Microsoft Announces More Than $25 Million in Unlimited Potential Grants

REDMOND, Wash., Jan. 15, 2004 — In an effort to increase worldwide computer literacy and reduce the global digital divide in technology skills, Microsoft Corp. today announced a second round of Unlimited Potential (UP) grants totaling more than $25 million (U.S.) in cash and software for more than 70 nonprofit organizations.

Unlimited Potential is a global initiative focused on providing technology skills for underserved individuals. Recipients of UP grants are public centers where people can gain IT skills and training to help themselves and their communities. Microsoft has made a five-year, $1 billion commitment to Unlimited Potential and other programs to bridge the digital divide, and the company has distributed nearly $50 million in cash and software since the program was initiated in May, 2003. The recipients in this round span 45 countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East and North America.

One example is Street Tech, an organization that provides IT training and professional skills to low-income and underserved adults in the San Francisco Bay Area. Street Tech helps clients from disadvantaged backgrounds secure paid, stable positions as IT technicians. Street Tech will use its UP grant to continue providing job-related technology training to members of the local community.

“How one uses technology is every bit as important as whether one uses it at all,” said Paul Lamb, executive director of Street Tech. “Community-based initiatives like Unlimited Potential allow us to provide state-of-the-art technology training to those who would otherwise lack access to even basic computer skills education. We’re helping members of our community attain the skills they need to not only survive, but to succeed, in the 21st century work force.”

UNICEF Venezuela, another UP grant recipient, has been working since 1991 to protect that country’s children and their rights. Its UP grant will be used to support the Technology for Indigenous Children project, created to give young people the opportunity to develop skills and knowledge and help them avoid child labor, while enabling access to higher-level education. The project is expected to benefit 2,000 Venezuelan children and teenagers, and represents the first time that indigenous children and communities supported by UNICEF will have access to technology.

In Bahrain, Microsoft will work with the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (MoLSA), the agency tasked with developing the country’s work force and helping the unemployed population secure new job opportunities. Two challenges facing Bahrain are unemployment and the shortage of trained IT professionals. Funding from Microsoft’s Unlimited Potential program will assist in bridging the digital skills gap and will provide job opportunities to Bahraini graduates. Upon completion of the basic IT skills training program, outstanding performers will be given the opportunity to undertake an IT professional certification diploma program to create a cadre of highly skilled IT professionals in Bahrain. Graduates also will be assisted with job placement.

“Technology skills have become increasingly important for today’s work force, and yet millions of people around the world still face the challenge of how and where to obtain these skills,” said Pamela Passman, managing director of Global Corporate Affairs at Microsoft. “We’re building alliances with organizations to remove the barriers and provide the location, trainers and materials for those who wouldn’t otherwise have skills to successfully compete in today’s marketplace.”

UP grants provide community technology learning centers with funding to launch or sustain IT skills training programs, including hiring and training technology instructors, expanding course offerings, and reaching a broader base of underserved community members. Microsoft has developed UP curriculum that emphasizes real-world technology applications and will initially be available in English, French, Spanish and German. In the near future, Microsoft will work with partners to launch a global support network to deliver technology research, tools and services to training centers worldwide.

A complete list of Unlimited Potential grant recipients can be found at
http://www.microsoft.com/mscorp/citizenship/overview/uprecipients.asp .

About Microsoft

Microsoft began its philanthropic activities in 1983, and it 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 underserved 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 http://www.microsoft.com/mscorp/citizenship/ .

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.

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