CARTAGENA, Colombia — March 19, 2007 — Today at the Microsoft® Government Leaders Forum (GLF) — Americas, Microsoft Corp. Chairman Bill Gates highlighted the critical role information and communication technology (ICT) and public-private partnerships play to boost competitiveness and strengthen economic growth across Latin America and the Caribbean. During his keynote address, Gates cited key alliances with the Ricky Martin Foundation, Inter-American Development Bank and Trust for the Americas, in addition to other programs that are expected to deliver the benefits of ICT training to more than 80 million people in Latin America and the Caribbean by 2010.
“For countries to truly become competitive in the global economy, strategic collaboration between businesses, governments and non-governmental organizations is essential,” Gates said. “Partnerships that provide greater access to technology and skills training can help the nations of Latin America strengthen their knowledge economies and improve their competitiveness, creating new opportunities for growth across the region.”
Partnerships and Investments in Education
Emerging as a key component of competitiveness is the improvement of the quality of education and upgrading the level of skills and training of the labor force.
The importance of education is highlighted in Microsoft’s flagship education programs Partners in Learning and Unlimited Potential and the ongoing collaboration with Trust for the Americas (part of the Organization of American States) through the Partnership for Opportunities in Employment through Technology in the Americas (POETA) program, which aims to provide 250,000 people with the technology training they require to win jobs.
“The POETA initiative enables people with disabilities to change their futures and contribute to their communities,” said José Miguel Insulza, secretary general of the Organization of American States.
As part of the Partners in Learning program, more than half a million teachers, or 12 percent of teachers across the region, have received technology training. In addition, more than 70,000 school leaders received the Partners in Learning curriculum, and half a million students from 22 countries were reached. In the past four years Microsoft awarded $88.5 million (U.S.) in grants and software to nonprofit organizations in 21 Latin American countries as part of the Unlimited Potential program established to foster global work-force development by providing skills training through Community-Based Technology and Learning Centers (CTLCs). These organizations have established more than 5,300 CTLCs, benefiting more than 5 million people.
Building and maintaining innovative products, services and businesses is the key to local economic success. Governments recognize that innovation depends largely on the application of technology, and as a result they encourage building capacity in math and science. One such program is the Imagine Cup, a global technology competition targeted at university students, where the students are challenged to build a software application that addresses real-world issues. Last year’s second-prize finalists were from Brazil. To date, more than 30,000 students from across Latin America have signed up to compete.
To further its efforts to support education, Microsoft is collaborating with organizations such as Fundacion Omar Dengo from Costa Rica to develop innovative education experiences and share learnings on the impact of ICT in education across the region. The partnership involves testing concepts, models and technologies and developing usability tests, as well as technical consulting and deployment of software solutions.
Improved Security to Support Latin America’s Growing Competitiveness
In addition to working to increase access to technology and training, creating a security-enhanced technology infrastructure is an essential ingredient to improving competitiveness in Latin America and the Caribbean. Microsoft is continuing to strengthen the company’s alliances with organizations such as the Ricky Martin Foundation, with the recently announced Navega Protegido, a program aimed at protecting children and their families around the region from hazards on the Internet such as identity or asset theft and child predators.
Committed to children’s online safety, the campaign has been launched in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Puerto Rico, Uruguay and Venezuela. Microsoft is producing a series of awareness videos, featuring singer Ricky Martin, targeted at parents and children, focusing on online safety.
“We are very proud to join efforts with Microsoft in such a noble campaign that seeks to protect children from the hazards on the Internet. Together we will take great strides to protect our most vulnerable population,” said Martin, president of the foundation that bears his name. “The educational videos are a practical tool to help make the Internet a safer place for children. By educating parents, teachers and minors about the risks of the Internet, we can help prevent abuses against children. The effort begins in Latin America, but our goal is to have a global impact.”
The campaign takes three approaches: education, technology and partnerships. Education initiatives include adult, educator, community leader and child training; technology initiatives focus on developing software and online tools to help protect children from potentially harmful content; and government partnerships enable investigations to pursue criminals who target children and support legislation to create tough penalties for them. To date, the Navega Protegido Web site campaign has reached more than 3 million people from 15 Latin American countries seeking information on Internet safety.
In addition, the Child Exploitation Tracking System (CETS) software recently launched in Brazil and Chile has allowed police agencies to share and analyze information pertaining to child exploitation on the Internet. Brazil’s federal police force currently uses CETS to identify and track pedophiles in that country. Microsoft is exploring partnership opportunities to implement CETS in other countries in the region.
Microsoft’s Impact on the Region’s Economy
In partnership with government and community organizations, Microsoft and industry partners can help address digital literacy, create vibrant local software economies, support technological innovation and foster economic growth. According to a 2006 IDC study, hardware and software sales coupled with technology service income generated tax revenues of $8 billion (U.S.) for Latin America (the 2009 projection is $11.3 billion). The study also found that for every dollar Microsoft makes in Latin America, Microsoft-based vendors and consultants in the region earn approximately $15.89 (U.S.). Microsoft also contributes to the industry and the economy by helping to create 849,000 jobs, or 45 percent of Latin America’s IT-related jobs.
“Microsoft is committed to helping Latin America compete effectively in an increasingly complex global marketplace,” said Eugenio Beaufrand, vice president of Microsoft Latin America. “Our partnerships and programs are all focused on increasing technological capacity and driving competitiveness in the region. With our partners, we look forward to building on the progress achieved in recent years to benefit millions of people in Latin America.”
Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT”) is the worldwide leader in software, services and solutions that help people and businesses realize their full potential.
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