Microsoft Launches Its Community Affairs Initiative, the Microsoft eMpower Australia Campaign

SYDNEY, December 6, 2000 — Microsoft Australia today launched the Microsoft eMpower Australia Campaign (eMpower), a community affairs initiative that is unique to Microsoft Australia. The eMpower campaign aims to bridge the digital divide by providing education, skills, training and access to technology for Australia’s disadvantaged communities and youth.

The launch event was held in Sydney, at the Powerhouse Museum and launched by Microsoft Australia MD, Paul Houghton, together with the Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, Senator Richard Alston and one of Microsoft’s community affairs partners, the Inspire Foundation.

Minister Alston, speaking at the launch event today, discussed the importance of the digital divide issue and the Government’s ongoing partnership with Microsoft Australia, specifically in regards to addressing the IT skills shortage.

“It is vitally important that the Government, the private sector and the charitable community work together to help address the digital divide through initiatives such as Microsoft’s eMpower Australia campaign,”
said Senator The Hon. Richard Alston, Minister for Communication, Information Technology and the Arts.
“I congratulate Microsoft for its investment in Australia’s future and look forward to Microsoft continuing to work in partnership with the Commonwealth Government.”

“The Microsoft eMpower Australia campaign is a compelling and unique initiative aimed at bridging the gap between the knowledge rich and poor,”
said Paul Houghton, Microsoft Australia’s Managing Director.
“eMpower is an extension of Microsoft Australia’s impressive record in empowering young Australians through technology and IT skills that will be invaluable both in the workplace and wider society.”

The official launch of the Microsoft eMpower Australia Campaign brings several of Microsoft’s community affairs programs together: Community Partnerships program, the Community Assistance Initiative, the Community Skills Program and the Corporate Citizenship Initiative.

Community Partnerships Program

Community Partnerships program focuses on a partnership with a key organisation that provides services for youth-at-risk. Microsoft Australia has partnered with the Inspire Foundation, Australia’s first Internet-based community foundation. This partnership has resulted in the creation of the Digital Bridge project, which provides Internet access, training and local content development for young people living in disadvantaged areas around the country.

Speaking at the launch of eMpower, Jack Heath, Executive Director of the Inspire Foundation said:
“As we chart new models of social service delivery, it is vital that we go forward together with governments and corporate organizations.”

“We are very pleased to have developed successful community/business partnerships involving both Federal and State Governments, as well as with some of Australia’s leading businesses. Our partnership with Microsoft will take our work to an entirely new level, so we can have a practical impact on the lives of young Australians, particularly those doing it tough,”
added Heath.

Also speaking at today’s launch was Inspire Youth Ambassador, Amita Tandukar, who discussed the importance of technology and the Internet for youth who are disadvantaged or disenfranchised.

Community Assistance Initiative

Operating on the principal that by providing people with the resources they need, they can accomplish great things, the Community Assistance Initiative provides software and technology support to a large number of non-profit organisations. To date, the Community Assistance Initiative has donated more than $4.3 million dollars in and cash-and-kind to 2,000 organisations that provide services to disadvantaged communities throughout Australia.

Community Skills Program

The Community Skills Program comprise several initiatives that address Australia’s IT skills shortage. TRAIN-IT 2000, launched last year, is an Australia-wide IT skills and training initiative for which Microsoft invested $6.5 million dollars over three years. Another program within the Community Skills banner, was Youth IT Skilled Futures, a new training pilot program launched together with WorkVentures. This initiative is designed to provide youth at risk, single parents and young immigrants with vital IT and life skills. Microsoft contributed $40,000 to this program, plus software, and plans to replicate this initiative throughout Australia.

Corporate Citizenship Initiative

Numerous activities are undertaken annually as part of Microsoft’s Corporate Citizenship Initiative. Many Microsoft employees are actively involved in their communities and wish to give back in creative and generous ways. Microsoft matches funds raised by staff in their community activities (up to $10,000 per activity), provides scholarships and grants for special projects and responds to a wide variety of community requests. One example of such activity was the Extreme Desert Challenge 2000, in which eight Microsoft employees undertook a 540 kilometer mountain bike race through the Simpson Desert to raise $100,000 for
“Here for Life”
— a youth suicide prevention program. Numerous additional activities, including work for the Variety Club Australia, the Starlight Foundation, the Christmas Charity Drive and the Ted Noffs Foundation, demonstrate that Microsoft employees are dedicated to contributing to their communities.

Further to today’s launch event, Microsoft Australia will be making additional announcements regarding specific eMpower initiatives in the new year.

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About Microsoft

Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT”) is the worldwide leader in software, services and Internet technologies for personal and business computing. The company offers a wide range of products and services designed to empower people through great software — any time, any place and on any device.

About Inspire Foundation

The Inspire Foundation ( www.inspire.org.au ) is Australia’s first Internet-based foundation. Inspire’s mission is to use the Internet to inspire young people, foster generosity and build community. Inspire’s work centres around three core themes: help yourself (Reach Out!); help others (Act Now); and get online (Digital Bridge). The Digital Bridge program is providing Internet access, training and local content development for young people living in disadvantaged areas around the country. Inspire works in partnership with business, government and community organisations, charting new models of social service delivery. Inspire recently won the Australian Information Industry Association iAward for most effective use of information technology by a community organisation for its flagship project, Reach Out! ( http://www.reachout.com.au/ “>).

For more information contact:

Helen Baric Tel: (02) 9870-2316, Email: helenb@microsoft.com, Microsoft
Adrianne Kern Tel: (02) 9955-1866, Email: adrianne.kern@augustone.com.au , AUGUST.ONE COMMUNICATION

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