Bill Gates Joins with “PCs Against Barriers” in Czech Republic to Honor Local Community Heroes

Prague, Czech Republic, Jan. 27, 2004 —
Microsoft Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates today paid tribute to the Prague-based Charta 77 Foundation for the PCs Against Barriers project as an outstanding example of the role of information technology in transforming the lives of people and communities.

PCs Against Barriers is a re-skilling program for people with disabilities, and offers an innovative approach combining IT-skills training with follow-up assistance to its participants with job search and in leveraging of their new skills. It was founded by the Czech Charta 77 Foundation and Microsoft Czech Republic in 1997. To date more than 1,000 people with disabilities have received IT training, personal computers, and software donated by Microsoft and other partners.

At today’s event, Gates presented awards to several participants in the PCs Against Barriers program, and outlined Microsoft’s strong commitment to community projects that help people use information technology to realize their potential. “At Microsoft, we take our responsibilities as a global citizen very seriously,” Gates said. “Our business is technology, but our mission is much greater — to enable people and businesses around the world to realize their full potential. Our longstanding partnership with PCs Against Barriers and Charta 77 Foundation — and their efforts to bring technology resources to those most in need — is a source of great inspiration.”

Joining Gates at the event, Bozena Jirku, Managing Director of Charta 77 Foundation, said, “IT skills opened up a whole new world for hundreds of Czech citizens with disabilities and showed them that cutting-edge technologies can be a precious aid to help them create their own opportunities and regain access to the professional world.”

The Unlimited Potential (UP) program is the cornerstone of Microsoft’s commitment to lifelong learning, and operates in partnership with community centers, civil society groups and governments. 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 also developed UP curriculum that emphasizes real-world technology applications. As specific needs vary between communities, UP provides skills training and support that is flexible to the different needs of each community partner.

Other recipients of UP funding across Central and Eastern Europe include the United Nations High Commission for Refugees and Red Cross in St Petersburg, Russia; the Hungarian Telecottage Association in Budapest, Hungary; the EOS Centre for Lifelong Learning in Timosoara, Romania, and Deca Sveta/Cherish our Children in Serbia.

“These partnerships in our region are part of our strong commitment to address the digital divide, assist governments in fostering education and life-long learning, and take action for the disadvantaged in society,” said Jan Muehlfeit, Microsoft EMEA Vice President responsible for Eastern Europe. “Innovative partnerships are one of the keys to helping communities grow as technology-driven and inclusive societies”.

About Microsoft Unlimited Potential

Microsoft began its philanthropic activities in 1983, one of the first to do so in the high-tech industry. Microsoft Unlimited Potential is a global program that focuses on improving lifelong learning for under-served 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. A complete list of Unlimited Potential grant recipients and information about the application process can be found at http://www.microsoft.com/mscorp/citizenship/overview/uprecipients.asp

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.

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