Bill Gates Announces Expanded Efforts for Public and Private Sector Collaboration on Government Services and Digital Inclusion Initiatives

WASHINGTON, April 27, 2005 — Microsoft Corp. Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates today addressed 200 government officials at the Microsoft Government Leaders Forum (GLF) in Washington, D.C., as part of a two-day summit bringing together leaders from the pan-American region. Participants engaged in discussions; exchanged experiences and best practices related to economic development, governance, service delivery transformation and education; and examined the role that information and communication technology (ICT) plays in achieving success in these areas. In addition to Gates’ presentation, the forum featured keynote addresses by General Colin Powell, former U.S. secretary of state; Aníbal Acevedo Vilá, governor of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico; Kentucky Gov. Ernie Fletcher; and Reg Alcock, president of the Treasury Board Canada Secretariat.

Highlighting several new and expanded initiatives that provide governments with resources to deliver affordable digital access and develop a well-structured and easily implemented approach to government interoperability, Gates reaffirmed the company’s commitment to meeting the unique needs of governments and their citizens worldwide.

“Governments worldwide continue to face challenges in ensuring the interoperability of their IT systems and in improving citizens’ access to technology,” Gates said. “Collaboration between the public and private sectors can deliver real progress, as shown by the Government Interoperability Initiative, the Microsoft® Authorized Refurbisher program, and the initiative announced today between Microsoft and the Organization of American States.”

Development of information technology in the public sector greatly enhances services for citizens and can be used as a powerful tool for social and economic development. To address the challenge of interoperability, Microsoft’s Government Interoperability Initiative offers a set of programs and tools that help address the needs of government executives, as well as their technical teams, through a series of executive and technical workshops that outline the technical aspects of interoperability as well as explain the laws, regulations, policies and governance relating to interoperability. As part of this initiative, Gates also announced that Microsoft is joining with HP to provide both the technology and a common architecture that will allow government agencies to achieve interoperability while providing more-secure access to information and services.

“Interoperability is literally the hinge on a door that opens a completely new era of interaction between government agencies and the citizens they serve,” said Enrique Barkey, worldwide director of Civilian Agency Solutions at HP. “Through our partnership, agencies can provide citizens with an integrated, single point of access for government services while at the same time obtain an integrated view of the data they need to deliver those services more efficiently and cost-effectively. HP and Microsoft will transform the way governments interact with their citizens and citizens with their governments.”

In addition to addressing technology challenges for global governments, Microsoft announced an expansion of its citizenship program, whose goal is to enable technology skills training that helps citizens around the world fully participate in society and in the work force. As part of its commitment to digital inclusion, Microsoft will donate through its Unlimited Potential initiative $594,638 (U.S.) — $423,000 in cash and $171,638 in software — to the Trust for the Americas, the nonprofit affiliate of the Organization of American States (OAS), for use with the Partnership in Opportunities for Employment through Technology in the Americas (POETA) program.

Microsoft’s donation will be used for the setup, launch and administration of 12 POETA community-based technology learning centers that will enable disabled people to gather in a central place in their community to receive technology skills training and benefit from the use of technology.

“The Trust for the Americas believes in the power of technology for people with disabilities as a tool in their battle to gain employment and improve their living conditions in the Americas,” said Linda Eddleman, executive director of OAS/Trust for the Americas. “The POETA project is a decisive step toward implementing the Inter-American Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Persons With Disabilities, adopted by the OAS general assembly in 1999. This alliance with Microsoft will result in tangible solutions for a truly vulnerable population, and should serve as the basis for future relationships between the organization and the private sector in the hemisphere.”

Complementary to the digital inclusion initiative with the OAS, Microsoft also announced plans to expand the Microsoft Authorized Refurbisher (MAR) program. Previously available only to nonprofit refurbishers in the United States, Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Australia, the program will be expanded in 2005 to allow participating governments and commercial refurbishers worldwide to reinstall Windows® 98 and Windows 2000 operating systems onto donated used PCs destined for schools, charities and nonprofit organizations.

Microsoft launched the MAR program in 2001 and expects to donate more than 1 million licenses by 2010.

Industry Canada’s Computers for Schools Canada Program (CFS), one of the largest PC refurbishers in the world, will be among the first to take advantage of the expanded MAR program. Over the past 12 years, CFS has delivered almost 600,000 refurbished computers to schools, libraries and nonprofit organizations across Canada. Since 1993, the CFS program has benefited from a collaborative relationship with Microsoft, which has included the donation of Windows operating systems for installation on computers it refurbished. This expanded initiative will assist in ongoing efforts to bring the benefits of technology to youth, helping them prepare for the 21st-century work force.

Gates concluded his remarks today by reaffirming his commitment to a continued relationship between the public and private sectors for accelerating the development of information technology infrastructures, and supporting the goals of governments and their constituents.

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