I head to China next week for an important visit, during which time we will hand over two fully equipped InfoWagons, open a Partners In Learning school, launch a Family Education PC program for rural communities in Miyun county outside Beijing, and provide digital literacy content and training in libraries and iCafés across Xinjiang.
These initiatives come at a difficult time for the people of China, and I would like to express my deepest condolences to the families of those who lost their lives and homes in the Wenchuan earthquake.
Microsoft is currently actively working with various stakeholders to marshal all the company’s resources towards relief work in Sichuan, including donations, technical assistance, charity auctions, and MSN China’s special Rainbow donation. And we're supporting Save the Children in their efforts to help--donations can be made at this link.
But these latest moves are important in continuing the drive to help the world’s citizenry realize their unlimited potential through better education, training and the use of technology. They also build on the company’s long-standing, deep commitment to the Greater China Region.
We established our first office in Beijing in 1992, and have grown alongside China’s IT industry by collaborating in innovative ways with industry partners, customers, the Chinese government, and by providing innovative software and services that help people do more with technology.
In fact, it was in Beijing just over a year ago that Microsoft launched Unlimited Potential, our commitment to enable sustained social and economic opportunity for the next five billion people across the globe.
As education is a vital part of the Unlimited Potential vision, our goal is to help China transform its education system by leveraging the integration of technology in classrooms. Integral to this is fostering local innovations by enabling job opportunities through the conversion of knowledge and creativity into sustainable economical opportunity.
One way we achieve this is through our Partners in Learning (PIL) program, which is designed to bring the benefits of providing Information and Communications Technology (ICT) to those who have not yet benefitted from it.
I will attend the June 6 opening of the first PIL school in Kashgar: the No. 19 Middle School, which has 2125 students and 105 teachers across 38 primary school and junior high school classes. It will offer innovative technology, valuable curriculum guidance and teacher training in a province where it has never been available before.
Microsoft is also partnering with a leading local OEM, Founder, as well as a local school and the Education department to launch the Founder Windows PC for Education, which is part of the overall Rural Education PC Program. I will be on hand at the June 4 launch, which will take place at an event in the Miyun County outside Beijing.
This partnership underscores how education and technology go hand in hand as enablers to sustain access to new opportunities. Both enable capacity building and strengthen competitiveness on the individual, local and national levels. By developing innovative programs like this, we can reach a unique and underserved audience in a rural environment.
These programs also have a longer-term effect as they ultimately help the students we reach become better prepared for the workforce.
We are also honored to be sponsoring two more InfoWagons, which will be handed over at an event in Urumqi, the capital of the Xinjiang region, on June 5. These InfoWagons are fully equipped to provide mobile rural technology access to farmers and villagers, and this sponsorship is all the more significant as these busses will reach an area of China that Microsoft has not historically reached.
The InfoWagons will help bring technology to western China and, by providing a collaborative environment for citizens, will help communities that might otherwise have been disconnected incorporate relevant technology into their lives.
But it is about far more than that; it is also a celebration of partnership: partnership with the Central Government through the Ministry of Information Industry (MII) as well as provincial and local government through the local bureau offices. Without these partnerships, the incredible progress we are making would be much more difficult, if not impossible.
The donation of these Info Wagons is just the beginning of our cooperation with Xinjiang government. In the coming years we plan to work closely with MII and local government in the development of application software and rural information devices; support the use of information by key rural enterprises and large farmers; promote the integration of information resources and services; and enhance the training and building of information services teams at the rural community level.
Another partnership with the Xinjiang government has resulted in the upcoming debut of the first digital literacy content and training program for libraries and iCafes, which is likely to be the first of many across China. The goal here is to bring internet and IT training and education programs to local communities through public libraries and iCafés.
I firmly believe that every human has great potential, but many all too often lack the ability to realize that potential. Projects like all of these will help people in villages across China do just that, which is what Unlimited Potential is all about.
Also, on a more personal note, after the formal business part is over, I will be taking part in RacingThePlanet’s Gobi March, a one-of-a-kind, 7-day endurance race covering 250 kilometers across the remote Gobi Desert in rural China. As part of the race, the competitors and race teams will stop at six rural villages along the course to donate books to local schools, and the two InfoWagons will also be on hand at some of these stops, allowing all of us to see first-hand how the powerful combination of education and technology can transform lives. You can keep up with our progress at our Live Spaces site—featuring blog updates, photos, GPS tracking, and more.