitiveness. In partnership with local
 governments, educational institutions and businesses, Microsoft's resource
 investments provide software development assistance, business skills
 training, employment training, employment programs for students, and market
 incubation for the local startup community.
     Furthermore, the Imagine Cup, an annual technology competition,
 provides an outlet for students to explore technological and innovative
 interests outside the classroom. More than 65,000 students from 100
 countries competed in last year's event. The Imagine Cup yields
 opportunities for the next generation of technology and business leaders to
 compare ideas, gain practical experience, and stretch the limits of their
 imagination in creating solutions that apply to the real world.
 Registrations are still being accepted for the 2007 competition; so far,
 more than 100,000 students have signed up.
     Enabling Jobs and Opportunities
     A key issue in economic development worldwide is the concern of
 business and industry leaders for the general level of preparedness of
 prospective entry-level employees. To help address this growing
 employability gap, Microsoft is working with government and industry to
 accelerate skill development and help employers find qualified candidates.
 Microsoft is modeling this approach in India through the creation of an
 employability portal that will aid the country's nearly 400,000 engineering
 students who graduate each year to improve their technology, business and
 communication skills through online training and verification.
     The portal is scheduled to launch by the end of 2007. Based on the
 experience in India, the project could be broadened to more regions with
 the potential for including additional skills and competencies.
     Through the portal, recent graduates will be able to identify the
 skills they need to acquire or improve, find and complete appropriate
 training, and verify their acquisition of new skills. Employers will have
 an expanded pool of qualified candidates and be able to search for
 prospective employees based not only on the information in their resumes
 but on the additional courses and certifications they have completed
 successfully. Training partners will use Microsoft's new set of education
 authoring tools and a robust e-commerce infrastructure to offer and deliver
 training opportunities.
     Microsoft today also announced an alliance with the Asian Development
 Bank to work together to enhance the competitiveness and sustainable
 economic development of the Asia-Pacific region by supporting and building
 technological and innovation capacity; promoting the development of applied
 research and entrepreneurship; and improving the efficiency, transparency
 and accountability of public administration at the national and local
 levels. Additional areas of cooperation include improving the use of
 technology in the teaching and learning process; providing jobs and
 opportunities, with the aim of reducing the digital divide between and
 within countries; and improving systems and standards of trade and economic
 cooperation across the Asia- Pacific region.
     "Information communication technology holds significant promise for
 poverty reduction, ADB's overarching goal," said Larry Greenwood, vice
 president of the Asian Development Bank. "The Asian Development Bank is
 pleased to partner with Microsoft to bridge the digital divide and help
 deliver on this promise."
     Microsoft also announced five new Partnerships for Technology Access
 (PTAs) programs in Argentina, Botswana, Chile, China and Egypt. Each PTA
 program combines the know-how and resources of governments, technology
 companies, banks and nongovernmental organizations to help increase access
 to PCs and use technology to build economic and social opportunity within
 developing economies and other underserved parts of the world. These five
 new programs are a just a few of the 50 new PTA programs now in various
 stages worldwide.
     In addition, Microsoft today launched the Telecentre Knowledge Network
 in cooperation with the Academy for Educational Development and The collaborative effort has resulted in the publication of
 "Making the Connection: Scaling Telecenters for Development," a book for
 governments, entrepreneurs, and private-sector and community leaders that
 use technology to drive socioeconomic development. The Telecentre Knowledge
 Network Web site and book serve as a catalyst and coordination point for
 collective thought, discussion and action on the creation of scalable and
 sustainable approaches to providing information and resources to rural and
 underserved communities through shared access. More information is
 available at .
     The Road to Sustained Opportunity
     Offering a more in-depth look at these and other programs, Microsoft
 today released a white paper titled "Unlimited Potential: Enabling
 Sustained Social and Economic Opportunity for the Next 5 Billion People,"
 which details the company's strategy for strengthening emerging segments.
 The white paper is available at .
     In addition to providing new programs, community-based solutions, and
 partnerships to help make possible sustained social and economic
 opportunity through the expansion of Unlimited Potential, Microsoft
 announced it has created new business groups that will be led by seasoned
 Microsoft executives Orlando Ayala and Will Poole to bring together
 development and marketing efforts to help create tailored solutions that
 are relevant, accessible and affordable for emerging segments.
     Giving citizens everywhere access to the power of technology
 contributes to a broad knowledge economy and creates more opportunities for
 everyone. Microsoft is working with governments, educators and IT industry
 partners through Unlimited Potential to provide access to transformational
 technologies and has set the year 2015 as its first major milestone to
 reach the first billion of the 5 billion people who are not yet realizing
 the benefits of technology.
     "The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the
 Pacific is pleased with Microsoft's commitment to help meet the U.N.
 Millennium Development Goals by 2015," said Kim Hak-Su, under-secretary-
 general of the United Nations and executive secretary of UNESCAP.
 "Microsoft is embracing pro-poor public-private partnerships to enable the
 next billion people to access technology by 2015. We encourage governments
 from across the Asia Pacific to join with them." More information on
 Unlimited Potential and Microsoft's efforts in emerging segments is
 available at .
     About Unlimited Potential
     Microsoft Unlimited Potential expands and accelerates Microsoft's
 commitment to facilitate sustained social and economic opportunity for the
 more than 5 billion people living in every country around the world who do
 not today benefit from technology.
     About Microsoft
     Founded in 1975, Microsoft is the worldwide leader in software,
 services and solutions that help people and businesses realize their full
     NOTE: Microsoft, Windows and Windows Live are trademarks of the
 Microsoft group of companies.
     The names of actual companies and products mentioned herein may be the
 trademarks of their respective owners.

SOURCE Microsoft Corp.