Microsoft signs deal to work on international development

Microsoft has joined forces with USAID and other international aid organizations to combat assorted humanitarian issues around the world.

Microsoft has joined with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and other development organizations to attack AIDS and other humanitarian problems worldwide, the company announced this week.

Microsoft will offer a wide variety of assistance to USAID, as well as the U.S President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, and the Millennium Challenge Corporation, two other humanitarian aid organizations, Microsoft said.

The assistance could include technology consulting and software development support for agencies on the ground in developing nations and other types of help, said Frank McCosker, Microsoft's senior director of global strategic accounts.

Microsoft has worked in an ad hoc basis with USAID in the past, but this 5-year partnership will give the aid organizations a "faster pipeline" to Microsoft resources, said Corey Griffin, Microsoft's director of international development. The memorandum of understanding announced Monday pulls together Microsoft and the three development organizations in a more comprehensive approach that in the past, he said.

The company plans to work with the aid organizations on a variety of projects, including AIDS, other health problems, education and economic growth, Microsoft said. The company is looking at creating so-called "innovation centers" in developing nations, where users can learn to create jobs in their countries, Griffin said.

Microsoft will also work on disaster response and environmental sustainability, the company said.

"In this age of increasing interconnectedness, this global collaboration with Microsoft will help to mobilize ideas and resources, skills and technologies to spur innovation and deliver results far more efficiently and effectively than ever before," Henrietta Fore, acting administrator of USAID, said in a statement.

The first project under this memorandum of understanding will be an alliance between Microsoft, USAID and Indonesia Entrepreneurship And Agribusiness Development Activity. The alliance partners will sponsor a national business innovation competition and awards program, focused on improving innovation and IT competitiveness in Indonesia.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the charitable organization set up by Microsoft's founder and his wife, has long given money to programs targeted at improving health and education around the world. But other than inspiration, Microsoft gets no marching orders from the foundation to work on health and education programs, McCosker said.

The deal is a commercial one, he said. "It's about getting access to the next 5 billion users," he added.

Microsoft plans to announce more projects in the partnership in the next six weeks.

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