Posted by: lrrp | December 27, 2007

USAID Partners with Microsoft to Unleash Lanka’s ‘Unlimited Potential’ in IT

Colombo, 22 November, (Asiantribune.com): The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is partnering with Microsoft to introduce a new training curriculum developed with the assistance of the American information technology giant for four key sectors of the Sri Lankan economy.

USAID and Microsoft are co-financing the $236,000 project, which will be implemented by InfoShare, a nonprofit firm that develops IT solutions to nonprofit development organizations. Microsoft specially tailored the worldwide curriculum, known as Unlimited Potential, to boost Sri Lanka’s agricultural, apparel, tourism, and media/journalism sectors using IT.

“The forging of such public private partnerships is a cornerstone of USAID’s program here,” said USAID/Sri Lanka Mission Director Rebecca Cohn. “USAID’s goal of working toward a more prosperous and peaceful Sri Lanka cannot be achieved without the support and collaboration with partners dedicated to improving the skills and employability of youth.”USAID/Zack Taylor)USAID Mission Director Rebecca Cohn (left) and Microsoft’s Sriyan de Silva Wijeyeratne sign an agreement to finance a program that will boost IT skills in four key sectors of the Sri Lankan economy. (Photo: USAID/Zack Taylor)

The ambitious program will train at least 11,000 people, and provide scholarships to 2,000 needy students, many in the North-Central and Eastern provinces, Ms. Cohn said. In partnership with Microsoft, InfoShare has already begun to train about 110 instructors to teach the courses, which will be offered through various training organizations under the auspices of the Vocational Training Authority and private sector institutions.

“So much has happened in the area of information technology in the region with tremendously positive results,” said Sriyan de Silva Wijeyeratne of Microsoft. “We want to take on a bigger role in helping Sri Lanka access a bigger piece of this extremely beneficial pie.”

Ms. Cohn added that Unlimited Potential represents an important step to ensure Sri Lankan firms become and remain competitive in the international marketplace by ensuring that the workforce has the necessary skills in information technology.

“Modern information and communications technologies provide some enormously powerful tools for small and medium-sized businesses,” said Anuruddha Edirisinghe of InfoShare. “This IT curriculum, tailored to the needs of the four industries, will help them realize the full potential of their workforce and at the same time increase the employability of rural youth.”

The program targets some of its services to the East and North Central provinces, where there is a compelling need to retrain and reintegrate youth who have been previously involved in activities associated with the conflict.

The program is supported in part by the USAID Global Development Alliance (GDA), which supports private-public partnerships to serve as a catalyst to mobilize the ideas, efforts, and resources of the public sector, corporate America and non-governmental organizations in support of shared objectives. “USAID will continue to use the GDA model as an important part of its development strategy in Sri Lanka,” Ms. Cohn said.

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