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|October 14, 1998||
In a strategic move to extend its reach across the country, particularly in the interior regions, Microsoft is working on a plan to collaborate with various ministries of the central government.
As part of its efforts, representatives of Microsoft have met senior officials in the ministry of rural areas and employment and outlined the various possibilities for an alliance.
They said that after successful collaboration with Andhra Pradesh, Microsoft had realised the scope for similar ventures with other states.
The ministry officials were informed that a deal has almost been finalised with Rajasthan. In the next couple of weeks, MoUs are to be signed with the governments of Rajasthan, Punjab, Orissa and Kerala.
The main efforts of Microsoft in these ventures, they said, would be to identify specific projects that would require their expertise.
The Ministry officials were also informed that in Andhra Pradesh, Microsoft is working on ways to issue identification cards to all citizens on the lines of a similar scheme in Scandinavian countries.
The card would include minute details, including the assets owned by the person, output produced and taxes paid.
The representatives discussed ways of networking all the District Rural Development Authorities, mapping of the resources base as well as utilisation of these resources, at the district and the block level, they said.
This is somewhat akin to the Andhra Pradesh example, where all the 1,140 mandals in the state are sought to be 'wired up'.
They also discussed ways of getting Microsoft involved in various employment and training programmes, particularly the Training of Rural Youth for Self-Employment scheme, and Employment Assurance Scheme.
Under the proposed schemes, the ministry wanted Microsoft to provide computer facilities and training to the rural unemployed youth. At the end of the training, as is done in the urban areas, Microsoft could give these youth certificates, which would help them gain employment.
The plan also envisages that Microsoft set up computer kiosks in the rural areas. These trained youth will then have an avenue for seeking employment, the officials said. "In the next couple of years, awareness of computers is going to penetrate the rural areas, just as telephone lines have. There is then going to be tremendous demand for computer skills. These rural unemployed youth can be effectively absorbed into the mainstream,'' the officials said.
The ministry has asked Microsoft to collaborate with the National Informatics Centre in preparing a blueprint for such a scheme in any one district.
If successful, it could then be replicated in other parts of the country, they said.
The officials said the supply of technology and training facilities will be by Microsoft and the ministry would generate the demand.
Given the large reach of the ministry right to the block level, and the infrastructure facilities, it will be a win-win situation for both Microsoft and the ministry, officials said.
They added that this would not require any additional provision of funds in the budget.
They admitted that the project is ambitious, but said the benefits are to be accrued in the long term. "If we do not jump on to the information bandwagon, we will be left behind. The ministry is, therefore, trying its best make best use of the possibilities available,'' they said.
- Compiled from the Indian media
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