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Gates announces new development initiatives for Middle East

New initiatives on economic and social development announced by Microsoft chairman and Government Leaders Forum

Microsoft chairman Bill Gates has announced a number of new initiatives to foster economic and social development in the Middle East.

Speaking at the Microsoft Government Leaders Forum in Abu Dhabi today, Gates said that he had been very impressed by the willingness of decision makers in the region to invest in development, and that the company was looking to develop more local relationships to drive growth.

"Technology has touched millions of lives and played a significant role in fostering economic development across the region. Microsoft's goal is to work in close partnership with governments and partner organizations to help them use technology to accelerate social and economic development. The Government Leaders Forum is a great opportunity for leaders from the public and private sectors to discuss the critical issues they face and create a road map for moving forward together," he said.

Among the initiatives announced is a strategic partnership with the Dubai School of Government (DSG), which will focus on developing best practices in public policy. DSG has joined the Microsoft sponsored Solutions Sharing Network programme, which links government organizations worldwide to collaborate on best practice.

Microsoft will also work with the Mohammed Bin Rashid Foundation to develop higher education, and particularly research capabilities in the Arab world, and with Emirates Identity Authority to develop secure data solutions.

The company will also collaborate with Dubai Cares, to develop learning opportunities for communities.

Gates also highlighted the contribution that Microsoft makes to economies in the Middle East through local partners and companies that sell Microsoft solutions, or services related to Microsoft in what the company calls the Microsoft ecosystem.

New research from IDC and commissioned by Microsoft, shows that the software ecosystem in the Middle East generated more than US$7.9 billion in 2007, and is set to grow to $22.4 billion by 2011. This ecosystem accounts for 57% of all IT employment in the region, and will create 210,000 new IT jobs in the region by 2011.

"As Microsoft we aim to take the advantages offered by IT and bring them into economic development. From the earliest days of Microsoft, we knew our mission was a global one so we went out to countries to find partners who could develop software applications, distribute hardware, build the pieces of the infrastructure. Microsoft is investing in partners so they can step up to the next level of IT development," he said.

Jyoti Lalchandani, vice president and regional managing director of IDC MEA commented: "Today, technology is a key factor for economic, social and technological progress, and for the sustainability of economies all over the world. The IDC research underscores what we've always known to be true, that software provides a disproportionate contribution to a vibrant IT economy. It also shows the significant contribution made by the Microsoft ecosystem, especially in the creation of local businesses and jobs."