PRAGUE, Dec. 1, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- Microsoft Corp. today marked the close of its Partners in Learning Global Forum 2012 by announcing an investment of up to US$75 million to bring digital access to youth and educators in developing nations. The commitment was sealed by signing memorandums of understanding with six global humanitarian organizations. Along with the US$250 million, five-year renewal of the flagship Microsoft Partners in Learning program, the company has further strengthened its commitment to bring holistic transformation of education systems around the world through digital access to youth and capacity building for educators.
The initiative is led by strategic alliances with World Vision Inc., the British Council, SOS Children's Villages International, Catholic Relief Services, Plan Ltd. and the International Rescue Committee. It is aimed at helping ensure that teachers get the digital training they need and students gain critical skills vital to finding employment, starting their own businesses and contributing to their local communities' economies.
These commitments are part of Microsoft YouthSpark, a companywide initiative to create opportunities for 300 million youth around the world, helping transform education and expand digital inclusion to empower youth to change their world."Today's young people face an opportunity divide — a gap between those who have the access, skills and opportunities to be successful and those who do not," said Anthony Salcito, vice president of Worldwide Education for Microsoft. "We firmly believe in the power of technology to help close this gap. But we can only achieve our ambitions with the help of these kinds of partnerships. Together, we can help bring digital access to youth and support to educators in developing countries worldwide." Reaching Underprivileged Youth in Africa An example of this initiative — Spark a Child's Digital Future http://www.worldvision.org/bethespark — will begin in Kenya, scaling across sub-Saharan Africa and beyond during the next five years. Spark a Child's Digital Future, which launches today, is a collaborative effort that unites World Vision, the British Council, Microsoft and Intel, and it links African youth with more than 1 million potential donors in the United States alone. World Vision, the world's largest nongovernmental organization, will generate donations through its child sponsors. Microsoft will donate software and apply the experience it has gained through Partners in Learning. Together, Microsoft and Intel will offer information and communications technology expertise and training, while the British Council and World Vision bring on-the-ground expertise in education program execution and content development for teacher and school leader professional development, as well as measurement and evaluation. "We recognize that once a child's basic needs are met, digital skills development can be vital in securing economic growth," said Rich Stearns, president, World Vision U.S. "This program is essential in helping children in developing countries succeed in a global world." 2012 Global Forum Educator Awards The announcement was made ahead of an award ceremony at the Global Forum in Prague, bringing together more than 500 of the most innovative teachers, school leaders, education leaders and government officials from 80 countries. Teachers who attend the Global Forum are regional finalists selected from more than 250,000 teachers registered across national and regional forums throughout the year. Teacher projects were awarded across six categories: