The Ministry of Communication and IT has tied up with Microsoft Corporation to bridge the digital divide in rural India. The announcement was made at Microsoft’s Redmond headquarters by Bill Gates, Chairman and Chief Software Architect, in the presence of IT Minister Dayanidhi Maran.
Microsoft has committed to offer Windows XP starter editions in nine Indian languages along with English and will adopt 100 schools in six states initially to provide an interactive IT learning environment in local languages.
The IT giant will also help the India government establish one lakh rural kiosks by offering a range of affordable products and services. An e-Governance Centre of Excellence has also been planned in partnership with an Indian institution, for which Microsoft will contribute $2 million.
Apart from this, Microsoft will also offer a special broadband and PC package in collaboration with partners to first time users at affordable monthly instalments to support India’s broadband strategy. This will be in partnership with companies like BSNL, MTNL, HCL, HP, SBI, and ICICI among others. Microsoft will also make available its education content under this programme.
The software behemoth also intends to collaborate with the government agencies, including C-DAC, and the Indian scientific community to conduct research in Indian language computing technologies.
Microsoft and Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In) – which was by the Department of IT – will cooperate through a Security Cooperation Programme (SCP) to create a more secure computing environment in India.
Making the announcement, Bill Gates said, “We are delighted to be working with Minister Maran towards our common goal of bridging the digital divide for people across India. In particular, I’m excited about the promotion of e-Governance technologies, the expansion of teacher education and broadening our Windows XP Starter Edition for India, offering to better meet the needs of Indian citizens.”
Welcoming Microsoft’s initiative, Maran said, “The announcement by Microsoft is a step in the right direction. There is an urgent need to enable affordable access to locally relevant IT applications at a broad level. I believe that through effective private-government partnerships we can deliver on this objective.”
Last month, Microsoft India had signed an MoU with the Tamil Nadu government, under which the former will help set up an ‘Information Technology Academy’ in Chennai to provide comprehensive training programme to nearly 20,000 teachers in the state for a period of five years.