You don't need a PhD in economics to realize that times are pretty tough right now -- especially for those at the lower end of the income ladder. Fortunately, though, Microsoft has announced a new initiative aimed at providing one million students from low-income families with discounted hardware, software and broadband service. This three-year digital inclusion program is an extension of Redmond's Shape the Future campaign, which, over the course of five years, has already put computers in the hands of more than 10 million underprivileged children around the globe. Under this public-private partnership, Microsoft will work with a variety of nonprofit, corporate and governmental organizations to provide low-cost PCs, educational software, job skills training and high-speed internet to those who need it most. The ultimate goal, of course, is to bridge the achievement gap dividing students with at-home internet from their less digitally-equipped peers. According to the Federal Reserve, children who don't have online access at home graduate high school at a rate that's six to eight percentage points lower than those who do. Inflating national poverty rates and widening income gaps probably won't do much to remedy that discrepancy, but we're certainly hoping that Microsoft can make a difference. Find out more in the full PR after the break, or at the source link below.
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Microsoft Commits to Bringing Technology Access to 1 Million Low-Income Youth

Through Shape the Future program, new effort will provide students with the digital tools needed for academic and job-market success to help drive economic recovery.

NEW YORK - Sept. 20, 2011 - Today at the Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting, Microsoft Corp. launched a three-year program to ensure that 1 million students from low-income families in the United States receive reduced-cost software and hardware and discounted broadband Internet service. The commitment is focused on filling the gap in home access to technology and helps give students in digitally excluded homes the skills training they need to compete in the global market, increase employment opportunities and contribute to their community's economic recovery.

Today's announcement extends Microsoft's global Shape the Future program, which has provided technology and access to over 10 million students around the world over the past five years. Through this new commitment, Microsoft will work with state, city, nonprofit and private organizations - including the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) and One Economy - to develop and accelerate reduced-cost programs and policies that will include the following:

• Windows-based PCs optimized for students
• Broadband Internet access
• Microsoft education software
• Job skills training

"At Microsoft we believe all students should have access to the building blocks of a quality education," said Anthony Salcito, vice president, Worldwide Education for Microsoft. "Putting technology in the hands of a student who did not have access is a powerful step on the path leading to graduation, employability and a better future."

In the U.S, approximately 9.5 million students are digitally excluded outside of their schools. According to the Federal Reserve, these students have a high school graduation rate six to eight percentage points lower than those who have home access to the Internet. The impact is significant. The resulting lost earning potential to the country is $825 billion, lost tax revenues are $123 billion and social program inefficiencies top $125 billion. According to a recent study (Arnold Group 2011), the cumulative impact of digital exclusion for these students to the U.S. economy is $32 billion every year, and over the working lifetime of these students, it is over $1.2 trillion.

This commitment extends Microsoft's original vision of a PC on every desktop and in every home and is part of Microsoft's corporate citizenship efforts, which are increasingly focused on creating opportunities for youth around the world.

Charlotte, N.C., and Seattle are among the first cities actively supporting Shape the Future by launching digital inclusion initiatives for students in their cities. Project L.I.F.T in Charlotte and the Great Student Initiative in Seattle will enable public and private partnerships that bring technology access to needy youth in their regions. Over a three-year period, all 50 states plus Guam and Puerto Rico will have the opportunity to participate.

"Economic growth and stability starts with quality education, and Charlotte is proud to be on the forefront of this effort by supporting Microsoft and Project L.I.F.T. in this commitment," said Mayor Anthony Foxx. "In this tough economic climate, public private partnerships have the potential to make digital access more attainable for students and their families. I applaud Microsoft for extending its resources to the City of Charlotte, Mecklenburg County and the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School system."

"Entrepreneurship education has the power to transform the lives of so many young people and prepare them in a unique way to be both the job creators and the workforce of the future," said Amy Rosen, CEO of NFTE. "It is so exciting for us to be working with Microsoft to provide digital access to our entrepreneurship education program so that all young people reached through this commitment will lead their lives prepared to be successful entrepreneurs."

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Microsoft to offer discounted hardware, software to students from low-income families