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Travel Diary: Latin America and China—Orlando Ayala

Travel Diary: Latin America and China—Orlando Ayala

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One of the most rewarding parts of my work with Microsoft’s Unlimited Potential Group is the ability to travel around the world and witness firsthand the progress we continue to make towards connecting the next five billion people with the benefits of technology.  Seeing the positive impact that we and our global network of public and private partners are helping to create in the daily lives of families and communities is a true inspiration, as well a constant reminder that we must consistently focus on our immediate goal—to connect the next billion people by 2015 through products and programs that transform education, foster local innovation, and create jobs and opportunities.

 

Over the past month, I’ve had the opportunity to visit China, Ecuador, and Brazil to work with our local teams and partners and see some of the digital and social inclusion efforts being made in these regions.  In all of these countries, I was struck by many similarities—the amazing progress, the great work that was already taking place, and the excitement and determination of people and communities working hard to fulfill their full potential.  Yet the unique challenges and opportunities posed by each made it clear that we must continue to create solutions that provide relevant, accessible, and affordable technology tailored to each country’s individual needs.

 

A key factor in providing relevant technology solutions is addressing the particular social and economic needs of a region.  In Ecuador, I had the honor of meeting with the Vice President, Mr. Lenin Moreno, to discuss Microsoft’s participation in one of these solutions.

 

 

The Government of Ecuador, in collaboration with private-sector partners, has created an innovative pilot program with the goal of bringing digital access to almost 100,000 people with disabilities. This program is especially important given the significant challenges that the disabled in Ecuador face in securing employment—ICT skills training can open up new opportunities by empowering program participants with a skill set that is very much in demand.  We’re looking forward to this collaborative effort, and will continue to work in Ecuador to deliver relevant programs that incorporate a deep understanding of local needs and practices.

 

 

Later, I had the privilege to deliver the keynote address at Encuentro Internacional De Innovacion, one of Ecuador’s largest technology conferences, sharing the stage with the communications minister of Colombia.  I outlined our vision through Unlimited Potential to create social and economic opportunity; it was very encouraging to hear from others at the conference about all of the progress already being made with advances in technology and access in Ecuador and the broader region.

 

While in Brazil, I saw several programs that are currently bringing technology access to underserved segments of the population.  In Sao Paulo, I visited a truly unique digital access program called OldNet. Sponsored by the NGO Cidade Escola Aprendiz, the program couples young volunteers from local schools with senior citizens that are interested in learning basic computer skills.   A similar local program called KidsNet held at the internet café SeiComp lets classes from an underfunded school use their computers during non-peak hours—and the seniors trained through OldNet in turn help the teachers there show the younger children learn to use PCs.  It was wonderful to see how this community was pulling together to help everyone, young and old, access the benefits of technology.

 

 

 

I also visited a school in an underserved community sponsored by our partners at the Bradesco Foundation that is using Classmate PCs—high-quality and affordable laptops for classroom use—to support courses there.  Each student has their own PC for classes, and they were all extremely engaged with both their lessons and the Classmate PCs—this combination of individual computing access and strong curriculum and support from experienced teachers was clearly a powerful factor in improving the educational opportunities for the children studying there.

 

Another program, a community access center called Instituto Efort, is a nonprofit organization that promotes social inclusion and education through the use of technology, with a special focus on people with disabilities. This project, which also receives financial support from the City of São Paulo, helps people with disabilities acquire the IT skills necessary to find employment.

 

 

I had the chance to speak with one of Instituto Efort’s successes—a young man that leveraged his new computer skills into a well-paying and secure job.  His story of how the access and training offered there allowed him to help fulfill his potential and create economic benefit for his family was a powerful individual example of the connection between accessible technology and job and economic growth.

 

I saw this connection constantly throughout my travels.  The Chinese economy is experiencing unprecedented growth, largely in urban areas, but the need is growing for rural populations to have the same advantages and access to technology as those people living in cities.  In China, Microsoft is working to allow everyone to equally enjoy the benefits of this growth.  For example, I was present to launch a new Information Service Center in Guantang District, Chengdu, Sichuan province. 

 

 

This is the second ISC that Microsoft has opened in Sichuan, with the first announced in Xinjin this past April.  The new ISC provides IT access as well as free training programs, which will help local farmers, villagers, and students to independently earn money, locate job opportunities, and improve their standards of living.  Seeing the impact of programs like these ISCs that make technology access free or affordable on the lives of the rural Chinese people that I met in Chengdu reinforced how important it is to continue to develop and create sustainable models to make technology available and affordable to everyone—rural or urban.

 

And where technology access is already available, it is creating amazing results, particularly in transforming the educational environment.  I was able to drop in at Chenjinglun High School in Beijing, an extremely technologically advanced school that utilizes Microsoft technologies in almost every aspect of the classroom—from presenting curriculum and classes to online portals for teachers, students, and parents to individually check on homework, grades, and progress.  The students there were very excited about all the opportunities for collaboration and learning that this technology had made possible.

 

  

 

I believe that the similar optimism and energy I witnessed in the people of all of these nations makes it clear that given the right opportunities, all people have the ability to reach their full potential.  This was fresh in my thoughts as I wrapped up one of my last activities on this trip: I had been asked to name one of the newest additions to the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding in northern Chengdu —a four-month-old female panda.  This was a unique honor, and it seemed fitting that this panda, which will bring delight and inspiration to thousands of people in China, should be named Unlimited Potential. 

 

 

And on our part, Microsoft will continue to work towards the goals of our commitment through Unlimited Potential to create these opportunities and reach the next five billion people—in China, Latin America, and throughout the world—with the benefits of technology, helping to create sustained social and economic growth everywhere. 

 

 

Thank you,

--Orlando Ayala, Senior Vice President, Unlimited Potential Group

Comments
  • Greetings from Miami, Florida, where I’m participating in the next installment of our ongoing Microsoft

  • I head to China next week for an important visit, during which time we will hand over two fully equipped