Microsoft to build Middle East relationships through education

Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer announced a bundle of initiatives to help improve the region’s access to technology at last week’s Microsoft Government Leader’s Forum (GLF), held in Dubai.

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By  Peter Branton Published  May 1, 2005

Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer announced a bundle of initiatives to help improve the region’s access to technology at last week’s Microsoft Government Leader’s Forum (GLF), held in Dubai. The software giant also said it was giving grants to a number of organisations in the region as part of its goal of bringing the benefits of technology to more than 250 million people worldwide by 2010. The GLF was a two-day event that brought together more than 120 high-level government officials and business leaders from across the Middle East. The stated goals of the forum were to explore how the private sector can work in cooperation with local, regional and central governments to create growth through technology. “We focus a lot on building strong, positive relationships with governments in every region where we do business,” Ballmer told delegates during his keynote speech. “I’m proud of the close collaborations we’ve been able to forge with many of the governments that you represent. We’re especially excited about working with governments throughout the Middle East because it’s such an exciting and dynamic part of the world,” he added. The programmes announced by Microsoft include its Learning Gateway for Higher Education project. “This is a secure portal that will help universities deliver better services to students within existing tight education budgets,” Ballmer said. Institutions can use the Learning Gateway to develop custom applications in collaboration with other universities and other development partners, he said. “And this Learning Gateway is all available today in Arabic,” Ballmer added. Microsoft is currently working with a total of 13 Arab nations on projects through its Partners in Learning scheme, Ballmer said, with the company having a stated goal of training more than 400,000 teachers over the next five years in partnership with local authorities. This will allow it to reach 15 million students. Another scheme announced by Microsoft, the ICT Digital Curriculum for schools, will provide localised lesson plans containing multimedia elements to help teach IT skills. Microsoft worked with the Jordanian Ministry of Education and local partner, Menhaj Educational Technologies, to develop the project. Ghassan Al-Lahhman, chief executive officer of Menhaj, said the scheme in Jordan would be a pilot project. If successful the aim was to extend it to other countries in the region, he added. The third major initiative was the Innovative Teachers Network (ITN), an online community of educators in the region, which will have an Arabic launch in May. Microsoft also announced seven grants to organisations across Bahrain, Egypt, Lebanon, Tunisia and Morocco, as part of its Unlimited Potential programme to help fund IT learning centres.

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