Posted by Anthony Salcito
Vice President, Worldwide Public Sector Education, Microsoft

Yesterday, I had the privilege of combining my personal passion with my profession on stage at the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) Annual Meeting to announce that Microsoft will bring digital access to one million students from low-income families. The video of our announcement can be found here: http://www.youtube.com/cgivideos

Microsoft is extending its global Shape the Future program to the United States. Shape the Future has already provided digital access to 10 million students around the world, and is a continuation of Bill Gates’ original vision of a PC for every desktop and home. Now, through Shape the Future, Microsoft is working with public and private partners to ensure access to technology for youth from low-income households through broadband Internet access at a reduced cost and discounted hardware, software and educational training software.

Joining me in making this commitment to Shape the Future at CGI’s Annual Meeting were some of the public and private partners that work with us to make this vision a reality: the FCC as a public-sector supporter and the National Federation for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) and One Economy as our non-profit commitment supporters.

In speaking with school leaders, there’s one thing I’ve heard time and time again: Students without Internet access at home face an uphill battle in school that affects their academic progress as well as their opportunities to graduate and get good jobs. Below is an infographic that helps illustrate this challenge.

This can end up being a challenge for the community as a whole. As I’ve said before, access to technology should be a right for every student – not a privilege – and correcting this inequity is something I feel strongly about. Never has this been more true, when technology is increasingly becoming a requirement of many jobs (50 percent of today’s jobs require technology skills or digital literacy. This is expected to increase to 77 percent in the next 10 years) and the number of Americans in poverty has hit a record high.

The impact of 9.5 million U.S. students not having digital access at home not only impacts that individual student, but has lasting economic and social consequences. In school, these digitally excluded students experience a graduation rate 6 percent to 8 percent behind their connected peers. A recent report from The Arnold Group calculates that this disparity costs the U.S. economy $1.2 trillion over the working life of these students. Society carries this burden in terms of lost earning potential, lost tax revenues, poorer access to preventative health information and reduced efficiencies of social programs.

Digital inclusion not only empowers our students, but represents a real opportunity for cities and states to create local jobs, improve economic growth and increase their region’s competitiveness. This is at the core of Microsoft’s belief that an excellent education is a socioeconomic and workforce imperative.

Shape the Future is one of the initiatives that I’m most proud to work on, and this announcement represents why. Putting technology in the hands of a student who did not have access is a powerful step on the path leading to employability, economic opportunity and a better future.

To read more about Microsoft’s commitment to Shape the Future, and what we’re doing with our partners to address the issue of digitally excluded students and their families, please see Tuesday’s press release. Below, Anthony Salcito, vice president of public sector education at Microsoft, stands on stage with former U.S. President Bill Clinton and FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski at the Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting on Sept. 20th in New York City.