May, 2010

  • Elevating America through technology training and skills

    Today marks a significant milestone for our Elevate America program with Louisiana and Ohio becoming the last states to join the program, which is part of Microsoft’s overall Unlimited Potential efforts to improve social and economic opportunities for people. Since we launched Elevate America in February 2009, thirty two states and the District of Columbia as well as Puerto Rico and American Samoa (see full list below) have partnered with us to offer over 800,000 no cost training and certification vouchers to people across the United States.

    We have learned a lot from working directly with the states and it’s clear they face tough challenges addressing the issues of unemployment and retraining. However we’re also discovering that providing people with ready access to technology skills training and certification can help people in their quest to find employment.

    We are evaluating how we can apply what we’ve learned from the program so far to other training and employment initiatives. In March we announced the Elevate America Veterans initiative which will support active duty service members and their spouses who are transitioning out of the U.S. military as well as members of the National Guard and Reserve returning to their civilian jobs. The unemployment rate among Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans is 20 percent higher than the overall unemployment rate for nonveterans according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. U.S. veterans are highly trained in military and leadership skills, but many lack the formal education, training and certification required by employers. We are currently calling on organizations to help provide job placement, career counseling and other critical support services, such as child care and transportation assistance, to help ensure a successful transition to the civilian work force.

    We are continuing to work with the states, and later this year we hope to share more in-depth results and learning from the program on the blog. If you’re interested in finding out more information please visit the Elevate America website.

    Thirty two states and the District of Columbia as well as Puerto Rico and American Samoa are participating in Elevate America

    Elevate America program partners:

    Alabama

    American Samoa

    Arizona

    Arkansas

    California

    Colorado

    Delaware

    District of Columbia

    Florida

    Georgia

    Illinois

    Iowa

    Kentucky

    Louisiana

    Maryland

    Massachusetts

    Michigan

    Minnesota

    Mississippi

    Missouri

    Montana

    New Hampshire

    New Jersey

    New York

    Nevada

    North Carolina

    Ohio

    Oregon

    Puerto Rico

    Tennessee

    Utah

    Virginia

    Washington

    West Virginia

    Wisconsin

  • Trip Report: South East Asia - Community First and Technology Second

    Without doubt one of the best aspects of my job is getting to visit our partners and see firsthand their communities and the incredible work they are doing on the ground to address real social and economic issues.  

    Most recently I was in Philippines and Indonesia and had the privilege visiting with two of our partners to observe how by establishing computer learning centers youth and members of the rural community can thrive.  One of the projects visited in Manila included the Bantay Bata sa Kommunidad Center –where we Visayan Forum runs the StepUp project.  It was interesting to see the evolution of this effort since I last visited Manila over two years ago – where the project now has expanded from training girls (rescued from trafficking) in their safe houses to provide training in the community itself giving both girls and boys a career choice, offering them an alternative to overseas work and preventing them from being lured into the sex industry.  The key component of the program is the ownership of mothers in Barangay that allows them to have a direct influence on their daughters and sons and also creates a sustainability model.  Very exciting to see how much positive impact local ownership can have on a project.  In last year’s Typhoon that hit Manila this area was much impacted with flooding and almost all equipment was lost.  With the help from Microsoft employees (including volunteering to clear rubbish and debris from the community) and community they were able to rebuild and re-equip themselves so girls and boys would continue their IT skills training.

    In Bali I visited a project run by our partners in one of the poorest communities on the island.  On the eastern tip of Bali in the village of Sibetan, farmers are using the technology center to learn about how they can develop new and improved products from one of the local fruits – Salak – which is the state/provincial fruit of the island.  In partnership with USAID, AUSAID and others and through our CTCs farmers have been able to improve their income through improved marketing, developing snacks from the fruit and drying the fruit.  Kids in the local village and the surrounding villages are learning basic IT skills.  With only three computers the impact is still visible in how much progress they have made to their income.  Farmers from the nearby island of Nusa Penida also visited us at the Sibetan center and informed us about how the technology training center on their Island is leading to better seaweed farming techniques and also helping them develop new products.  They commented that in many cases they have not only increased their income through better farming techniques and access to current market data but also that the ‘middle men’ are often now coming to them to request pricing.  They were extremely grateful that through this support their communities were brought into the 21st century.

    Akhtar Badshah

    Senior Director, Community Affairs, Microsoft Corporation

  • Welcome to the Unlimited Potential Blog

    Microsoft Unlimited Potential (UP) was launched by Bill Gates in 2007 as a company-wide effort to bring together business and philanthropic approaches to make technology more relevant, accessible, and affordable; encouraging close collaboration among businesses, local governments, educational institutions, and community organizations.

    Today, this cross-company effort is represented by 18 Microsoft programs. While each program has distinct importance and reaches unique audiences, Unlimited Potential enables us to align these programs under one common mission that can create a much greater impact.

    On this blog we will share with you our efforts to bring information technology to people living in communities around the world so that they can reap real social and economic benefits.  We have focused on three areas: transforming education; fostering local innovation; and enabling jobs and economic opportunity.   By combining Unlimited Potential with the company’s commitment to citizenship and community investment we believe we are changing the way in which corporations and their employees can bring about positive change around the world.

    Through this blog we want to enable you to follow the varied areas of our work and share with you what we are learning, which in turn helps us to progress towards our commitments.  We believe that close collaboration with thousands of partners in the nonprofit community is as essential element in addressing today’s social and economic issues.

    We hope to share with you our experiences as we travel around the world to different communities, meeting with our partners and learning how our investments are making a difference.  We also hope to bring you voices from those communities so that together we can all learn about how we can better support and serve our society. 

    In that spirit we look forward to your comments, suggestions and contributions.

    Akhtar Badshah

    Senior Director, Community Affairs, Microsoft Corporation

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