In 2007 we launched the Microsoft Unlimited Potential program to focus on getting the power of technology to underserved communities around the world, and in the intervening period we have learned a lot and we’ve seen some exciting results from our partnerships and our investments.

Recently I had the privilege of attending our first Citizenship Accelerator Summit which was themed Accelerating Change through Technology and Partnerships. We brought together journalists, bloggers and academics to meet with us and our government and nongovernmental partners to share with them how Microsoft is accelerating change through technology and partnerships.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer speaking at the Microsoft Accelerator Summit

We have always believed that access to technology and technology skills can drive significant economic and social change and we’re seeing how even the smallest exposure to information technology can have an incredible impact if it’s implemented with the right partner who has deep understanding of the community needs and is a trusted partner in the community. The summit provided many examples.

Vida Durant the CIO of CARE, which works around the world empowering women and girls, told us that having medical test results sent via text messages to a person in a rural community can be a matter of life and death. In some communities it can take up to three months to send a test result whereas now with a simple phone using text messaging the result can be known in hours.

Ed Granger Happ, chairman of NetHope, shared how they and their partners have been able to get wireless connectivity in Haiti after the earthquake and the incredible collaboration, facilitate by technology, that is taking place on the ground among the various agencies working there.

The issue of jobs is front and center in the U.S. and around the world. During the Summit, Liza Estlund Olson, Director of Bureau of Workforce Transformation for the State of Michigan spoke about how with the introduction of Elevate America in Michigan they can provide unemployed and underemployed people needed IT skills to become ready for employment. She also highlighted that as much as it is about getting jobs, it is also about using technology to build confidence in a segment of society that is truly at the bottom of the economic pyramid.

From inside Microsoft, we heard from our employees who too are using technology to bring about change by connecting micro-donors to causes around the world, and are creating movements among their community to bring about social change.

There is a growing expectation for businesses to actively participate in addressing some of society’s most challenging issues and technology has a role to play in accelerating this change. Our work is grounded in the fact that it is communities first – it is all about long-term investment and partnerships, it is about scale and finally it is about sustainable impact.

Over the coming week we plan to post videos from the different sessions and hope you’ll have time to find out more about how technology is having a positive impact on communities around the world.

In the meantime here are some reports from the Summit:

Update - Accelerator Summit sessions: