4) Technological breakthrough to produce disease-resistant chickpea (29 September 2005)

Microsoft-NASSCOM Foundation-ICRISAT launch first Rural Knowledge Centre in AP under Project Jyoti

Key focus on providing rural communities access to computer literacy and IT-enabled services

Hyderabad, 30 th September, 2005: Microsoft Corporation India Private Limited, NASSCOM Foundation, and the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) today jointly announced the launch of the first Rural Knowledge Centre (RKC) under the aegis of Microsoft's Unlimited Potential (UP) Program, better known as Project ‘Jyoti', at Addakal near Hyderabad in Andhra Pradesh. This is a step towards ‘ Mission 2007: Every Village a Knowlegde Centre ' - an alliance of more than 180 partners from Government, civil society and industry set up in July 2004, with the ambitious aim to set up a Knowledge Centre in each of the 600,000 villages in the country by 2007, the sixtieth year of India's independence.

The RKC aims to provide computer literacy and an array of IT enabled services to the adjacent rural communities, with a special focus on empowering women in these areas. It is envisaged as a nodal point for the delivery of IT skills and income-generating vocational training programs, providing e-governance services, e-learning programs, community based disaster preparedness initiatives, information related to ecological security, health and agriculture, besides encouraging entrepreneurship at the grass root level. Self Help Groups (SHGs) like the Aadarsha Mahila Samaikhya have been entrusted with the responsibility of running the RKC, which is fully equipped with PCs as well as connectivity solutions.

Launching the RKC via internet from the ICRISAT campus, Mr. Brad Smith, Senior Vice President and General Counsel, Microsoft Corporation said, “We believe that by providing technical skills training to under-served individuals, we can partner to create social and economic opportunities that can change peoples' lives and transform communities. The UP Program in India holds tremendous potential and is gradually scaling up to maximize the direct and indirect impact on target groups.”

Speaking at the launch, Mr. Ravi Venkatesan, Chairman Microsoft India, emphasized that, “At Microsoft we are deeply conscious of our social responsibilities and the vital need to extend the benefits of IT to the 700 million Indians living in our villages. We believe Rural Knowledge Centres will go a long way towards information empowerment of the under-served sections of society and make a tangible and enduring impact on people's lives. Microsoft's Unlimited Potential program, christened Project Jyoti in India, is single-mindedly focused on promoting innovative ways and means to provide technology skills through Community-based Technology Learning Centers, such as the Rural Knowledge Center being launched here today.”

Recalling  how ICRISAT and the Aadarsha Mahila Samikhya at Addakal joined hands in 2002, Dr William D Dar, Director General,  ICRISAT, lauded the initiative of the rural women for their commitment  to knowledge empowerment. Villages in Addakal Mandal of Mahbubnagar district of Andhra Pradesh represent one of the most backward and drought-prone
areas of India.

Dr Dar said: "Knowledge is crucial to fight droughts and manage scarce natural resources effici ently. The efforts that began in 2002 as part of Andhra Pradesh Rural Livelihoods Program (APRLP) have come to bear fruits now. I am happy that this village knowledge center in now going to be on the national map as part of Mission 2007 that envisages to h ave a knowledge center in every village." Dr Dar congratulated the men and women of the Addakal mandal who have resolved to  face the droughts armed with the power of knowledge.

The focus of Microsoft's UP Program in India is on imparting basic computer literacy to disadvantaged women and rural communities. For implementation of the Program, UP has aligned strategically with partner NGOs like Development Alternatives, M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF), NASSCOM Foundation and Mahila SEWA Trust, which have established track records of successfully executing development projects and are led by visionary individuals.

Since the launch of the program in August 2004, Microsoft has made cash grants aggregating Rs. 5 crores towards six select projects across the highly populated states of Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Delhi, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Karnataka, Orissa, and Maharashtra. The projects target to directly train 22,155 persons and by 2007, it is anticipated that over 100,000 individuals will be indirectly touched through the Program and its curriculum.

In addition, Microsoft has made software donations in excess of Rs. 14 crores under the UP program in the county and invested Rs. 1.4 crores for localization of the UP IT skills training curriculum into 4 Indian languages (Tamil, Hindi, Malayalam and Gujarati) to enhance its reach, utility and impact.

Under the UP program, Microsoft issued a grant of US$ 375,000 (Rs. 1.6 crores) along with software worth US$ 2,071,348.50, (Rs. 9 crores) to the NASSCOM Foundation earlier this year in July 2005. The program focuses on IT skills training and capacity building of women and rural communities across 7 states of India, namely Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, Kerala, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Maharashtra. It addresses a key national priority of rural regeneration through workforce development and will enable local communities to transition from a subsistence level to an effective level of economic well being. In Andhra Pradesh, the NASSCOM Foundation is partnering with ICRISAT and a national-level hub serving a grid of 65 RKCs is proposed to be located on the ICRISAT campus.

About Microsoft

Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq "MSFT") is the worldwide leader in software for personal and business computing. The company offers a wide range of products and services designed to empower people through great software-any time, any place and on any device. Microsoft Corporation India Private Ltd is a subsidiary of Microsoft Corporation USA. It has had a presence in India since 1990 and currently has offices in Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Mumbai, New Delhi, and Pune.

About NASSCOM Foundation

NASSCOM Foundation (NF) represents the Indian software industry's commitment to leveraging IT for empowering and serving the under privileged. NF has the unique opportunity of leading the ICT for development sector from a national perspective. The Foundation also facilitates and strengthens the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) space to a wider understanding of contribution to development and towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals. The Foundation's main objectives are to promote and establish the “domestic development contribution” of the IT industry, harness ICT benefits to reach underprivileged communities for improving quality of life, expand partnerships in order to improve the knowledge base that informs policy and programme formulation, and influence public discourse in civil society.


The International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) is a non-profit, non-political organization belonging to the Future Harvest Alliance of Centers supported by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR). Established in 1972, ICRISAT generates and shares cutting edge technologies that support the livelihoods of more than 300 million people - the poorest of the poor in semi-arid areas of the developing world.

For further information, please contact:

Amita Tandan

Senior Manager
Text 100 India

Tel:  91 11 23363995/6/7/8
Fax: 91 11 23366880

Email: amitat@text100.co.in


Poonam Kaul

Image & PR Manager
Microsoft India

Tel: 91-124-5158000
Fax: 91-124-5158888

Email: Poonamk@microsoft.com


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