microsoft-logo.PNGYesterday at Microsoft HQ, Michael Rawding, vice president of the Unlimited Potential Group at Microsoft, and Iqbal Noor Ali, CEO of the Aga Khan Foundation U.S.A., signed a memorandum of understanding to collaborate in the development of innovative technology solutions and human resource capacity through education, health, civil society, financial services, rural livelihoods and economic development programs in Africa, South and Central Asia.

The working collaboration between the Microsoft Unlimited Potential Group and the Aga Khan Foundation U.S.A. reflects a shared goal to expand the social and economic opportunities of underserved communities, irrespective of race, religion, political persuasion or gender.

As an initial area of collaboration, the two organizations will focus on education with the establishment of a global information and communication technology (ICT) strategy for the network of 18 Aga Khan Academies. The first Aga Khan Academy was inaugurated in 2003 in Mombasa, Kenya. Additional primary and secondary schools are in development in 14 countries across Africa, the Middle East, and Central and South Asia over the next 10 to 15 years.

Microsoft plans to provide technical assistance and advisory services to the academies and explore new ways that ICT can help enable quality education and teachers’ professional development, which may include Microsoft’s Partners in Learning program and Microsoft’s Digital Literacy Curriculum. Microsoft also will collaborate with the Aga Khan Foundation in Pakistan and East Africa to help enhance the quality and availability of math, science and technology education programs, as well as to expand digital access through Community Technology and Learning Centers (CTLCs).

“Today’s most pressing issues of social and economic development require more than traditional philanthropy,” Ali said. “Our agreement with Microsoft today marks a joint, long-term commitment to help the most vulnerable in society with the most innovative, appropriate solutions and technologies at our disposal.”

To promote rural economic development, the two organizations plan to help expand access to information and technology through the Aga Khan Foundation’s existing Rural Support Programs. Microsoft and the Aga Khan Foundation also will explore areas of joint research into new technologies relevant to rural populations and ways to raise awareness about the needs of the underserved rural segment among software developers in universities and around the world.

“If we are to meet our goal of reaching the next 5 billion people around the world who are not yet realizing the benefits of technology, it is critical that we look at innovative partners which span communities and geographies,” Rawding said. “We are thrilled that the Aga Khan Foundation U.S.A. will work with the Unlimited Potential Group to help address the needs of the marginalized urban and rural communities in Africa, South and Central Asia.”

Other areas of collaboration include the expansion of youth empowerment programs and shared best practices in ICT skills to help strengthen the development capacity of civil society organizations (CSOs) and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). The first joint project in this area will take place in Tanzania, with the support of the International Youth Foundation. Microsoft and the Aga Khan Foundation also have agreed to jointly explore quality healthcare initiatives and how ICT can help expand outreach and lower costs for financial services for the poor (such as microcredit and savings, microinsurance, and other services).

The two organizations already have collaborated with success on projects in Egypt and India, where they have helped to open CTLCs for marginalized rural and urban areas, offering youth empowerment programs that provide vocational training programs in ICT and advanced courses for professionals to become Microsoft Certified Technology Specialists at the University of Central Asia. The Memorandum of Understanding signed today will expand upon the collaboration efforts between Microsoft and the Aga Khan Foundation to help empower more communities with the ICT access that can create new social and economic opportunities.

Aga Khan Foundation U.S.A., established in 1981, is a private, nondenominational, nonprofit international development organization committed to the struggle against hunger, disease and illiteracy. The Foundation works to address the root causes of poverty by sharing innovative solutions and by supporting over 100 programs in health, education, rural development, civil society and the environment primarily in East Africa and South and Central Asia. Using community-based approaches to meet basic human needs, the Foundation builds the capacity of community and nongovernmental organizations to have a lasting impact on reducing poverty.

The Foundation is an agency of the Aga Khan Development Network, a network of private, nondenominational, development agencies around the world, established by His Highness the Aga Khan, working to empower communities and individuals to improve living conditions and opportunities, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, Central and South Asia, and the Middle East. The Network’s nine development agencies focus on social, cultural and economic development for all citizens, regardless of gender, origin or religion. The AKDN’s underlying ethic is compassion for the vulnerable in society. Its annual budget for social development is in excess of $300 million (U.S.).

Source: http://www.publictechnology.net/
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