Microsoft’s New Unlimited Potential Initiative Seeks to Bridge Global Technology Skills Gap

REDMOND, Wash., Sept. 4, 2003 — In today’s knowledge-based economy, computer literacy has become a vital workplace skill – a skill that millions of people worldwide still lack. To help narrow this skills gap and aid global work-force development, Microsoft Corp. today launched Unlimited Potential (UP), a global initiative focused on providing technology skills for disadvantaged individuals through community-based technology and learning centers (CTLCs). Microsoft announced a first round of UP grants, totaling $8.1 million (U.S.) in cash and software for 82 nonprofit organizations, and said it will commit more than $1 billion to the initiative over the next five years.

“Narrowing the ‘digital divide’ means more than simply providing people with access to technology. The real difference is made when people are equipped with the knowledge and education to put that technology to use,” said Pamela Passman, head of Corporate Affairs at Microsoft. “Computers are amazing tools that can transform lives, businesses and even entire economies – but only if people know how to use them. Our goal is to make computer literacy a reality for underserved communities worldwide.”

UP will initially provide funding to help CTLCs hire and train technology instructors. Subsequent phases of the initiative will offer an online global support network delivering technology curriculum, research, tools and help-desk services to CTLCs worldwide. UP also will sponsor a global and regional awards program, which will invest in technology solutions that deliver a social benefit. The awards are designed to encourage innovation and provide the funding necessary to help the best technology solutions scale for broader use.

UP grants are made through Microsoft’s U.S. and international subsidiaries, working closely with local organizations to identify community-based centers where IT skills training is a primary focus.

One such organization is the Charter 77 Foundation in the Czech Republic, which provides assistance to individuals with disabilities. The foundation will use its Microsoft UP grant to fund Computers Against Barriers, a program providing IT training to individuals with disabilities, helping them develop professional skills ranging from basic computer literacy to technical certification.

In Panama, Microsoft is partnering with the Mona Foundation to establish the first CTLC in the indigenous community of Ngbe Bugl. The CTLC will provide basic computer skills and technical training for teachers, students and community members during after-school hours. The center will be the first introduction of computer technology, Internet access and potential e-commerce opportunities to this remote region.

BreakAway Technologies in Los Angeles, another UP grant recipient, has been working with Microsoft since 1997 to provide computer access to disadvantaged individuals in 216 CTLCs throughout the United States, Africa and the Caribbean. BreakAway will use its UP grant to hire IT instructors, and support IT skills training and IT career development programs.

The 82 grant recipients span regions around the world, including Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Central America, Europe, Latin America, the Mediterranean, the Middle East, Mexico and the United States. This round of UP grants totals $4.5 million in cash and more than $3.6 million in software. A complete list of recipients can be found on the Microsoft Community Affairs Web site .

About Microsoft Community Affairs

Created in 1983, Microsoft Community Affairs was one of the first philanthropic efforts in the high-tech industry. Microsoft Unlimited Potential is a global program that focuses on improving lifelong learning for disadvantaged young people and adults by providing technology skills through community-based technology and learning centers. Microsoft believes that by providing the necessary training and tools, it will help create social and economic opportunities that can transform communities and enable people to realize their potential. More information can be found at .

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.

Microsoft is a registered trademark of Microsoft Corp. in the United States and/or other countries. The names of actual companies and products mentioned herein may be the trademarks of their respective owners.

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