I’m just now wrapping up the second day of this year’s Government Leaders Forum—Americas (GLF), and I wanted to share some more stories around today’s events.   I’ve been busy meeting with a variety of local and regional government and business leaders as well as our partners from a broad range of groups operating in the Latin American region—it’s always so valuable to have this personal time to connect with the people and organizations who are working to help carry out our vision of reaching the next five billion at the local, community, and personal level. 

 

In delivering on this vision, we believe that this kind of strong local and regional collaboration best supports Microsoft Unlimited Potential’s overall approach to transforming education, fostering local innovation and creating jobs and opportunities worldwide, giving us the ability to achieve the scalability necessary to reach our goal- access to the transformative power of software for everyone.

 

 

Today was particularly exciting here in Miami, as Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates presented a pair of speeches discussing the role of technology and philanthropy in creating opportunity for citizens in the Americas.   Earlier this morning, Bill spoke at the Inter-American Development Bank’s (IDB) annual meeting, discussing his concept of “Creative Capitalism” and how the role of philanthropy can interact with that of business to create more opportunity for everyone.  Later in the afternoon, Bill returned to our GLF event, delivering his keynote address on the potential of technology to transform education and create enhanced economic opportunity in the Latin American region.

 

At the morning’s IDB meeting, IDB and Microsoft released some updates around our agreement to jointly create the Youth Fund—a jointly provided USD$1M fund to support NGOs that broaden IT skills and economic opportunities for disadvantaged youth across Latin America and the Caribbean.  In the first call for proposals to the fund last year, the SES Foundation (responsible for implementation of the fund) received over 190 proposals from 15 countries in LATAM and the Caribbean.  Today, we were proud to announce the winners of this first call of proposals.  Over US$320 thousand will be distributed among seven selected organizations that, collectively, will reach nearly 1400 youth in six countries (Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Mexico, Uruguay and Venezuela). 

 

One announced winner was Brazil’s Quilombola Emprender Projectan initiative that targets disadvantaged youth from a vulnerable ethnic minority: members of the kalunga people.  The Project’s mission is to train 350 kalungas between the ages of 16 and 30 in IT and entrepreneurial skills with a goal to develop and implement business projects and create new economic opportunities. Through the creation of community groups and resources that focus on team-building and local projects, this initiative will create opportunities that will allow participants to create increased economic opportunities for themselves, their communities, and their families.

 

 

Announced during Bill’s GLF keynote this afternoon was another significant partnership to help transform education in Latin America—this time with the Telefónica Foundation.  Microsoft will partner with Telefónica to develop their “Innovative Professors” online portal and forum, built on Microsoft technologies, that encourages collaboration and the sharing of innovative teaching practices.  It focuses on IT literacy and teacher training, and providing activities, seminars, curriculum support and other services for educators.  Originally aimed at teachers in Spain, the program was extended in 2007 to Mexico and Colombia, and now has over 37,000 registered teachers, with over 100,000 unique monthly visits in 2007 alone.  This supports the goals of Microsoft’s own Partners in Learning initiative—which we just recently announced our major recommitment to at the Government Leaders Forum—Berlin this past January. 

 

As we move forward with our efforts through Unlimited Potential to bring the transformative power of technology to more people around the world, new and innovative programs and opportunities like these will be paramount in our efforts to transform education.  But giving everyone the opportunity to learn and flourish is an enormous challenge that requires cooperation by industry partners, governments, and educators in both the public and private sectors.  These partnerships which we have announced over the past several days here at GLF Americas are ultimately about creating both individual and community outcomes, driving increased social and economic opportunity that will allow every person—in Latin America and the world—to reach their full potential. 

 

As always, it has been a pleasure relating my experiences on the road—I can only hope that I’ve given an accurate sense of the excitement and possibility that is in the air here in Miami as we have discussed the unlimited opportunity possible through technology.  I’m off now to discuss this possibility further at a Microsoft-sponsored DevEx event this evening—a meeting of hundreds of international development leaders and professionals from across Latin America and the Caribbean.