Microsoft Donates $7.3 Million to Help Communities in Latin America and the Caribbean

PUNTA DEL ESTE, Uruguay — Dec. 4, 2009 — As part of Microsoft Corp.’s efforts to promote jobs, opportunities, education and innovation through its Unlimited Potential initiative, the company announced today at the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) VII Inter-American Conference on Corporate Social Responsibility its annual round of donations to Community Technology Centers (CTCs). Twenty-five nonprofit organizations in the region will receive a combined $1.925 million (U.S.) in cash, and another 155 institutions will receive software donations equivalent to $5.413 million (U.S.) in an effort to support regional work-force development, promote micro-entrepreneurship through professional and technology skills training in CTCs, and strengthen the nonprofits’ own IT infrastructure.

Beating the Odds in Jamaica

Ceyan Atkinson knows all too well the importance of CTCs for his community. Last summer he took part in a six-week business development workshop offered by Youth Opportunities Unlimited (YOU), a nonprofit organization providing educational and mentorship programs to youth in Kingston, Jamaica, that received a grant of $40,000 (U.S.) last December from the IDB and Microsoft’s Youth Fund. The courses, which were held two to three times a week, taught him key lessons on how to plan, start and manage a business with the use of technology.

“Before the workshops, I didn’t know how easy it was to start my own business,” Atkinson said. “Through YOU’s program, I learned how to create an actual business plan and follow it.”

The 25-year-old, the oldest of four siblings, initially went to the YOU facility looking for a job following a friend’s recommendation, but instead he found a community center where one of the coordinators invited him to attend the workshops and learn. At the end of August, upon finishing the courses, Atkinson opened a catering service, Health and Strength, where he and a chef provide companies and events with a variety of meals such as tofu, beef, chicken and stew. He uses software programs such as Microsoft Office Excel to create a balance sheet and keep track of his customers. He plans to soon set up a Web site.

“Five years ago, my focus was to just work and have a degree, and now I look forward to expanding my business into a restaurant chain with several locations throughout the city,” Atkinson said. “I think it’s important for companies such as Microsoft to continue supporting organizations like YOU because there are a lot of youths out there who really don’t get a chance to do anything like that. I’m thankful to YOU for helping me realize I can do something with myself, for them making that come true.”

Creating More Opportunities

The grants and donations, which were announced during the “Soccer for Social Development” panel, are expected to benefit more than 600 CTCs in Latin America and the Caribbean in 2010 — helping to bring 1.46 million people in 16 countries closer to the digital revolution. Since Microsoft’s Community Technology Skills Program started in the region in 2003, more than 20 million people have benefited through more than $16 million (U.S.) in grants and $139 million (U.S.) in software donations to nearly 1,500 nonprofits in 27 countries in the region.

“Driving entrepreneurship is a key component of the social impact Microsoft hopes to generate in Latin America and the Caribbean,” said Hernán Rincón, president of Microsoft Latin America. “We believe that we have a responsibility as leaders in the IT industry to direct our social investments and partnerships with local communities to empower people and provide them with the tools that allow them to leverage the power of technology. CTCs have a key role in providing technical skills training programs that help people increase their self-sufficiency and capacity to learn. These programs not only help close the digital divide but, as a result, also enrich the local communities with a more educated and innovative work force.”

Innovation and technology are key factors for a country’s social development, but Microsoft and the IDB have also found that other activities, such as soccer, can have a similar impact. By way of programs that reach out to youth through sports, many young people have had the opportunity to partake in work-force development programs that have helped them find employment. Such was the case with Harbist Vilzio, who was part of the A Ganar/Vencer program in Uruguay.

A Ganar (called Vencer in Brazil) is a youth work-force development program that utilizes soccer and other team sports to help youth in Latin America ages 16–24 find jobs, learn entrepreneurial skills or reenter the formal education system, thus helping to combat the serious problem of youth unemployment in Latin America.

“The knowledge that I gained thanks to the courses and certifications I received through A Ganar and Microsoft, which I was able to show during interviews, determined my future in the company,” explained Vilzio about the interview process for his current job. “In order to do my job, it’s necessary to use Microsoft Office tools such as Excel and Word daily. Before the courses, I had only basic knowledge and would not have been qualified for the position.”

The grants, which are offered annually, help local nonprofit organizations hire and train instructors, develop IT skills curriculum, offer employee community engagement programs and strengthen IT infrastructure. The software donations include programs such as Microsoft Office 2007, Windows 7 and others, with the goal of helping the organization with its day-to-day activities, as well as providing software tools for the organization’s beneficiaries to use. Microsoft’s efforts to strengthen nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) through the use of technology also includes events such as NGO Connection Days and the NGO Connection portal, a network where NGOs can access resources and share their experiences in the innovative use of technology to help them better serve their communities.

About Unlimited Potential

Microsoft, through its Unlimited Potential vision, is committed to making technology more affordable, relevant and accessible for the 5 billion people around the world who do not yet enjoy its benefits. The company aims to do so by helping to transform education and foster a culture of innovation, and through these means enable better jobs and opportunities. By working with governments, intergovernmental organizations, nongovernmental organizations and industry partners, Microsoft hopes to reach its first major milestone — to reach the next 1 billion people who are not yet realizing the benefits of technology — by 2015.

About Microsoft

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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