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Microsoft Pri0

Welcome to Microsoft Pri0: That's Microspeak for top priority, and that's the news and observations you'll find here from Seattle Times technology reporter Matt Day.

September 20, 2011 at 7:54 AM

Microsoft launches program to bridge digital divide for students; Seattle one of first cities to take part

Microsoft is announcing today the launch of a three-year program to ensure that 1 million students from low-income families in the U.S. will have access to computer software, hardware and the Internet.

The announcement is scheduled to be made later today as part of the Clinton Global Initiative annual meeting, which strives to get community leaders worldwide to create solutions to pressing challenges. This year’s meeting takes place in New York today through Thursday.

The program involves Microsoft working with city, state, nonprofit and private organizations to develop and accelerate program and policies that include Windows-based PCs for students, broadband Internet access, Microsoft education software and jobs skills training, according to a news release from the company.

Seattle will be one of the first cities to take part in the program through the Great Student Initiative, a City of Seattle effort to establish partnerships with technology companies and financial institutions to provide Internet access to low-income students in Seattle Public Schools.

The Great Student Initiative will provide high-speed Internet service for $9.95 a month — 75 percent reduction from the average Internet cost — to Seattle Public School students eligible for the free lunch program, according to a website page of Seattle City Councilmember Bruce Harrell, who sponsored the initiative. That program is apparently sponsored by Comcast, according to a draft resolution for the initiative.

[Update 12:10 p.m.: That reduced-cost Internet access program, sponsored by Comcast, came into effect earlier this month, according to Harrell.]

The partnership with Microsoft expands Seattle’s Great Student Initiative.

The commitment Microsoft announced today is also part of the company’s global Shape the Future program, which has provided technology and access to over 10 million students around the world over the past five years, the company said.

Microsoft cited findings that said about 9.5 million students in the U.S. don’t have home access to the Internet, and that, according to the Federal Reserve, those students have a high school graduation rate six to eight percentage points lower than those who do have home access.

Anthony Salcito, vice president of education for Microsoft’s Worldwide Public Sector, is scheduled to discuss this announcement with former U.S. President Bill Clinton starting at 5:30pm ET (2:30 p.m. Seattle time) today. The discussion will be livestreamed here.

[Updated 3:50 p.m.: Here’s more information on Microsoft’s Shape the Future program. And here’s information on how to apply for the Comcast Internet Essentials program.]

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