PARIS, July 6 /PRNewswire/ --

- Collaboration to promote greater access and use of ICT for higher education

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)
and Microsoft Corp. today announced a joint task force to help higher education
institutions worldwide meet the growing challenge of supporting economic
stimulus efforts and work-force development strategies. The UNESCO-Microsoft
Task Force on Higher Education and Information and Communication Technology
(ICT) will create a strategic plan of action to identify how ICT can be used by
governments as a catalyst for change.

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The announcement was made at the UNESCO World Conference on Higher Education
(WCHE), which opened today and is being attended by close to 100 ministers of
education, senior education officials and policy advisors. The WCHE is also
focusing on critical issues around reduced funding for education globally as a
result of the economic crisis and the need for governments to find affordable
measures for short-term skills training and work force enhancement in support of
economic recovery and growth. Many delegations in attendance from developing
regions emphasized the longer-term challenges of sustainable higher education
reform and capacity-building.

The UNESCO-Microsoft Task Force on Higher Education and ICT will analyze the
findings and recommendations of the WCHE, in addition to feedback from global
higher education experts and stakeholders, to identify key initiatives that will
promote more effective use of ICT in post-secondary teaching, learning and

Higher education is increasingly strategic for building up skilled work forces
in countries. Our focus has been on ensuring that tertiary institutions address
the key long-term requirements of our increasingly knowledge-based societies and
that students today are best equipped to drive and support economic growth and
to address major development challenges from education to health to the
environment, said Nicholas Burnett, UNESCO assistant director-general for
education. Through the creation of the UNESCO-Microsoft Task Force on Higher
Education and ICT we will help mobilize critical strategic resources to better
assist ministries of education worldwide.

Initial ICT Resource Mobilization

The current economic downturn combined with rising demand for higher education
places governments under enormous pressure to fund enhancements in higher
education and support programs needed to train the next generation of work
forces with the new skills necessary for economic recovery. Under the umbrella
of the UNESCO-Microsoft Task Force on Higher Education and ICT and through the
Microsoft Education Alliance , Microsoft will provide a tailored package of
resources for short-term higher education enhancements, including curriculum,
training and affordable access to collaboration and development software.

We believe that technology has a vital role to play in building up 21st-century
skills, broadening access to education and personalizing the learning experience
to adapt teaching to the unique needs of each learner, said Michael Golden,
corporate vice president, Education Products Group at Microsoft. This program
makes technology resources more accessible than ever before to governments and
students across the world. We will continue to support UNESCO and our newly
formed UNESCO-Microsoft Task Force on Higher Education and ICT in every way we

Additional information about the Microsoft resources available can be found at


The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is
the UN agency responsible for the promotion of international cooperation in the
fields of education, science, culture and communication. UNESCO functions as a
laboratory of ideas and standard setter to forge universal agreements on
emerging development and ethical issues. It also serves as a clearinghouse for
the dissemination and sharing of information and knowledge, while helping member
states to build their human and institutional capacities.

About Unlimited Potential

Microsoft, through its Unlimited Potential vision, is committed to making
technology more affordable, relevant and accessible for the 5 billion people
around the world who do not yet enjoy its benefits. The company aims to do so by
helping to transform education and foster a culture of innovation, and through
these means enable better jobs and opportunities. By working with governments,
intergovernmental organizations, nongovernmental organizations and industry
partners, Microsoft hopes to reach its first major milestone -- to reach the
next 1 billion people who are not yet realizing the benefits of technology -- by

About Microsoft

Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) is the worldwide leader in software,
services and solutions that help people and businesses realize their full

SOURCE: Microsoft Corp.

Rapid Response Team, Waggener Edstrom Worldwide, +1-503-443-7070,; Cynthia Guttman, Communications Officer, Education
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