Microsoft Invests $75 Million To Expand Digital Education In Africa

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Last week, Microsoft announced a new investment of $250 million in its Partners In Learning Project to equip teachers with the skills to teach IT and other technology-related subjects worldwide. Now the company has announced another investment, this time of up to $75 million, aimed at increasing digital access to educational materials throughout Africa.

Revealed at the Global Forum 2012 in Prague over the weekend, Microsoft is partnering with six global humanitarian organizations on this new initiative and investment, including World Vision Inc., the British Council, SOS Children’s Villages International, Catholic Relief Services, Plan Ltd. and the International Rescue Committee.

One of the key projects funded through this program will be “Spark a Child’s Digital Future,” which will begin in Kenya in early 2013 then scale throughout sub-Saharan Africa and beyond over the course of the next five years. The program is a collaborative effort from several organizations, including strategic partners World Vision and the British Council, as well as Intel, and, of course, Microsoft. Through this effort, Microsoft will donate software, Microsoft and Intel will offer information and communications technology training, and the British Council and World Vision will offer their own expertise in educational program execution, content development, measurement and evaluation.

Spark a Child’s Digital Future will also connect African youth with over 1 million potential donors in the U.S. to raise additional funds. The landing page for the program is already enabled to take donations starting at $100 and up. Visitors can also fill in their own donation amounts if they choose. Donations will go to increasing digital access in classrooms in terms of both devices and infrastructure, as well as to support teacher training. The end goal is to empower students to find employment, start their own businesses and contribute to their local economies by learning modern-day digital skills.

The $75 million investment from Microsoft is part of the company’s larger initiative known as Microsoft YouthSpark, which is focused on closing the “opportunity divide” by closing the digital one. The company-wide initiative aims to create opportunities for 300 million youth worldwide though a wide range of programs, including the above-mentioned Partners In Learning, as well as things like DreamSpark, Imagine Cup, Skype in Classroom, BizSpark, Office 365 for EDU, Microsoft IT Academy, Microsoft Student Partners, DigiGirlz, and many others.