Bill Gates Emphasizes Education at GLF

Posted by Hernan Rincon 
President, Microsoft Latin America

In my role as President, Microsoft Latin America, I’ve found no better venue for gauging what matters most to governments in the region than our annual Government Leaders Forum—Americas.  We’re winding down this year’s event and, as always, it has provided fascinating insights into how the entire region is progressing and evolving.

As Linda Zecher discussed yesterday, finding ways to stimulate growth and create opportunity in today’s challenging economic climate is top of mind for everyone.  That is why we are reinforcing our long-standing commitment to partner with governments in Latin America and elsewhere to spur positive social and economic change.

Today at GLF, Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates explained how investments in education and technology can accelerate growth and prepare our workforce for the jobs of tomorrow.  As Bill explained, despite the current hard times, now is not the time to scale back forward-looking investments, particularly in education.  Education is an essential foundation that we cannot skip or neglect if we hope to provide sustainable, long-term economic and entrepreneurial growth. 

As I mentioned yesterday in my opening speech, we must begin by addressing the fundamental problem of scale: How do we put quality educational tools in the hands of hundreds of millions of students around the globe?  Technology is an ideal tool for tackling this challenge.  Microsoft is deeply committed to assisting governments and organizations around the world help more people learn to use technology, and to help public and private institutions provide high-quality education and technology training for students at every age and at every level. 

Towards that end, today we announced the extension of our DreamSpark program to high school students around the world.  DreamSpark, which we launched for university students a year ago, puts our most important software design and development tools in the hands of young people at no cost.  

It’s inspiring to imagine the opportunities that will exist once today’s young people enter the workforce armed with the knowledge and skills to make a difference.  But learning and the need for professional technology tools don’t stop once students leave school.

That is why we created BizSpark, a global effort to accelerate the success of early stage start-ups by providing fast, affordable access to Microsoft tools and technologies.  BizSpark also provides technical support through a global community of technology and entrepreneurial experts who can help navigate the hurdles of growing a new business. 

BizSpark—or “Sol” as we call it in Brazil—has already enrolled 700 startups in Latin America.  Today, weannounced an agreement with FINEP to extend the program to 5,000 startups in Brazil by 2010—a R$1.3 billion (U.S. $580 million)  investment by FINEP. 

Technology can also help governments provide critical services in a more effective and affordable manner – as Craig Mundie demonstrated today, technology can help residents of a storm stricken area connect directly with their neighbors to find out if they are safe, or enable them to gather vital information about public services in the event of a flu pandemic.

This kind of progress makes me optimistic about the future.  By the time the next GLF-Americas rolls around, I’m sure there will be new challenges to face, but also new opportunities to seize as we continue to work with our partners in the public and private sectors to leverage the power of technology to foster economic development around the globe. 

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