WASHINGTON, D.C., July 30, 2003 — Microsoft and the Organization of American States (OAS) recently announced a US$9 million agreement to cooperate on ways for governments and educational systems in Latin America and the Caribbean to accelerate the use of e-government technologies. The agreement was signed May 19 during the Microsoft Government Leaders Conference in Redmond, Wash.
The joint effort, which combines the OAS’s Inter-American Agency for Cooperation and Development (IACD) and Microsoft Latin America, aims to increase both citizen participation in government and the efficiency of service offered by governments and school systems, especially in economically disadvantaged parts of the region. Some 94 pilot projects will be supported under the agreement.
Microsoft Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer (right), L. Ronald Scheman (center), director general of the IACD, and Eugenio Beaufrand (left), vice president of Microsoft Latin America, celebrate the signing of an agreement to cooperate on e-government technologies in Latin America and the Caribbean, during the Microsoft Government Leaders Conference held May 19 in Redmond, Wash. Click image for high-res version.
Of the estimated $9 million total value of the agreement, Microsoft Latin America will provide $6 million worth of Microsoft product licenses, training and consulting services. The IACD and other participating agencies, businesses and governments will provide the remaining $3 million.
To learn more about this ambitious program, PressPass spoke with Eugenio Beaufrand , vice president of Microsoft Latin America, and L. Ronald Scheman , director general of the IACD/OAS.
PressPass: What is the relationship between Microsoft and the OAS?
Eugenio Beaufrand: Years ago, both organizations realized that our missions are very similar. At Microsoft, we believe that technology gives people, governments and companies the opportunity to develop their full potential. The OAS, through the Inter-American Agency for Cooperation and Development (IADC), is continuously working to provide better training and technical cooperation to areas with few financial resources and to marginalized communities in the Americas, via the application of communications and information technologies.
Therefore, we decided to join efforts. We have been working for two years on strategies to help Latin America countries in their government and educational development through the use of technology.
An example of the results of this effort is a portal Website called Educational Portal of the Americas (www.educoea.org), which has been operating for 19 months now, and provides online courses for teachers and links to the academic offerings of the institutions in the region, as well as links to information on scholarships and other resources.
Also, we have been working to identify best practices in e-government and the benefits of technology to help governments become more efficient, which in turn leads to greater governmental transparency and strengthening of democracy.
PressPass: Can you elaborate on the agreement that both organizations announced recently?
L. Ronald Scheman: This initiative is a new achievement that benefits the Latin American and the Caribbean communities, a result of our working relationship with Microsoft Latin America. This cooperative agreement is intended to stimulate the application of information technology for the modernization of governmental areas and education management systems in Latin America and the Caribbean.
With this project, Microsoft and the OAS will implement portals for municipalities and government agencies, systems for citizen’s attention, telecenter management systems, e-procurement systems and education management systems.
These tools will help governments in the region improve efficiency, transparency and citizen participation in public administration, while contributing to the competitive development of the countries and improving the quality of life in the region.
PressPass: What are the respective responsibilities of the IACD and Microsoft in this program?
Beaufrand: In this collaboration, the IACD will work with the governments of member states at the national, regional and municipal level to help identify the organizations and communities that would most benefit from — and are interested in participating in — these pilot projects. The IACD will also support the technology-transfer process, which involves drawing on the expertise and practices of organizations in the region with experience using technology.
As a hemispheric cooperation agency, the IACD will help governments use the opportunities opened by agreements like this one with Microsoft, and others that are in the pipeline, to achieve their development objectives by fostering critical areas like education, public-sector functioning and economic activity. So Microsoft provides the expertise and the solutions, and the IACD channels the government demands and links them to the development agenda of Latin America and the Caribbean.
Microsoft has invested millions of dollars over the past several years identifying solutions that could benefit all the governments in the region through a model of replication and software code-sharing through agreements with governments. These solutions can save the governments important resources in software development, and can also reduce the time needed to provide electronic services. Under the new agreement, the agencies that participate in the projects will receive product licenses, consulting services for implementation, training and project-management support.
PressPass: Can all governments in Latin America and the Caribbean participate in this program?
Scheman: At this time, we are working with governments at the national, regional and municipal levels to define projects that will obtain direct benefits from this agreement, since they will have to comply with basic requisites to guarantee their success.
To be considered initially for participation, projects should focus primarily on one of the following:
Improving educational administrative activities, with a special emphasis on rural areas or areas with scarce financial resources
Improving the capacity of government on a national, regional and municipal level in order to better serve its citizens with greater efficiency, transparency and responsibility
Fostering the participation of local small or medium-sized enterprises and civil society in the implementation of the projects, where possible
Developing projects suitable for co-financing from other development organizations
Interested governments can visit the OAS/IACD Web site, www.iacd.oas.org, where they can find the necessary instructions, the application form and all the contact information.
PressPass: Are Microsoft and OAS working with other development organizations and other private companies on this project?
Beaufrand: Absolutely, yes. In the case of Microsoft, this is something that we have been doing for a long time. Microsoft’s operating base consists of creating strategic alliances with companies where we operate. In this way, we have been contributing to the development of the software industry in the region for the past 20 years. At the same time, we have signed alliances with almost every government in the region, and this is an ongoing process. For example, last month we signed collaboration agreements with the new governments of Ecuador and Colombia.
Scheman: There is no type of exclusivity in this agreement. We are interested in concluding agreements with all companies or organizations that contribute to our mission as an intergovernmental organization, and to the development goals of its member states. In fact, we are currently negotiating similar agreements with several technology companies whose solutions compete with Microsoft, since the IACD’s intention is to provide the governments of the region with the widest possible range of options. Also, we believe that donations such as Microsoft’s and others that are currently under negotiation are an important contribution to the achievement of cooperation goals for the development of the region.
PressPass: What results do you expect?
Scheman: We believe that once governments accelerate their learning curve on technological project management and realize the benefits of e-government, the adoption of newer technologies will be massive and accelerated, generating opportunities for countries in the region to quickly enter the Digital Era, along with increased participation of small businesses and the general population. This will also lead to important growth for the software industry, both locally and globally.