Visit to Microsoft

Bruce Jenks, Stephen Browne, Sarah McCue and I traveled to Seattle to discuss with MS a potential partnership on e-learning and related initiatives. The meeting took place on Friday, 21 March 2003. Here are my notes.

MS key ideas and issues

– MS has rallied three parts of the company to work along the lines of the CTCs, which is essentially a concept emerging from the community affairs division. It seems that the other divisions are helping to develop the concept by bringing content and training expertise to the table

– MS has apparently done quite a bit of research to identify real needs at the community level and learning. Their initial target is the “disadvantaged youth and adults.” They have a great deal of concern in exactly knowing “who” their groups are at the local level (and need help to do this). MS argues that “identification” of these groups is “key” for

– MS has set itself 3 goals in this initial approach: 1) establishment of CTS and learning centers working in tandem with local MS offices if possible (and once the identification process mentioned above is completed, which will now include possible hosts for the CTCs, preferably existing projects or organizations as they are not in principle willing to fund and/or creating new ones); 2) addressing the issues of long term sustainability of the CTCs in terms of both curriculum development and business models; the issue of local content development is essential in their view; 3) creating regional or global support networks to help with 2 and help disseminate and scale up the CTCs and the technology
– To complement this approach, MS is willing to carefully consider curriculum development and, perhaps more importantly, engage MS employees to support the effort in developing countries, acting not as MS personnel
but rather as experts in their respective areas of work.

– MS also emphasized that the focus of the CTCs is in the development of personal skills and not on MS technologies or software; that the CTCs can teach and train people in open technologies and non-MS products and OS; the CTCs will not bear the MS name; that the involvement of local MS offices is not absolutely necessary

UNDP presentation

– UNDP made a generic presentation to MS starting with its overall goals, critical areas of intervention and general modus operandi. This was followed by a short presentation on the ICTD practice area, including some of the old and ongoing initiatives and plans for future partnerships and programmes.

– As MS showed a great deal of interest in the CISCO partnership, UNDP presented in some detail the experiences in both Asia and Africa, including the specific role that UNDP had played in them as well as some of the issues that have emerged from the implementation (brain drain, lack of relation to employment opportunities or SME creation, etc.)

– As the CTC current model is, to an extent, connected to the SDNP programme, some connections were made, including issues related to local ownership, demand-driven approaches, participatory or open approach to the programmes and the relation between global and local projects.

Possible areas of collaboration

– MS presented 3 areas where UNDP could help:
1) Identify local UNDP staff or networks to help MS access the”right” local partners, build the CTCs on existing partnerships or projects and use UNDP’s convening power to do so. One specific request was to ask UNDP to provide a list of 50 countries where this initiative could work. MS has an interest in middle-income countries for the most part.
2) Identify an “on the ground” programme manager to run the day to day operations of CTC design and implementation and the relation between UNDP and MS.
3) Join the regional or global support networks to help with clearing house aspects, local content development, and business models. UNDP was invited to join the advisory board for this network.

– UNDP’s response was:
1) There is interest in the above proposal. Specifically, UNDP works with countries through project documents and projects endorsed by govs that usually include a programme manager or CTA. This is our regular way of operating at the country level.
2) UNDP also has a great deal of interest in helping the poorest of the poor and suggested to MS support for a non-CTC pilot that, for example, could address the HIV/AIDS crisis in Southern Africa and where MS has no presence
3) UNDP suggested to MS to increase its support for the WSIS process and be a critical player at the December Summit. MS expressed its dissatisfaction with the current process and made no commitment. UNDP suggested that one way to become more involved was to support a development programme that could be showcased at the Summit and further developed for the 2005 Summit.

Next Steps

MS and UNDP agreed to:
– exchange of ideas within two weeks. MS will prepare a two-pager (at most) with their ideas and proposals and submit to UNDP. UNDP to go through the same process perhaps in reaction to their submission to move the process forward
– UNDP will propose ideas that will go beyond the CTC concept and include the TabletPC technology
– No specific dates were set for the next meeting, but MMB will be at MS in May and could help bring the potential partnership to higher grounds if needed.


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