SYDNEY, Australia, 28 June 2004
In Australia, Microsoft is partnering with community organisations The Smith Family, Australian Seniors Computer Clubs (ASCCA), WorkVentures, Inspire Foundation and Yarnteen Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders Corporation, to provide more than AU$40 million over five years to build a network of community technology learning centres (CTLCs) around the country.
These centres will provide Australians who face disadvantage, with access to technology training, advice and support, enabling them to develop their skills and expand links to their communities. Groups who will benefit from the programme include senior citizens, economically disadvantaged families, youth-at-risk, isolated communities, indigenous communities and educationally disadvantaged sectors within the community.
Today, 77 centres across Australia will be connected through Microsoft's UP programme. By 2005, Microsoft Australia announced that that more than 100 UP centres will be established in cities, suburban and rural areas supporting local communities.
Launching the Unlimited Potential programme, the Hon. John Howard, MP, Prime Minister of Australia said, "Partnerships between the business sector, the community and Government are the best way to develop solutions to improve people's daily lives.”
“Microsoft's Unlimited Potential community programme is a powerful example of how organisations working together can not only broaden and enrich the experiences and outcomes for each of the groups involved, but I believe will help thousands of Australians realise a greater degree of technological literacy to help them participate more actively in our community's future.”
Speaking at today's launch event, Mr Gates said “By partnering with these highly respected community groups, Microsoft is able to provide much-needed technological resources, skills training, and support to people who need help in bridging the digital divide. Technology skills have become increasingly important in today's workforce, yet millions of people around the world still do not have a way of obtaining them. We believe that Unlimited Potential will make a big difference to their lives.”
Mr Steve Vamos, Managing Director, Microsoft Australia said that Microsoft's long history with each of the partners demonstrates the company's long term commitment to Unlimited Potential. “Microsoft Australia has been working with WorkVentures, The Smith Family, Inspire Foundation, ASCCA and Yarnteen for many years, indeed our relationship with WorkVenures alone spans more than 18 years. Our long term commitment to Unlimited Potential is backed by substance, support and passion for helping Australian communities.”
Mrs Elaine Henry OAM, Chief Executive Officer of The Smith Family said, “People used to be disadvantaged if they were not able to read or write. In today's society, individuals and indeed entire communities can be marginalised or excluded if they do not have access to technology.
Mrs Henry continued, “Simply providing access to computers and the Internet is not enough to overcome technological exclusion. However if access to computers and the internet is provided through learning centres embedded in the community - be it a youth centre, library, housing facility or other convenient location - it may have an extremely positive impact on the community and lead to increased tolerance, social interaction as well as greater cohesion and personal well being and skill development among participants. The five organisations involved in Unlimited Potential are proud to be part of this programme which, through the establishment of the CTLCs, will not only provide a forum for local people to access technology, but also an opportunity for them to meet and engage with other members of their community.”
Mr Steve Lawrence, CEO of WorkVentures believes Unlimited Potential will have a positive impact on the future workforce of Australia, saying, “80% of people on public housing estates do not have access to technology at home or in the workplace. The community technology learning centres will make a huge difference to those individuals and the skills that they have to offer.”
Mr Jack Heath, Founder and Executive Director of Inspire Foundation believes there is an urgent need to provide disadvantaged young people with the access to technology and training that most young Australians take for granted. “If we don't create opportunities for young people who are less well-off not only do we fail our young people but we also diminish ourselves and our wider community. With Microsoft Australia, Inspire has now developed 16 Beanbag Net Centres across Australia to provide thousands of under-served young people with critical educational, employment and social opportunities that are essential to their becoming active and contributing members to society.”
Senior citizens are also in danger of being excluded from communities through their lack of technology understanding, according to Mrs Nan Bosler, President of the Australian Seniors Computer Clubs Association. “Technology offers a world of opportunity to seniors, but they often feel marginalised because of their lack of experience,” Mrs Bosler said. “Through the Unlimited Potential programme senior citizens can learn new ways of communicating with the community around them, access information through the internet and become active in their local area.”
“Indigenous communities are among the most technologically disadvantaged in Australia, making projects like Unlimited Potential invaluable. Yarnteen began working with Microsoft four years ago to provide technology access to more than 50 Community Development Employment Projects throughout New South Wales. As part of the Unlimited Potential program, Yarnteen will develop further opportunities that will improve technology skills and enhance employment and economic development opportunities for Aboriginal youth,” said Leah Armstrong, Executive Director, Yarnteen Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders Corporation.
Funding will be provided to centres to launch or sustain IT skills training programmes, including hiring and training technology instructors and expanding course offerings. Microsoft has developed UP curriculum that emphasises real-world technology applications. In the near future, Microsoft will work with partners to launch a global support network to deliver technology research, tools and services to training centres worldwide.
Go to www.microsoft.com/australia/up for further information on UP and the specific partners and programmes.
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Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT”) is the worldwide leader in software, services and solutions that help people and businesses realise their full potential.
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