Microsoft (MSFT) says it will increase its investments in China next month by donating two fully equipped InfoWagons, open a Partners in Learning school, launch a Family Education PC program for rural communities in Miyun county outside Beijing, and provide digital literacy content and training in libraries and iCafes across Xinjiang.

These initiatives extend those announced when the company launched Unlimited Potential in China just over a year ago, which followed Microsoft's previous commitments of investments and donations to support information and communications technology in China's K-12 education system.

"The problems China is currently facing, especially in the rural areas, include the digital divide and the widening income gap between rural and urban residents," said Rau Chang, general manager of Microsoft's Public Sector Group for the Greater China Region, in a statement. "In its latest five-year plan, the Chinese government has placed an emphasis on rural development, known as San Nong. These latest Microsoft efforts will use information and communications technology (ICT) to support the government on rural economic development, healthcare and education."

The digital literacy content and training program initiative, a partnership between Microsoft and the Xinjiang government that strives to bring Internet and IT training and education programs to local communities through public libraries and iCafes, is expected to be the first of many across China. The training programs, which will help local communities across Xinjiang learn new skills and foster local innovation, will be facilitated by library and iCafe staff.

As part of its Unlimited Potential initiative, Microsoft will provide certified content and training to volunteers. Once that training has been completed and validated, these volunteers will then provide basic computer and Internet skills training at no charge for residents of the surrounding communities, IT and productivity tools training for small- and medium-sized enterprises, and training for IT professionals.

In keeping with its rural training and education focus, Microsoft is partnering with a leading local OEM, Founder, as well as a local school and education department to launch the Founder Windows PC for Education. The launch on June 4 will take place at an event in Miyun county outside Beijing and is part of the overall Rural Education PC Program.

The Founder Windows PC for Education will have Windows Vista and Windows Live pre-installed, along with new learning software tailored for the Chinese education market. Learning documentation will be provided for both parents and students, as will some basic computing and Windows Vista training especially designed for the first-time PC users.



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