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Microsoft unveils India-specific cooperation initiatives

Special Correspondent

To adopt 100 schools for providing interactive learning environment

  • Maran, Gates meet in Redmond
  • Assistance for promoting broadband usage, e-governance
  • `Windows XP Starter Edition' exclusively for use in India
  • Microsoft to make available its education content

    Minister for Communications & Information Technology Dayanidhi Maran and Chairman, Microsoft Corporation Bill Gates at the Microsoft Office in Seattle (U.S.) on Wednesday.

    NEW DELHI: : Microsoft on Thursday unveiled a cooperation initiative with the Indian Government in a host of areas such as removing the digital divide, promoting broadband usage and e-governance, apart from launching an India-specific operating system `Windows XP Starter Edition.'

    The announcement follows the series of in-depth discussions that took place between Union Minister for Communications and Information Technology Dayanidhi Maran and the Chairman and Chief Software Architect of Microsoft Corporation, Bill Gates, along with other top executives at the software giant's headquarters in Redmond on Wednesday.

    According to an official statement released here, the multilingual `Windows XP Starter Edition' is licensed and built exclusively for use in India. It is intended for users speaking any of the nine Indian languages, who may also want to use English.

    As per the collaborative initiatives outlined during the discussions, Microsoft is to adopt 100 schools in six States, to start with, to provide an interactive learning environment. It would also extend special packages in collaboration with partners to deliver a broadband and PC package. This is to be done at an "affordable" monthly instalment to support India's broadband strategy.

    The programme is to taken up in partnership with companies such as BSNL, MTNL, HCL, HP, SBI, ICICI and the like under which Microsoft will also make available its education content.

    Besides, Microsoft proposes to set-up an e-governance centre of excellence along with an Indian institution with a committed funding of $2 million spread over three years for pilot IT applications.

    Need for affordable access

    "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," said Mr. Maran.

    Microsoft and the Indian delegation also committed to collaborate in strategic areas. These include enabling access to affordable and language-based computing, accelerating IT literacy, facilitating adoption of e-governance at an accelerated pace, enabling research on Indian language computing technologies and cooperation around IT security.

    The Indian Government, the statement said, would be guided in this partnership by an advisory body of eminent people. Microsoft, on its part, would also share its knowledge and experiences in working with governments across the world on e-governance projects.

    `Step in right direction'

    "The announcements by Microsoft, including the launch of a new multilingual Windows XP Starter Edition for India, are steps in the right direction. The various steps announced today address important issues like IT literacy, taking high-quality, interactive IT education to schools in India, availability of local language computing solutions and e-governance," Mr Maran said.

    The statement quoted Mr. Gates as saying: "We are delighted to be working with Minister Maran towards our common goal of bridging the digital divide for people across India, in particular, 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."

    Microsoft would also support the Ministry's programme to set-up one lakh rural kiosks by offering affordable products, services, consultancy, training and support.

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