A three-year program launched this past September by Microsoft will ensure that 1 million students from low-income families in the United States receive software, hardware and discounted broadband Internet service at home. It’s the “digital inclusion” arm of Shape the Future. Shape the Future makes it possible for anyone to have access to 21st-century tools, regardless of their ability to afford it, according to Dan McFetridge, business development director of the Shape the Future program at Microsoft.
Microsoft is working with city, state, nonprofit and private organizations, as well as the Federal Communications Commission, to develop and accelerate reduced-cost programs. One such organization is the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship, a nonprofit that inspires low-income youth to stay in school and learn the basics of entrepreneurship. Microsoft is also partnering with hardware, software, broadband and training providers. Among these partners is Comcast, which is offering home Internet access for $9.95 a month.
The effort will focus on K12 students who are eligible to participate in the National School Lunch Program and on K12 teachers and Native American students who don’t have a home PC and broadband. The actual cost for the user will vary depending on what the user wants and what the user wants to do, McFetridge says. Seattle Public Schools, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and Chicago Public Schools already take part in Shape the Future and are among the national leaders in this latest project.
“The ultimate goal [of this program] is to execute Bill Gates’ original vision of a PC for every desktop and home,” says McFetridge. “There are 9.5 million kids in the U.S. who don’t have access to technology at home. The end result for students should be better employment opportunities, graduating from high school, better job skills, and an opportunity to fulfill their potential.”